Streams

Body Image: Black Women and Fat

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Alice Randall, writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University and author of the new book, Ada's Rules, discusses her recent opinion piece in The New York Times that looks at the perception of body weight in black communities.  More information on her book is available here.

Guests:

Alice Randall

Comments [44]

Sheldon from Brooklyn ~

An industrial pre-pressed patty with an orange kheeze™ product on a pasty white bun tastes better than a grass-fed, hand-hewn burger with a cloth-bound cheddar on toasted 9 grain bread??

Junk Phood® doesn't taste better (IMO) but it does create a complex addiction game with a hormonal roller coaster ride that creates an empty carbohydrate and industrial fat cycle of false satiation.

Plenty of bulk but little actual nutrition.

It is also, "easier".

May. 09 2012 08:08 AM
tom LI

I simply do not buy into this Marketing cr/ppy food to lower income neighborhoods. Who forces anyone to drink a 5 gallon bucket of soda every day? Doesnt the faucet work in these neighborhoods? NYC has one the best water systems in the nation.

Its about control and raising children to have some - which the BOOMER Gen has pretty much failed to do- because they havent wanted to control their own lusts and vices...because they deemed that control (from their parents) as BAD parenting.

May. 08 2012 06:52 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I'm need to hit the gym and stay off the chips too Becky.

May. 08 2012 01:48 PM
The Truth from Becky

SHELDON...I see now, of course you're right. I eat the same way sometimes, in moderation however. Gotta know when to say when is all I'm sayin'.

May. 08 2012 01:39 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Becky - excuse my poor grammar. I didn't mean only you by the "but"

May. 08 2012 01:26 PM
The Truth from Becky

RBC - Associates & Keyfood both sell fresh fruits & Vegetables.

SHELDON - I am NOT the only one, I have 5 immediate friends and a host of cousins, same deal.

DIANE - Right on!

May. 08 2012 12:56 PM
Diane from Midtown

Yet another discussion where black women are held responsible and black men are ignored and deemed irrelevant. When will that finally change??

May. 08 2012 12:25 PM
RBC from NYC

"This Harvard educated black woman sheds little light on the black female experience. I find this cluelessness in many ivy-league-educated black folk that the media loves to give a platform."

^^BINGO!!! You said it all.

May. 08 2012 12:09 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

We all eat bad food because it simply tastes better and is usually cheap and quick.

Processed food, lack of exercise - poor self discipline.

Black women are no different but Becky - the fact that society, the black community included, are more accepting of the endearing archetypal overweight black female figure (Oprah)or, that black - (southern/ethnic) cuisine has historically been prepared with little concern for health(y) are also factors.

May. 08 2012 12:08 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Wow, jgarbuz, correct.

May. 08 2012 12:05 PM
RBC from NYC

@The Truth from Becky:

Obesity is a multi-symptom issue, but economics do play a huge part. An area's median income will determine what type of stores a neighborhood will have. And poorer neighborhoods will have retail stores that sell consumer goods which are poorer in quality and cheaper in cost - and food is no exception. Ever wonder why there are no Whole Foods or Fairway stores opening in East New York??

May. 08 2012 12:05 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Nah, Becky, that AIN'T the truth...
In fact, getting 8 hours of sleep, getting 8 hours of exercise and even drinking 8 glasses of water per day IS affected by socioeconomics.
What we're suffering from is the failure to understand how. THIS is what needs address, for the problem(s) to be solved.

May. 08 2012 12:01 PM

Sheldon from Brooklyn~

Nuthin' "borderline" about Bernie.

He's a racist, and an ass.

May. 08 2012 12:01 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

As per Bernie from Brooklyn:

"when young, fat, black women fail to use contraception and are impregnated as teens, it's not their fault."

"we all know, they can never be held responsible for anything at all, ever."

Just sarcasm right Bernie? Some way of making your "points"

We all know what you are Bernie. We know what you are - don't hide it

May. 08 2012 11:58 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as fat people. But from the time when women experimented and discovered wheat and rice, and developed early agriculture, we find the earliest examples of very fat fertility goddesses. Fat started when people went over from hunting and gathering to raising wheat and rice and other storable carbohydrate-rich grains. They could be stored and eaten later on, unlike meat that usually had to be eaten quickly to keep from becoming spoiled. Fat people are the result of eating too much carbohydrates and not working them off. It used to be rich people who were fat and proud of it, and now it is mostly the plague of the poor who have to live off relative cheap carbohydrates.

May. 08 2012 11:57 AM

Black or white, male or female, STOP BEING A FAT SLOB!!!

I'm sick of paying for it!!

May. 08 2012 11:56 AM
Bob from Huntington

You have to talk about dietary choices and the role of things such as drinks sweetened with corn sweeteners. It's liquid fat sold cheaply and in grossly large quantities. Think 7-Eleven.

May. 08 2012 11:56 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Right ON, Shereen.
This Harvard educated black woman sheds little light on the black female experience. I find this cluelessness in many ivy-league-educated black folk that the media loves to give a platform.

May. 08 2012 11:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

This has NOTHING to do with economics..seriously...this has to do with one's love of extra cheese, butter, sugar etc! Race and money has nothing to do with it!

May. 08 2012 11:53 AM
Antonio from bayside

Bernie,

Interesting perspective.
But there IS a causality from economics, education, access or lack of the aforementioned.

May. 08 2012 11:52 AM
bernie from bklyn

whoa! poor white women are fat too? so we're all the same? YES, we're all the same- this is my point. i'm not a racist.

May. 08 2012 11:52 AM
Marc Grobman from Fanwood, NJ

Anecdote #2 in support that it's cultural: There are scores of black music championing fatness in woman. My favorite: Big Joe Turner, singing:
"I want a big fat woman with her meat shakin' on the bone."

May. 08 2012 11:51 AM

Preach Sheldon!!!

May. 08 2012 11:51 AM
The Truth from Becky

Love how these "used to be fat girls", the ones who used to tease me for being too skinny, love to speak for the race/gender, your "mind" is still fat...speak for yourself please. ALSO, I LOVE the overweight women in my family!

May. 08 2012 11:51 AM
Randy from Brooklyn

Unfortunately, there's a societal cost to this so-called image choice. Having spent time at a hospital in Washington D.C., it was impossible not to notice the hospital mini-buses that arrived on a regular schedule discharging overweight black women at the hospital's dialysis center. This was a very poor neighborhood and virtually everyone treated at the hospital was on Medicaid.

May. 08 2012 11:50 AM
RL

Unfortunately, the rest of do not get to make a "choice" as to whether we share in your healthcare costs/premiums. Get some sleep and be healthy.

May. 08 2012 11:50 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I think perhaps it's time to put down the double bacon cheeseburger and diet coke, turn off the TV, and get some exercise. It's YOUR fault that your "obeast," not society's. It's people like you who cause health care costs to soar and take up too much space on public transportation.

May. 08 2012 11:50 AM
Zac from bushwick

Yo, lady: Stop loving yourself so much. It's annoying. And even your mother doesn't want to hear you talk so much.

May. 08 2012 11:48 AM
Marc Grobman from Fanwood, NJ

An anecdote in support: In the early 1980s, whenever my black girlfriend would see a seriously heavy woman, she would happily exclaim:
"Now that's a healthy woman!"

May. 08 2012 11:48 AM
The Truth from Becky

A hell of a topic Alice! FYI...over 40 and 5'6" 130lbs, 26 inch waist, never have been fat sweetie!

May. 08 2012 11:47 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Bernie - Most Black women, like their white counterparts that struggle with weight (for what ever reason) are solidly working and middle class. Yet you reduce them to a bunch of irresponsible welfare queens with your sarcastic diatribe about "chicken wings" and "wic/ebt" cards.

And your "as we all know, they can never be held responsible for anything at all, ever. Yeah - Bernie, we all know who and what you are.

May. 08 2012 11:46 AM
Shereen from Brooklyn

One problem I see with this op ed is that the author is making an uncritical connection between size and health. This problem stems from “fat-phobic” media, advertisers, and even some individuals in the medical profession. We need to start promoting health at ANY size; being thin doesn’t necessary mean one is healthy, and yet many people privilege and obsess over thinness. It IS possible for people to be active, make informed food choices, LOVE their bodies, and NEVER “fit” into the prevailing image of thinness.

(Another problem is that one writer cannot speak on behalf of an entire race, but perhaps that’s a separate discussion.)

May. 08 2012 11:43 AM
Shereen from Brooklyn

One problem I see with this op ed is that the author is making an uncritical connection between size and health. This problem stems from “fat-phobic” media, advertisers, and even some individuals in the medical profession. We need to start promoting health at ANY size; being thin doesn’t necessary mean one is healthy, and yet many people privilege and obsess over thinness. It IS, indeed, possible for people to be active, make informed food choices, LOVE their bodies, and NEVER “fit” into the prevailing image of thinness.

(Another problem is that one writer cannot speak on behalf of an entire race, but perhaps that’s a separate discussion.)

May. 08 2012 11:40 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Productive discourse here requires a better understanding of centuries of "socio-economic" conditions and their actual ripple, compounding, intergenerational effects. Unfortunately, one can even BE a black woman and not understand. Sad. We have a LONG way to go.

May. 08 2012 11:39 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Sasha, why? Why do they make these "choices"?

May. 08 2012 11:34 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Randi, yes: Black AND Latino/Hispanic women.
Question is, why? I did not read the article, but I wonder how thoroughly the author examined why...Course, there are many on these boards who think these women are inherently inferior...

May. 08 2012 11:32 AM
bernie from bklyn

sheldon- perfect, you always follow the script. thank you. of course, anyone who finds fault w/ black people in this country is a racist.

May. 08 2012 11:15 AM
Randi from Brooklyn

Unlike the other commenters here, I actually read the article in the Times. There's something that needs to be distinguished that Ms. Randall didn't in the article - the shape of a black women vs obesity of black women. Many black women, of all sizes, tend to be more curvy (particularly in the backside) because of genetics. There's nothing much we can do about that. There are healthy yet curvy black women. And many men like a curvy figure. But the obesity issue is something different. That has to do with things other than natural curves - bad eating habits, lack of exercise, lack of healthy food availability and stress top the list.

Another point that Ms. Randall missed was the reason why black women accept their figures. Black women that are overweight
would like to be much thinner - who wouldn't - but the reason why black women are ok with their bodies is because of positive self-esteem within the black female community. Black women give and receive tons of emotional and spiritual support within themselves - and a more positive outlook on life is reflected within as a result.

But this issue doesn't begin and end with black women; latino and hispanic women face the same issue.

May. 08 2012 11:08 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I love Bernie and his borderline racism, as it gets in the way of any coherent points he tries to make.

May. 08 2012 11:07 AM
bernie from bklyn

point well taken, thanks carolyn.
so you're saying that socio-economically oppressed women of color should be responsible for their own health and behavior?

May. 08 2012 10:59 AM
sasha from Brooklyn

I am a black woman and I do not quite agree with the NYT article, at least not where the modern generation is concerned. Contrary to I do not think black women are fat just because they want to be fat, it is a matter of priorities, most black people not just women, do not see being overweight as an issue. I know many black women who would rather spend their time and money getting their hair and nails done than exercising. They actually prefer not to exercise because of their hair.. Also we do not pay attention to our diets, we continue to over indulge with carbohydrates rich foods and foods high in fat even though it is detrimental in the long run to our health. This is also true for both sexes. I rarely see a black man especially grabbing a salad for lunch, instead he goes for a white rice dish.

May. 08 2012 10:58 AM
Carolyn from NY

harvey and bernie, you are both a waste of space in this comments section.

May. 08 2012 10:48 AM
bernie from bklyn

black women could never be responsible for their weight. of course it's the socio-economic conditions that women of color have to live under. they live in food deserts where the only goods available for purchase are unhealthy, greasy, fatty, carb-filled junk foods that we, as a society, virtually shove down their throats via the socio-economic conditions created by non-people-of-color. when young, fat, black women fail to use contraception and are impregnated as teens, it's not their fault. the responsibility falls on society for creating these socio-economic conditions for women of color that negate any personal responsibility for anything. when the nyc greenmarkets began accepting WIC/EBT they were just wasting their time because fat, women of color are basically required and forced by us, as a society, via the socio-economic conditions, to only buy 2 liter bottles of orange soda and a 24pc fish stix/chicken wing combo from the c-town prepared food section. please don't place blame on these blameless, big, beautiful women of color. because as we all know, they can never be held responsible for anything at all, ever.

May. 08 2012 10:30 AM
Harvey

"Why Black Women Are Crazy"

By Alice I. N. Randalland

99 out of a 100 black women in the US are seriously sick in their head, research has shown. And given the cost of dealing with crazy (latest figures have not been published because of a shortage of zero's), the problem has reached crisis proportions in Black America. Something must be done.

Too many experts have been quick to cite other external issues (like crazy black men!) as the key to the madness that has gripped African-American women. All the while, they have ignored the crucial internalized truth: black women are crazy because they want to be.


The great black singer Natalie Cole sang in 1989 "I Miss you Like Crazy." And with this song, she established black women as complete cuckoos. Cole, in fact, was only one among many sisters who have celebrated our insanity. Mary J Blige famously sang about being 'insane' in a huge hit whose chorus pretty much admitted that she was admitting herself into a mental care -- "Im Going Down."

Mary's song, in fact, pointed to the real problem: Black men. Just as Black men, Randall showed, were responsible largely for the fat on black women, they too have been culpable for the nutty sisters. They go bananas over crazy. One black female professor confessed that her black professor partner once refused to accompany her to a conferences because he deemed her to have lost her 'touch.' Clever brute, he also complained that her reasonableness was a sick sign of her 'acting white.' Even Beyonce, he argued, her light black unfat self, happily boasted about being "crazy in love."


Yet the mental disturbance goes deeper than romance. It is not just about intimate relationships. According to an acclaimed recent book, "Dat Beeyotch is Crazy: gendered unreason and the insanity of resistance" (Harvard, 2007), it is also about the the political agency of black women. Written by Kruh Zee Broadwoman, this book concluded that diasporic sisters have been acting crazy ever since Europeans set foot on Africa. Like Halle Berry under Billy Bob Thornton, women in 16th century West Africa responded to white racism by losing all their good sense and acting out crazy fantasies that could be taken seriously only in Hollywood (that these strategies have been doubtlessly profitable is clear -- recall Berry receiving the Oscar (and acting half crazy, some have jokingly observed).

Still, in the end, we have to be serious. I used to be crazy. This op-ed, indeed, is part of my recovery program. Personally, I intend to be the last crazy black woman I know. I'm doing it for my daughter. She, after all, might want to improve the race and marry a non-black man (black women are always straight of course and never do other women). And men who are not black, we know, don't do crazy.

May. 08 2012 10:20 AM

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