Black single and thick

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Thus, this article asks how women negotiate body dissatisfaction when violating racialized bodily ideals. While these discourses enable women to defend criticisms of violating thickness, they also participate in stigmatizing other forms of embodiment in their attempts to assuage body dissatisfaction.

Lastly, I discuss the broader implications of my findings within the literature of body politics and offer suggestions for future research. In this article, I analyze how women reconcile body image anxieties and the negotiation tactics they employ. I pose the following research questions: What discursive frameworks do Black women mobilize to rationalize their body size? And importantly, how do these frameworks mitigate their body image discomfort?

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To answer these questions, I conducted in-depth interviews with 31 Black women of diverse body sizes. Collins describes controlling images as troubling, and at times contradictory, characterizations of Black women that reinforce race, gender, and class hierarchies. Central to controlling images are cultural expectations of Black women as naturally thick.

This racialized-gendered body expectation emerged from American chattel slavery that stereotyped Black women as mammies Collins, Additionally, this strength discourse summons women to deprioritize—even sacrifice—their needs in service of others from the family to workplace Beauboeuf-Lafontant, Black communities have developed cultural beauty standards compelling women to relinquish allegiance to the white thin ideal.

As a result, Black women often report greater body satisfaction, even at heavier weights, relative to white women who appear to suffer from intense body distress. Additionally, other scholarship suggests that Black women too experience acute pressures to embody thinness Cheney,challenging the robustness of these cultural buffers Poran,p. Black feminist scholars argue that while Black women may be immune to thinness, this does not exonerate them from other weight-related anxieties. Obesity purportedly threatens the lives of those who tip the scales, despite emerging findings that the BMI is in fact a weak proxy for health status especially for Black women Strings, Healthism shifts responsibility from the state e.

I ask, what discursive frameworks do women mobilize to alleviate their body dissatisfaction? Here, I theorize how Black women of varying body sizes experienced distinct forms of body dissatisfaction—tied to the thick ideal—underscoring the complexity of body image within an intra-racial group. Eligibility in the study required that respondents satisfy the following criteria: 1 self-identify as a Black heterosexual woman, 2 be eighteen years of age or older, and 3 reside in Los Angeles metropolitan area.

I primarily relied on convenience and snowball sampling to recruit respondents. This was advantageous given that prior respondents in the study encouraged their close friends, family members, or colleagues to participate. Respondents also demonstrated various weights and body sizes, which captured diversity in responses. The sample was highly-educated compared to the national average U.

Lastly, the majority of respondents were born and raised in California. In the spirit of feminist scholarship, my goal was to ensure that interviews were equitable and generated mutual respect DeVault, Respondents determined the location of the interview based on their convenience and comfortability.

Most respondents elected to conduct the interview at a local coffee shop or my private university office. Interviews were audio-recorded with written consent from respondents in accordance with the Institutional Review board at my home institution. As a point of departure from research that imposed a body ideal sI asked open-ended questions that invited women to reflect on their ideal body or physical appearance, in addition to messages from family, friends, and romantic partners.

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It became clear in the interviews that respondents idealized —and internalized— thickness and experienced distress when failing to embody it. Interviews ranged from forty-five minutes to three hours, averaging one-and-half hours. All interviews were transcribed from audio to text and subsequently stored in Atlas.

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I incorporated memos or comments to highlight how body shape related to their discursive strategy. To preserve the integrity and rigor of qualitative research, researchers have a duty to situate themselves throughout the research process DeVault, I argue that women strategically mobilized one of three discursive frameworks based on their body size.

First, some employed discourses on healthism and genetic determinism, often associating heavier weight with illnesses, to construct themselves as healthier. Lastly, some rejected defining their body image tied to appearance and instead, valued other qualities such as character. Overall, these findings enhance our understanding of how Black American women navigate and contest body politics within and across multiple—and conflicting—racialized systems.

As scholars highlight the expectation and celebration of thickness among Black women Gentles-Peart, ; Overstreet et al. Often, they encountered messages from family and friends that exacerbated these feelings of body discontent.

Healthism reinforces the dominant white body ideal given that it privileges thinness Kwan, This negotiation technique appropriated discourses of healthism given that respondents often assumed lighter weight translated to better health outcomes Crawford, However, critical health scholars problematize the BMI as 1 inaccurately measuring health and 2 pathologizing heavy weight as detrimental, particularly among Black women Cameron et al.

Yet, for respondents, the BMI was part of their discursive toolkit to defend and justify their thinner figure. She shared:. I try and stay within that [range]. While some discussed health issues more abstractly like Jada, others had referenced family members with specific health conditions as justification for their slender body, sometimes as a result of recent weight loss.

Recently, she had started a new exercise and diet regimen to build stamina and energy given her quick fatigue. After losing 30 pounds, she continued to exercise several times during the week which prevented her obtaining the hourglass figure she desired. She justified her new physique as preventing future illnesses that ran in her family.

Healthism discourses resonated with women in this group, particularly measuring their health through the BMI. That is, while attachment to healthism relieves body image tensions for thinner women, the cost is perpetuating the medicalization of weight that automatically associates heaviness with adverse health outcomes Beauboeuf-Lafontant, ; Hill, The widespread belief that Black women are disproportionately overweight reproduces race, class, and gender hierarchies, and contrary to findings that Black women are often healthier at heavier weights Strings, In addition to mobilizing healthism to explain their thinner figures, some respondents also turned to genetic inheritance as preventing thickness.

Despite attempts to gain curves, she continued to receive messages that questioned her intentions:. My mom helps me out sometimes. In this forthright quote, Blake rationalized her inability to embody thickness, despite efforts, as inherited from her mother who was also petite.

And her mother, at times, would help diffuse the tension by reassuring relatives, as well as her daughter, that weight gain could eventually happen. Simultaneously, Blake characterized other family members as undisciplined as a tactic to deflect stigma and the hypervisibility among her family because of her body size. And one respondent, Ashanti, a year-old digital producer, blended healthism and genetic determinism to explain her body shape.

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Such narratives above indicate that weight-stigma from thinness required respondents to invoke strategies to mitigate body image tensions. I have no control over my body. While virtually all respondents praised thickness Gentles-Peart, it became clear in these body narratives that not all curves were created equal. How women in this group experienced body discontent starkly contrasted with women in the group. To reconcile feelings of discontent, their bodily negotiation involved ascribing heavier bodies as not inherently unhealthy.

Women were critical of normative health definitions that privilege lighter weight. As such, they often constructed themselves—and others shaped like them—as healthy even at heavier weights. Furthermore, some women asserted thinness characterized disease as a way to negotiate their heavier bodies.

Typically, they articulated competing priorities that made it challenging to focus on their appearance and as a result, their body image suffered. Additionally, as working in the white-dominated beauty industry, colleagues hinted that conforming to thinness would increase her professional success by attracting more clientele which exacerbated her body anxiety.

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Yet, Safa articulated how competing attention from siblings, her mother, and partner in addition to a demanding work schedule compromised her ability to focus on herself:.

Black single and thick

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“I’m Supposed To Be Thick”: Managing Body Image Anxieties Among Black American Women