I come from a legacy of small women, but I did not always accept and embrace that legacy. It’s one of those things that you don’t talk about openly. These kind of conversations are reserved for trusted girlfriends or family members, until someone disrupts your security blanket with the all too sarcastic “oh shut up” or “cry me a river.” What right do you have to complain when mainstream society says your body type is the ideal? Are your feelings valid when well-meaning folks around you tell you that you’re so lucky that clothes fit you easily and that they “wish they had your figure.”
The truth is none of those niceties mean a thing if you’re a skinny black girl. Supposedly you have the ideal body – thin. Yet countless people in your community admonish you to “get some meat on those bones, ” because “men want a little something to hold on to,” just in case you were wondering. Sometimes your community consists of the people in your own home, so the messages are inescapable. It’s also not uncommon for some brother to loudly voice his displeasure about your lack of ASSets. Oh, and don’t forget the false but in your face concerns about a possible eating disorder. How else do you eat so much yet stay so small? You are to shoulder these and other criticisms with nary a complaint, because it’s the norm to unload such venom on the “skinny b**ch.”
So when you develop body issues, you stay quiet and silently consume Ensure, protein shakes and anything else that promises weight gain. No one knows that you’re displeased with the body you see in the mirror, they don’t know that deep down you wish for curves and that you are hypersensitive to comments about thin celebrities looking “sickly,” “like little kids” or like “crack heads.” Deep down you wonder if those are the things they think about you. Later on you may recover through weight gain or self-acceptance, but you might not recover at all.
Today 53% of American girls are unhappy with their bodies. We live in a world where globally women face media onslaughts on their body and self-image, often comparing themselves to unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. This is further compounded by other cultural standards at play. Now more than ever, women need each other to develop and maintain positive self and body images. So the next time you are tempted to make a disparaging remark about another woman’s weight, think again. Choose instead to celebrate her unique beauty.