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Thread: Black women heavier and happier with their bodies than white women, poll finds

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    Registered User Lucianite is offline
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    Black women heavier and happier with their bodies than white women, poll finds

    Black women heavier and happier with their bodies than white women, poll finds - The Washington Post




    Black women heavier and happier with their bodies than white women, poll finds
    By Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Updated: Monday, February 27, 2:33 PM
    In the pre-dawn darkness, the gym doors close, and the black women start to move. House versions of Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman,” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” blare from speakers as the 30 or so women, most with curves, not angles, grab their jump ropes at the L.A. Fitness club in Capitol Heights. They double-time it as fitness instructor Michelle Gibson counts them down from the front of the class.

    “Four more, three more, two more, one!” she yells, twirling her rope. She jumps faster and faster until the rope and her sneakers blur on the hardwood. Her ample bosom strains against the top of her sequined half-camisole.

    “Show-off!” yells a woman from the back as Gibson laughs. She demonstrates hinge-kicks high above her own head, and sweat darkens the waistband of the fitted black pants that cling to the uber-roundness of her bottom. “Fight for your sexy!” she commands her class.

    No one in this boot camp works out to be model thin. And nearly to a person, they reject any notion that they should, or that that standard is even cute. Or realistic. Or mentally healthy. That’s especially true of Gibson, 41, who has been a fitness instructor for 12 years, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at her.

    Like many black women, Gibson describes her 5-foot-4, size 14-plus physique as “thick,” and considers herself ultra-feminine — no matter what the mainstream culture has to say about it.

    She’s one of the most full-figured women in the gym, but she’s in love with her body. And it’s a sentiment that syncs perfectly with a recent survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation that 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.

    This is not news to Gibson or the other women in her morning boot camp class. They grew up listening to songs like the Commodores’s “Brick House” and hearing relatives extol the virtues of “big legs” and women with meat on their bones.

    The notion that all women must be culled into a single little-bitty aesthetic is just one more tyranny, they say. And black women have tools for resisting tyranny, especially from a mainstream culture that has historically presented them negatively, or not at all.

    Freed from that high-powered media gaze, generations of black women have fashioned their own definitions of beauty with major assists from literature and music — and help from their friends.

    At this gym in Capitol Heights at the crack of dawn, and in myriad other places, that thinking has made black women happier with their bodies than white women in many ways. And in some ways, it’s put them on the slippery slope toward higher rates of obesity.

    * * *

    “So Cosmo says you’re fat

    Well I ain’t down with that …

    Give me a sister

    I can’t resist her

    Red beans and rice didn’t miss her”

    “Baby Got Back”

    Sir-Mix-a-Lot

    1992


    * * *

    Gibson, who grew up in Prince George’s County and works full time as a National Institutes of Health contractor, is a personal trainer and teaches 10 aerobics classes a week.

    “I’m a full-figured woman who would run circles around the average person, and I know it,” she says. “I kind of think it’s my secret weapon.”

    Gibson, who says she’s over 150 pounds but under 200, has been plus-sized most of her life. And it took time to come to terms with that.

    “High school is where I started to realize I was different,” said Gibson, who was captain of the cheerleading squad at Suitland High School. “My quads were big, I had these boobs, and I had a butt. Not only that, I was dark with short hair. That’s when I had to look in the mirror and say, ‘Either I’m going to go with it, or I’m going to go against it.’ I always went with it.”

    Doctors have long told her she needs to lose weight — 30 or 40 pounds, according to their charts. She’d be cool with 15. She tried weight loss programs such as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem in years past, but “I came to realize that I have to have some freedom to eat.”

    Instead of fixating on shedding weight, she focuses on being fit and healthy and finding her joy in that: “This is how I’m genetically designed, and I’ve accepted that.”

    And though she’s never married, she contends she never lacks boyfriends, black and white. “Men have always said to me, ‘You’re not fat, you’re p-h-a-t fat.’ And when I’m not teaching, I’m all girl.”

    She takes time with her makeup, sometimes adding lashes. She keeps her short hair groomed, and her jeans, boots and turtlenecks neat and form-fitting.

    According to the Post-Kaiser poll, which offers the most extensive and nuanced look at the lives of black women in decades, 28 percent of black women say that being physically attractive is “very important,” compared with 11 percent of white women. White women were more likely than black women to say being attractive was “somewhat important.”

    For African American women, that desire often gets defined in ways the mainstream culture doesn’t recognize.

    Princeton professor Imani Perry teaches interdisciplinary classes in African American studies and notes black women have conceptions of beauty that are “not just tied to the accident of how you look as a consequence of your genes.” They include style, grooming, how you present and carry yourself, and “how you put yourself together, which I think generally speaks to the fact that we have a much broader and deeper conception of beauty.”

    Gibson’s mission is to get women to embrace their size but to work toward being fit. She preaches acceptance but says white fitness professionals often seem almost resentful of her confidence.

    “If I were this plump, meek person doing the same thing I do, I think they would embrace me.”

    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.’ ”

    It’s an attitude with long roots. Perry remembers relatives calling her lucky growing up, “because you’re little, but you’ve got big legs.”

    “Historically, [self-esteem] research on black girls and women has always been the highest among all groups,” Perry says. “It’s really a powerful statement about our resilience given the dominant images of black women present in American culture, which have been generally degrading and unattractive, or hypersexual and less feminine.”

  2. #2
    Black Madonna
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    they come out with this study every year

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    ***//\\*** femmeayitienne's Avatar femmeayitienne is offline
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    that's nothing new

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