Thicker Than Most

It seems like disliking your body is par for the course as a female. But in the mainstream the conversation is driven by beautiful, thin white females. Or at least it seems like it is. There are so many body types that don't feel beautiful to the person in them; but i'm here to talk about one group of bodies in particular, the bodies of black women. More importanlty this obsession with being "thick".

My mind immediately goes to Saartje "Sarah" Baartman, a South African Khoikhoi woman who was put on display in a french freak show and mocked for the natural shape of her body. Her stage name was Hottentot Venus, a melding of the french derogatory term for her people and the name of the roman goddess of love. From the beginning she was viewed sexually; as though being viewed as inhuman for being black wasn't enough. From Sarah almost three-hundred years ago to (insert literally any relevant or famous black female here) the euro-centric outlook on beauty finds ways to dehumanize, mock, and somehow lust after black women's bodies all at the same time. 

So now we have the ever-evolving "body positivity" movement. Young women binge, starve themselves, and follow ultimately empty dreams of achieving the perfect body. It has been made to seem so linear and simple. Girls want to be thin. But the idea of accepting your body is one long lost when change is so easily attainable. Everyone wanted to be thin, now everyone wants to be thick. Sadly, I am no exception.

I am a small African American female. I stand at about 5.3 and my pant size fluctuates from a 3 to a 5. When one thinks of what bulimic girls are shooting for I'm pretty sure I range on the "healthier" end of the skinny girl spectrum. Now when one looks at the culture obsessed with black women's bodies? I am not enough. When I look at myself sometimes and then look around at the black women around me? I am not enough. Hearing "but you're so cute!" and "aw you're so tiny!" is not a good time for me. I look in the mirror and don't see a woman's body, especially not a black woman's body. At about twelve the girls in school inevitably started growing as women. I remember being distinctly teased and humiliated as mother nature saw fit to bestow underarm hair and acne years before her idea of breasts stared to show. From that point on I found myself angry at the boy in middle school who chased and teased the girls and left me wondering why I wasn't liked. High school came with a new set of frustration with my looks as the endless parade of effortlessly glamorous white girls found me wanting to peel off my face and fry my hair. Going into and through college, several boyfriends and one messy unrequited love later and I still look in the mirror and don't feel quite right. At days away from 26 I've finally been graced with what I deem as a poor excuse for hips and my chest is a joke.

Don't perk up just yet as regrettably this piece will not end with a revelation about how I should love my body as it is. 

There are days though where I put on tight jeans and a cute crop and feel totally adorable; desirable even. I look in the mirror and my small frame doesn't bother me, too much. But just like anyone else my age the internet calls to me and I am flooded with images of stunning black women with hips, ass, and breasts for days and I am back to feeling less-than. Much worse are the endless threads of white women raking in the best of both worlds. Long golden locks, baby blues, and the painstakingly picked apart attributes of the black female body injected and tacked on in literally any way money can buy. The sickening part of this? It all still loops back and poisons young black women like me. 

Such an atrocity to nature is an unshapely black woman that losing weight just to inject it back into the parts that are supposed to be voluptuous is just a part of life. There are countless internet how-to's on gaining weight and making sure it lands "in the right spots". Not only do I have to keep my hair straight and silky, have perfect skin, and find a way to make my nose appear smaller, but I now need to find a way to be more black? It's dizzying and unfortunately not something I see myself overcoming anytime soon.

I've tried it all short of going under the knife and trust me if I had the money I'd come out a new woman. And yes, before you think "but you wouldn't be happy", I can tell you with a straight face that you're dead wrong. But then there's the other half of society that makes you feel like you're a bad person for hating your body and wanting to change it. There is no winning.

What happened to Sarah Baartman never went away. It seeped into history and evolved into the monster that is women's bodies now. Every argument in the body conversation has some underlying hypocrisy and its just a fact.

Happiness with my body does come but is always fleeting.

I find it near impossible to ignore the voice saying, "You need to be thicker than most. Otherwise, you are not a woman. For damn sure not a black one."

Chelsea ReddingComment