Thursday, March 1, 2012

Facing Facts: Black Women Are "Heavy & Happy"

Washington D.C. based Fitness Instructor Michelle Gibson is phat, fit, and fabulous!
Photo credit:
I am sure that many of you have seen the recent article in The Washington Post about black women being "heavier and happier with their bodies than white women". The data comes from a recent survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
[The survey]...focused on African American women. The poll found that although black women are heavier than their white counterparts, they report having appreciably higher levels of self-esteem. Although 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women report having high self-esteem, that figure was 66 percent among black women considered by government standards to be overweight or obese. - from
The article also discusses what we, as Black women, have known for some time: the media tends to not portray us, and when they do, it is often a poor representation of who we truly are. Therefore, we have not relied on what the media and society has to say about us to uplift us.

What I personally applauded and shouted "YES!" to when reading the article was the wonderful interview with D.C. Area fitness instructor Michelle Gibson, a plus size woman of Color herself, who stressed that the ideas of health and fitness for black women have for a very long time been different than those white women.
Her rule: “Do you,” Gibson says, “and be okay with me being me. I can never be mad at this thin person. I say, ‘You’re sexy, you’ve got it going on. But don’t think for one minute that I don’t feel the same about myself.’ ” - from
For me, the only raised eyebrow was a comment from a woman whom I admire so much, Michaela Angela Davis:

But Davis acknowledges that with fewer cultural deterrents, black women are more likely to slip into obesity, and that’s not celebrated. In 2009, black women had an obesity rate of of almost 43 percent, compared with 25 percent for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, African American women suffer from higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other serious health problems.

“We’re not saying its super fly to be super fat. We’ve never said that,” Davis contends, but unlike in white culture, “black women are not criminalized for it.”

This statement, unfortunately, continues the stereotype that plus size women beyond a certain "acceptable" plus size cannot possibly be healthy and not be suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. And while black women within our community are not "criminalized" for being "super sized", there is not only often a disconnect within the plus community between what is accepted and what is not when it comes to images of models that are used, but also an acceptable practice of plus size women (usually portrayed as a large & sassy black woman) being made the butt  of jokes.

What did you think about the article? Do you feel that black women are "heavier and happier"? Do you think that all black plus size women are being equally represented in this article?

Let's talk about it ladies!

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