“Black women don’t have the same body image problems as white women. They are proud of their bodies. Black men love big butts” – Tyra Banks
I came across the above quote while searching for “negative body image Black women” on Google. My first reaction: “What a load of crap!” My second reaction: “Really, what utter nonsense.”
Certainly, women of different races/ethnicities/cultures may have different body image issues. To go so far, however, as to imply that all Black women “are proud of their bodies” is to deny the reality of Black women and girls who struggle on a daily basis with body image issues that may ultimately lead to eating disorders as well as an utterly tanked self-esteem.
I get the point that Banks is trying to make, however. She is reinforcing a stereotype that Black women are happy with their curves–it’s not a bad stereotype really. Also, I’m a big fan of being happy with your body no matter its current state–simply work on where you need to go, whether that is up or down some notches on the scale.
On the other hand, this stereotype is one that can work to keep Black women from moving their bodies more and becoming healthier. After all, if we love our curves so much and our “big butts”, then what’s a few extra pounds or 30?
Actually, let’s back that up. Is Banks actually saying that black women “love big butts”? Not really. What she is saying is that “Black men love big butts.” So, in essence, the comfort level that a Black woman feels with her own body is apparently in direct relation to the acceptance of Black men of her body proportions–WHAT?
Well, what if you’re a lesbian, or a feminist, or just a free thinker, or all three rolled up into one ball of fierce loveliness? Also, why should Black women value their bodies based upon the desires of Black men? In fact, why should any woman value her body based upon the desires of any man?
Perhaps my lesbian (homoflexible), feminist, free thinking self has just gotten this quote all wrong. Still, it bothered me. It bothered me because I was searching for information that would useful to Black women who are struggling with negative body image.
The reality is that It’s easy to find resources for non-Black women. Absolutely. I know from experience that the majority of young women and girls who are in treatment for eating disorders are non-Black.
It’s not that negative body image does not exist for Black women. It’s not that eating disorders have no place in a Black woman’s mindset. It’s simply that it’s not openly discussed. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder do not discriminate against Black women.
There is a stereotype that Black women are happy with their bodies in an unhealthy state. There is a stereotype that Black women don’t care about what they put in their mouths. There is a stereotype that Black women don’t suffer from eating disorders.
It’s time to clear up this mess. First, let’s do so by balancing the good of the stereotypes with the harsh reality that some Black women face. It’s no joke that the CDC lists heart disease as the number one killer of Black women. Let’s start speaking more mindfully and seeing each other as humans first, capable of both joy and suffering at our own hands.
Until Tomorrow (seriously)