Interesting feedback from SiT readers in regards to the "Cultural Factors, Black Women and Working Out" post from last week. (Thanks for all of your feedback-- Soton, Ghoul, Birdee, nini, qwert, and anonymous)
Something interesting I noticed among the comments, is that they touched on reasons why they felt black women were larger than other women. Some suggested the price of food, some suggested that black women are "built" different, and others suggested that maybe it was a bit of rebellion against mainstream societal standards.
I find these all to be really intriguing, partly because a few I haven't considered, but also because of my reaction to these when I first read them.
"Black Women are Built Different"-- My Reaction: I'm not a scientist/geneticist or what have you, but I don't think so. I do think there are different body types, and we do inherit certain genes from our parent's DNA. But, I don't think that black women having different body sizes is the reason why most women don't exercise regularly and there's such a large population of overweight black women. In my honest opinion, I think it's that mentality of "being built different" that contributes to large population and is one of the cultural factors that keep them away from the gym.
Of course, I do recognize that as a whole, certain ethnic groups have distinct physical characteristics and having a 'big and round booty' is something often associated with black women. (Myself included-- hehehhe!) Asian women as a whole, are considerably smaller in stature than say, Black women or white women, and we are all familiar with the overall perception of size differences in regards to men. So I do understand the point.
"Could it be that it's a rebellion against mainstream beauty standards?"-- My Reaction: Hmmmmm... Possibly. I remember back in my university days, I studied "the idea of the other" in Humanities as well as in Sociology. I learned that throughout history, this idea has been at the root of several monumental recent historical events (if not all)-- to name a few, the enslavement of Africans, the American Civil War, the Holocaust, the Antebellum period after the Civil War, Jim Crow in the South, etc.
"The idea of the other" is according to Wikipedia-- Lawrence Cahoone (1996) explains it thus:
"What appear to be cultural unitsâhuman beings, words, meanings, ideas, philosophical systems, social organizationsâare maintained in their apparent unity only through an active process of exclusion, opposition, and hierarchization. Other phenomena or units must be represented as foreign or 'other' through representing a hierarchical dualism in which the unit is 'privileged' or favored, and the other is devalued in some way."
"A person's definition of the other is part of what defines or even constitutes the self."
In my opinion, I think the commenter has touched on something very interesting. :) Creating 'the other' is what every society does-- including African-Americans and especially Japanese. If you look at difference in beauty standards of both African-Americans and Japanese, one can clearly see this idea in action.
Which brings me to another point, rather a question, made by an SiT reader-- (paraphrased) "Is being "thick" along with the other traits you list as desirable actually undesirable among black women and men?" My Reaction: Great question! From my experiences here, I get the feeling that African-American men who travel outside of the comforts of the US, have different standards of beauty and perception of beauty than say their counterparts residing in the US who don't travel. I can honestly say that I feel my beauty as a slim and petite African-American woman is appreciated more often by men here, (Japanese, African-American, European, African, and Arab) than in the US. Of course, this perception is biased, as I dated exclusively black men back home.
Another point though-- is that I often see black men here dating "thicker than your average" Japanese women. So, I will stand firmly beside my argument that compared to other groups, black men-- a as a whole, prefer thicker-bodied women.
Which brings me to another question raised-- My boyfriend's background and country of origin. -- I'll post on this topic in a separate entry.
"Could a part of the problem be economics and food cost"-- I read this argument on BT discussion boards as well. My first reaction was-- come on now! You mean to tell me that some people are overweight because nutritious food is not readily available and is more expensive? I don't think so. Let's stop with all of the excuses here. My gut reaction is that fresh veggies and fruit are cheaper than junk food any day.
From a more objective perspective-- I realize that this may be the case for some people-- I have never considered that the reason why some people were overweight is because of food prices. And, I still find it to be an interesting argument-- especially when it comes to some lower economic black children being fed frozen foods, juice boxes, and other unhealthy snacks on a daily basis. But in that particular case, it's the parents ignorance and the lack of time and preparation in cooking proper meals for their children that is actually causing the obesity, and not the actual food prices. (Proof is in my family) I think this could definitely be one of the causes of childhood obesity, that and the lack of exercise and extra-curricular activities.
Perhaps the accessibility healthy food for children-- is a better topic to consider as an argument for childhood obesity--- but for adult obesity? Not buying it. (hehehhe-- that's a bit of a pun isn't it!)
From my personal experience collection-- I wasn't raised in a home that fostered the healthiest of habits in terms of eating and exercise. (thick country bacon, ribs, pork chops, collard greens cooked in fat, etc.-- Yeah, All of that.) But, I was super active in my school and extra-curricular activities. I played basketball throughout middle school and high school. And I was in the marching and concert bands, and did tons of other stuff around my school. My older brother was also an athlete in school, so our mentality towards eating healthy and regular exercise was encouraged through the programs we were in. My parents firmly believed in the saying "Idol time is a devil's workshop," so they made sure that we were tired as hell when we finished school-- tired to the point that all you can do after returning home from practice is eat, do homework, shower, and go to bed.
Final thoughts, obesity and being overweight is a common issue in my family. My attitude has always been that people will do what they want-- and that's not always the best thing for them. When it all comes down to it, it's about self-discipline.
Now, all of us may not have grown up with a personal chef and trainer in our homes. Nor have we all had hot meals waiting for us to eat when we returned from school-- but it doesn't take all of that to put two and two together and realize that your body isn't feeling as it should, is not functioning as it should, and that if you don't want to continue on the same path-- get off of the path!
When I go home, I make it a point to educate my family on all of the things I've learned abroad. This isn't done from an uppity perspective, it's done from an I love you perspective and I believe that I am blessed to pass the blessings on and bless others. My lessons abroad, are their lessons abroad. If I've learned a recipe in Tokyo, when I go home I cook for my parents and share this.
With that being said, if you like the path you're on-- cool. But if you don't like the path you're own, then find another one-- change! Don't make excuses and complain. I have friends and family members who recognized the path they were on and hated it-- so they got off and took charge.
Taking it back to the article-- in terms of cultural factors affecting black women and exercise, maybe it's the fact that a lot of women are happy with the paths they're on.... Is that wrong?
AS ALWAYS-- THE COMMENTS ARE OPEN!