“People are so enamored with white mediocrity they think I should be grateful to sit at a table I'm probably overqualified to be at.” - JerVaeBy Hess Love Everything that we know about “obesity” is an indictment on white supremacy, and everything about who we listen to regarding it is bullshit. The centering of whiteness, especially white women, in the “Body Positivity Movement” recently led Rebel Wilson to tell an egregious lie about being the first fat woman to star in a romantic comedy and then block every Black person who tried to tell her the truth, that plus-sized Black women have starred in romantic comedies before. Women like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique. But Rebel doubled down. Fat White Women like Rebel Wilson don't see Fat Black Women as forces of body positivity or plus-size representation because they view Blackness in itself as "large". Blackness is already big, vast, and something they want to confine, so they make it both a boogie man and a invisibility cloak. They see Blackness as being beastlike, so to be large and Black isn't defying expectations. In an odd way, it makes our fatness nonconsequential to them, because for them, their bodies defy the dainty expectations of a white, Western femininity. To them, that is braver than being fat and Black. Welcome to the politics of "taking up space." That's why they call the cops on small Black children and clutch their purses when they see even small framed Black men. That's why they won't acknowledge when large Black women already did something they're calling themselves brave and pioneering for just now doing. They take space from us to make room for themselves. Our bravery doesn't count. It can't count when even the smallest parts of us are a threat. There's a “historical view of Black Women as bodies without minds that underlies their invisibility” (Thompson, A Hunger So Wide and Deep, 15). Black women are painted as simultaneously enormous and non existent, our vastness is an enigma that is demonized through purposeful misperception that aims to project the thought that we lack a certain level of conscious deliberacy to understand and liberate the space our existence takes up. Black as big, as beast, as fat, is seen as a default experience for us. In the minds eye of white women like Rebel Wilson, that “default” lacks validity on the rubric of bravery. Fat Black women are tired of our bodies and experiences paving roads and painting it with blood just for white women like Rebel Wilson to trapeze down the pathway and ask if the stories she walks over “really” count. They do. Fat Black Women are the original recipients of “fat bitch” retorts when we dare exercise our right to choose and our right to exist. Whether it was fighting off slave owning forefathers, white men that would later be called medical pioneers for infringing on our largeness and reproductive organs, white women that gawked at our physiques while their accompanying men dreamed of other ways to violate us. Fatphobia is indelibly tied to anti-Blackness. Fat Black women are assigned roles where other people bring “purpose” to us to determine our usefulness, never an autonomous validity. The mammy archetype which bleeds over to freudian sexual fetishism around fat Black femme bodies is another agent that makes our presence on a socio-political front more amenable for erasure and labor. Perhaps this image of impressionability is a result of how fat Black women have had to attempt to diminish themselves in order to navigate certain social and systemic scenes. “The one thing that I do recognize in myself is the need to soften myself for white comfort. I am a fat dark black woman and to some white people that in itself is threatening. So I make sure I'm friendly as to not make them uncomfortable, because when white people are uneasy we pay for it in blood. On the flip side of that I'm seen as a mammy to some white people. Someone they can cast their cares on and be overly comfortable with because I only exist to pacify their fragile feelings and labor them on my back all the way to the promise land.” Brandi Wharton, founder of Magical Fat Black Femmes.
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It Has Nothing To Do With Clothing — Black Women’s Bodies Are Hypersexualized No Matter What We Wear
Black women's bodies are hyper-sexualized and we need to make sure the language around body positivity doesn't reinforce racist and sexist fetishization.Demetria Obilor, traffic reporter at a Texas news station, recently responded to body-shaming comments made about her style of dress. The comments focused on her body size and her choice to wear clothing that does not hide her figure. This situation is reminiscent of Patrice Brown, more commonly and affectionately known as Teacher Bae, who suddenly found herself under a microscope and under review by her employer when a photo of her went viral and garnered comments about how her wardrobe was inappropriate for the classroom. Both of these women, and many more, are fighting a constant battle against unwarranted and unwelcome commentary about their bodies and how they choose to dress them. Not necessarily because of their size, but because of their shape. “Has anyone seen Channel 8’s new morning traffic reporter? Her name is Demetria Obilor & she’s a size 16/18 woman in a size 6 dress and she looks ridiculous,” wrote Jan Shedd in a now-deleted Facebook post. “I understand that when I watch Channel 8 I’m going to get biased reporting and political correctness, but clearly they have taken complete leave of their senses. I’m not going to watch Channel 8 anymore.” The post went viral after Chance the Rapper retweeted a screenshot of it with the simple caption “BIIIIIIG MAD.” https://twitter.com/fabfreshandfly/status/926508650947940352 https://twitter.com/chancetherapper/status/926519148988989441 Obilor's response was astute, matter of fact, and refreshing: “A quick word to those people: this is the way that I’m built, this is the way I was born, I’m not going anywhere, so if you don’t like it you have your options.” While I support Demetria and her response to the racism and body shaming she continues to experience, I feel like there's something else to be found beneath its many layers. Something else about this situation bothers me. Both Obilor and Brown are “pear” shaped, light-skinned Black women. Their very existence in the bodies they were born into is readily fetishized, and not just by the color struck purveyors of colorism. With their light skin, small waistlines, and prominent hips and butts, they inhabit the seemingly most desired, coveted, and worshipped body type, for Black women especially. But there is something at play here besides the fact that people of all races, genders, and sexualities constantly attempt to police Black women's bodies. It's beyond the fact that Black women, regardless of appearance, are always-already sexualized. It's beyond the fact that curvy body types are always deemed inappropriate no matter what we wear.