Friday, 9 March 2012

Being a Skinny Black Girl - A Curse?

What a hottay. Adaora Akubilo for Sports Illustrated 
It was an unapologetically hot summer's day, the heat interrupted by the gentle breeze that danced through the faded green-walled room. It was around 2002 and I was on holiday with my mother, visiting family in Nigeria. I stood in front of a frail elderly lady, her skin wrinkled like leather, the brown deepened by a lifetime of living under the hot African sun.
 "This is your Grandma's sister, this is where you get your height and shape from," my mother beamed at me from ear to ear.
 "Mazi," I greeted her respectfully in a language that felt clunky on my lips.
She smiled back. Even then, I was unsure how well she could see me through her milky eyes, but I felt a certain warmth meeting her. Even with all my insecurities at being of Nigerian descent yet born and raised abroad, I felt an ever growing sense of belonging that came with discovering more about my background and my family.
  Even now, when I look at my family, I see the lean athletic shape I have occur again and again. I see it in my friends - those of African and Carribbean descent. As well as the stereotypically 'Black Female' body shape of larger bottoms, thick thighs and larger breasts, I see the long, lithe and athletic shapes. Therefore it really irritates me when I read such baseless and damaging material such as this tripe written by Mica Paris for the Daily Mail (what do you expect, eh?).
 The notion that all proper black females have more curves and that the men find only this body type attractive is frankly an irritating generalisation.

"Caribbean men love curvaceous women. I apologise for reinforcing a stereotype, but it’s a fact.You won’t find any man in Jamaica — where my family come from — casting appreciative glances at a skinny female. In my culture, women have hour-glass figures, generous bosoms and wide hips. 
Flat chests, skinny midriffs and size zero are boyish; women with those characteristics don’t get a second glance. Look around, and you won’t see many skinny black women. We’re likely to be built generously and we’re not ashamed to celebrate our curves."

"When I co-presented What Not to Wear with Lisa Butcher, I couldn’t believe the self-neglect I encountered. It shocked me to see so many women — all white — who had given up on themselves.
They had the potential to be beautiful, but they hadn’t been to the hairdresser in years. Their clothes were scruffy and dowdy, and they’d burdened themselves with commitments to such a degree that they’d lost any sense of self-worth. So I’d sit these women down, work on their wardrobes and polish up their style, and there would be tears when they saw the rut they were in."

Read more:

Oh, thanks very much Mica. She managed to turn what was arguably a positive topic into a pathetic and simplistic tirade against white females and 'skinny' black women. I cannot really speak on behalf of white females but I surely can speak on behalf of smaller black women. I suppose we freakishly gross 'skinny' types should just stand and mooch around in the corner, unhappy and alone because that's what it should be like, right? If I had read something like this just a few years ago, I would have been crushed. During my teens, I quickly realised I was not going to have the curves of my peers and was positively distraught when my little cherries didn't grow to be more that fried eggs and my hips remained decidedly narrow. I furiously tried to put on weight and began to avoid exercise in order not to risk becoming smaller.

I am going to state that this kind of mentality and attitude is what gets a lot of young women into trouble - avoiding exercise just to stay 'thick' and putting their health into jeopardy. Furthermore, I do not see why an article about female body image should unashamedly link black female's self-worth to male desires - that irks me completely.

Fact of the matter is while the study shows that African American females are more happy with their body types 'even though they weigh more', there is variation within the black community. This attitude of bashing other groups to make other groups feel better is completely reductive and silly. I see this on countless groups and blogs - things such as 'let's put real women on magazines,' 'she looks like a 7 year old boy,' etc are useless. Yes I am aware that fashion industry is extremely warped in its perception of beauty and should stop the use of underweight, underage and sick models as beauty icons. But believe it or not, there are actually some women who do not starve themselves yet remain decidedly slim, therefore making the assumption that skinny women aren't 'real' is totally detrimental. You see, all the shapes and sizes that women come in, regardless of race are real. Not every female with body types like this are anorexic. More importantly, although a cheesy note to end on, we should all embrace the bodies we've got and do our best to take care of it - 'love the skin you're in' as the saying goes.

(Thankfully, since my teenage years, I slowly began to embrace my lean frame - embrace and love it, not accept and deal with it... you can probably guess this from my blog name! I now exercise regularly and eat well, not for the sake of weight loss, but to feel better and for my health. My fried eggs and I live in harmony ^_^)


Afrikan Princess said...

I cannot agree more with this post. I was just about to blog about it.

I'm a skinny black girl too and the bashing i get for having 'no ass' or 'big boobs' is ridiculous. People can't seem to celebrate all body types and all types of beauties but instead chose to be extreme. One day skinny is in and the next it's thick. One day 'white' women are in and then spanish. It's the same trends over and over again.

First of all basing a woman's beauty based on the desires of men is just downright wrong. It's not sensible and it's downgrading too.

All types of women are beautiful. Short, fat, white, tall skinny, black, blond, brunette etc.
But society can't seem to comprehend that.

Anonymous said...

good post. welldone!

NikkiSho said...

i love this post,like really people need to understand all you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I am a skinny Black teenager and Blacks alway tell me to gain weight. I have a butt though and they do like my butt. I am starting to accept my body type because I find it ridicolous how a lot of Blacks think a Black women should be curvy to have a beautiful body. I can't live up to your high expectations and neither should oter skinny Black women like me. I am glad I found this blog because the Black community always puts us skinny women down.