What constitutes a nice butt? I’m so serious. For that matter, what constitutes a nice body? Attractiveness is subjective and firmly rooted in cultural norms. What is ideal in one cultural worldview (i.e. Cameron Diaz) is skinny and can’t compare to the sexiness of Sara Ramirez in another culture’s opinion. This topic is one that fascinates me and was at the heart of my studies on eating disorders among women of color. The fact is that women of African descent and Latino women score much higher on body satisfaction scales that their white counterparts. This does nothing to help the high levels of obesity and the accompanying illnesses within our communities unfortunately, but from a gender perspective it’s wonderful. It is terrific that our culture embraces a type of beauty that the dominate culture rejects, or accepts only partially. It’s great that we are encouraged to love our body outside the norms that have caused so many girls and women to starve themselves to death.
The internet is buzzing about Raven-Symoné’s comment regarding her recent weight loss. She has expressed that she found herself to be attractive prior to losing weight and now feels uncomfortable with the new attention to her body. The gender issue of the sexualization of women’s bodies aside, her comment reflects the conflict between personal body satisfaction and societal pressures to get thin. We all know that skinny does not equal healthy, but the media doesn’t speak to this reality. Girls and women of all colors are encouraged to maintain weights that are not necessarily healthy and may be outside their body’s natural weight. The struggle to reach and maintain this weight will therefore be life-long and will most likely only get harder once a woman’s life moves into full fledged adulthood which may include childbearing, a slowing metabolism, a more sedentary lifestyle and money to buy foods she couldn’t afford in college!
For women of color, finding balance between what men find attractive, what we find personally satisfying and the dominate culture’s standards can be particularly difficult. Growing up I was repeatedly told “only a dog wants a bone”, “more cushion for the pushin”, and the ultimate “more warmth in the winter, shade in the summer”. I have NEVER received encouragement to lose weight from any man with whom I’ve discussed weight loss. When I reached a weight I loved, I was repeatedly told that I was too thin. On the positive side, that cultural acceptance has allowed me to be much kinder to myself and to accept my body as it has changed after motherhood and hypothyroidism. Even as I workout with my Beachbody DVD’s I know that I have NO desire to have the size butt of any of the girls in the Brazil Butt Lift videos. I do want to be toned and strong the way they are. I do want to return to the size where I felt my most confident, regardless of who thought it was or wasn’t my best.
So what is a sista to do? My answer is has two components. First, talk to your doctor. Your focus should be health. How is your cholesterol? Is your blood pressure good? Are you prediabetic at a size 12? Get clear on what changes you need to make to be HEALTHY! Second, with health requirements in mind, focus on getting to the weight YOU love and the skin YOU feel comfortable in. For the sista who ran track her entire life and was a size 2, but recently had a 50 pound weight gain, that place will be much different than that of the woman who was a size 12 her entire life and now finds herself an 18. You can be perfectly healthy while not meeting the standards on the BMI chart. It wasn’t made to be used as a tool for diagnosing anyway. There are many variables that go into a healthy body image and healthy weight. Don’t let your feelings about your beautiful and unique self be determined by irrelevant outside influences.
- BMI is for Fools…Weight Loss & Fat Loss are not Equal (bangkokpersonaltraining.wordpress.com)
- PHOTOS: Raven-Symone’s Dramatic Weight Loss (huffingtonpost.com)