The problem, says Dickerson, is that black women like their bigger bodies too damned much. If they’d just have the good sense to be more ashamed of themselves, they’d lose weight and be healthier. ‘Cause that’s worked so well for the white community.
Dickerson disagrees with MeMe Roth on one crucial point, at least:
Jordin Sparks isn’t the poster girl for this issue. Buffie the Body is.
I had never heard of Buffie the Body before, but after a cursory glance at her (NSFW) website, I’m not seeing a woman who’s bound for weight-related health problems any faster than Sparks is. I’m seeing a toned, relatively thin woman with a really big ass. Dickerson reports that Buffie claims to maintain her physique by eating junk food and protein supplements and not working out, which are indeed questionable habits to promote — but I believe Buffie when she says that about exactly as much as I believe any given underweight white starlet who claims she eats cheeseburgers all the time and has never seen the inside of a gym. Lying through your teeth about your eating and exercise habits is a time-honored celebrity tradition. But in the reality-based community, we all know that just as you can’t “spot reduce,” you can’t “spot gain.” And Buffie is only fat in one region. She did not get that way eating junk food.
Okay, well Buffie’s not the point. The point is, black women are killing themselves!
Recent press reports show why black women should be alarmed: More than half of us are obese — 78 percent are considered overweight. And, according to the American Obesity Association, the pounds are not coming off easily, due to “cultural factors related to diet, exercise and weight among African-Americans.” The Centers for Disease Control finds that rates of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death are higher among black women, and when we get these diseases, we’re sicker than white women.
If you follow the link there, you’ll find that the obesity and overweight statistics, as well as the assertion about “cultural factors,” come from the American Obesity Association. If you’re not familiar with them, you might be interested in knowing this:
According to the Wall Street Journal, this organization, formed in April 1995, is “a lay advocacy group representing the interest of the 70 to 80 million obese American women and children and adults afflicted with the disease of obesity.” It has one member. “Dr. Atkinson says the group receives most of its funding — several hundred thousand dollars in all — from the pharmaceuticals industry, including Interneuron, American Home Products, Roche Laboratories, Knoll Pharmaceuticals Ltd., and Servier — all of which market or develop diet pills.” (Wall Street Journal, 2/9/98, B1)
Hmmm. But, well, we can trust the Centers for Disease Control, right? And they’re saying… nothing about obesity and overweight. They’re saying that when it comes to a bunch of largely genetic diseases, black women suffer more than white women. My guess is, that’s because black women are less able to afford health care and are not treated as carefully and thoroughly as white people. Just a hunch. And that is an awful, shameful, outrageous thing. But it doesn’t have a goddamned thing to do with fat.
Still, you know, I think I’ve heard of this argument before, that black women and girls should be more ashamed of their bodies for their own good. Where was that? Oh, right. It was in The Obesity Myth. Here’s my beloved Paul Campos:
I said above that the single most noxious assertion in the obesity literature is that fat people should try to become thin as a response to fat prejudice. Actually, this isn’t true. The single most noxious line of argument in the literature is that black and Hispanic girls and women need to be “sensitized” to the “fact” that they have inappropriately positive feelings about their bodies.
Readers may suspect that the previous sentence is a bad joke, or at least an exaggeration. I only wish this were so. Several studies have suggested that African-American and Hispanic girls tend to have much more positive body images than white girls. One University of Arizona study found that, while only 10% of the white teenage girls surveyed were happy with their bodies, 70% of the black teenage girls were happy with theirs (the black girls weighed more, on average, than the white girls). When asked to define “beauty,” the white girls described their feminine ideal as a woman 5’7″ tall, weighing between 100 and 110 pounds (i.e., someone thinner than the average model). By contrast, the black girls described a woman whose body included such features as visible hips and functional thighs. Furthermore, the black girls tended to insist that looking good was more about having “the right attitude” than “the right body.” (Is it a coincidence that black women are both far less obsessed with weight than white women, and seem to suffer no significant ill health effects from even extreme levels of fatness? Researchers have been unable to find a relationship between increased mortality and body mass among African-American women who are classified as “morbidly obese.”)
Campos also adds that black girls, not surprisingly, have lower rates of eating disorders than white girls. But instead of asking what we can learn from them about body image and non-disordered eating, we’re asking how we can get them to obsess about food and weight more like white girls. For their health.
Debra Dickerson is a self-professed former “hardcore gym rat [who harangued] co-workers over the contents of their lunch sacks,” and who favors “(non-steroidal) body builders’ physiques,” yet we’re supposed to accept that she’s just concerned about black women’s health. Clearly, there’s no reason to wonder if an aesthetic aversion to fat might underlie what she’s saying here. IT’S THE HEART DISEASE AND DIABEEEEETUS!
(Tip of the plus-sized hat to Big Fat Blog.)