Written by Penelope Farthing
The title of a Buzzfeed article crossed my Facebook feed today, and it was certainly an attention grabber. It boldly stated “[Redacted] is shining on the latest British Vogue cover, and honestly, we need more fat black girls on magazine covers”.
Now, I’m not speaking about the covering guest herself, since the last time I said anything about her I was called all manner of jealous and fatphobic. So let’s take her out of it and focus on the content. Also, Buzzfeed markets in attention-catching titles, so this is their bread and butter anyway.
I have to strongly disagree with the title, and the rest of the article. Black women are painted with all manner of negative stereotypes, from the mammy, to the jezebel, to Big Mama, to angry, to loud, to ratchet…and you know the rest. Why on earth should we aspire to promote ourselves at our worst for public consumption? I don’t care about your feelings – obesity is unattractive and unhealthy, across the board. I said what I said. Don’t @ me, @ a personal trainer. I don’t give a damn if men still bang you either. Any hole is a goal for a lot of these dudes and bragging about how you still get porked while porky is not a metric of desirability. Not to mention, obesity in black female population is incredibly high, which comes with a lot more problems than not being seen as “conventionally attractive”.
Tess Holliday, a morbidly obese white woman and plus-size model who started the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards, tends to come up in these conversations as a comparison. She models her lumps and bumps with pride, and is making bank doing it. But do you see white people championing for women at her size to cover more magazines? The Tumblr ones might, but on a whole, not so much. Not to mention, white people obviously control most of the media, so they can counteract unappealing hits to their image with the thin, dainty, healthy-sized white women characterized as more desirable. For every Tess Holliday, there are three dozen thin women to be plastered on billboards and product packaging and commercials and anywhere else. Black women do not have that same luxury. The same goes for things like when Tiffany Haddish twerks and humps the floor on broadcast television, or when the latest black woman goes viral for doing unsightly or straight up dumb things. Our counteractive measures are too thin on the ground to afford such displays. Comparing the two is simply not the same.
Now, I have been thin all my life and recognize that I am speaking from a position of privilege. I walk a lot, eat clean, and care very much about my appearance. I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism, but sadly I love chicken too much to give it up long term. Thin privilege exists, and you better believe I’m doing all I can to hold on to mine. Maybe this shouldn’t bother me so much, because the worse fellow black women look, the better I look by comparison. Life is a competition, not just for the best men, but for literally anything. Not because I’m married means I’m not competing with you– for the raise, for the opportunity, for preferential treatment that comes with being a fit, attractive black woman. I play to win. But unfortunately, since there are less black women and we don’t control our media representation at that level, we all get smeared with the negative imagery.
It’s great that people are feeling represented. But obesity isn’t admirable and should not be promoted as such. I’d much rather see the likes of Lashana Lynch and Janelle Monae and Candace Patton and Chloe x Halle, or everyday Girl-Next-Door black women on covers and widely promulgated as our standard, than the alternative.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Penelope, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.