Black Women and the Fat Culture in America

Why Black Women are Fat

Four out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.

Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal black woman.

What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

Alice Randall, New York Times, May 6, 2012


6 thoughts on “Black Women and the Fat Culture in America

  1. I personally see lots of African American women on YouTube because I watch many videos that are singing gospel songs. Many African American women who appear on those videos are overweight. I don’t think it is healthy to stay in shape like that, though they sing super good. Truly they sing with souls. There are people that are thin and sing really good, though most of the African American women are obese. When I heard that ideal of black women that are overweight, I strongly agreed because I have seen many videos of women like that.

  2. Yui, note that this opinion piece is about attractiveness of a rounder figure in the black community. I wouldn’t generalize it to the entire American culture. Many Americans lead a very unhealthy lifestyle but condemn the look of someone who is overweight or obese. So on the one hand we celebrate the “skinny girl,” but on the other hand we aren’t making lifestyle changes that would make us healthier, even if a bit overweight.

  3. When you mentioned Josephine Baker in class and how she had a round figure, I imagined someone a little bigger. I don’t really think it is healthy for women to worry so much about their figure so much. Many people are going on diets when they are at a perfectly healthy weight like how it is in Japan. There are too many people who are trying to lose weight when they are already skinny to start with due to the images of celebrities and their skinny figures. I just thought it was interesting how Japanese people tend to think that skinny women are more attractive while Americans tend to think women with rounder bodies are attractive. It really shows how it is different in every country and how people think differently. It goes to show that you do not have to look one way to be attractive because you are beautiful in your own way and there are people who appreciate your image for just the way you are.

  4. The fact that four out of five black women are fat did not really surprise me, because I rarely see a skinny black woman. However, the reasons for it were very shocking and interesting. I have heard many African American men say big hips are very attractive. I thought that was the only reason black women were fat. But I found the political factor very interesting. Slavery will never be forgotten, especially in black history, so it is understandable that being skinny is a kind of trauma for black people.

    But I believe America should take some kind of action to reduce obesity. Many developed countries, including America, have already discovered the danger of being obese, so they know the food and eating styles are not good for their health.

  5. Sachiko, this is an example of an opinion piece in an American newspaper. It is not a scientific study or just a fact-based article, but rather the opinion of this particular writer, Alice Randall. She is arguing that there are both cultural as well as personal constraints that hinder black women from maintaining healthier weights. The fact is, Randall argues, a more robust, heavier figure is more appealing to the women themselves as well as to their admirers.

  6. I was very surprised at the reasons for black women being fat. So far, I thought the reason was just one: their economically being left behind compared to whites. However in this newspaper, body culture among blacks and political issues are main factors. Black women are idealized with their curviness because it is really attractive. Also, they are discriminated against so women decided to be fatter for resistance. This part is what impressed me most. Since many newspapers that I’ve read so far reported that cause of obesity, especially of blacks, is derived from economics and buying junk foods, I couldn’t come up with these opinions.

    In my opinion, firstly from political view, black women became fat because they wanted to escape from looking like poor from the images of slaves, to show whites how they became richer. In order to avoid discrimination and being fat shows us on the surface that they are better-off enough to feed themselves.

    And from a cultural aspect, actually I’m not sure why many people want black women to be fat. The value that black women were beautiful in their fattier bodies was common among the black society?

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