By Hannah Eko
Sometimes just for fun, I’ll do a Google search.
Black women body image. Click.
Women of color body image. Click.
Black women body positive. Click.
For about four years now, I’ve seen the same articles, the same excerpts of academic papers, the same on-off comments on blogs.
There is silence that surrounds discussion of women of color and their bodies, especially in the body positive movement. Sometimes I start to believe the media. Perhaps black women are just happier at a larger size. Maybe black girls are less likely to experience body shame than their white counterparts and Latina adolescents experience less body insecurities when they are strong in their ethnic identity.
But these glib surveys and one-dimensional studies tell me nothing about how Latinas or Asian women feel about their bodies. They give no insight into what kind of disordered eating habits affect women of color. They fail to explain the body-centered conversations I’ve had with non-white friends all my life.
I believe women of color have a lot more to say on their body love experience than what has been written. We have stories more nuanced then black-people-LOVE-fat-bodies. In fact, I would argue that the ideals that certain communities of color hold about attractive female bodies are just as confining as the “thin is best” idea touted in White communities.
Body image is more than a study or focus on the tyranny of thinness. Body image pertains to hair texture, gender, skin color, the pregnant body, fitness, taking up space, age, femininity, and even the often simple act of embodiment. Body image woes and worries are not solely the stories of middle to upper class young white women. So where are these other stories?
I never suffered from an eating disorder or desired to be Kate-Moss- skinny, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my own share of body image issues growing up. I grew up dark-skinned, extremely tall, and Amazon-esque in a place where this was not the norm.
Maybe my body image issues were due to where I grew up (middle-class, Southern California). Maybe they were due to my aspirations in my early teens (fashion model/MTV VJ…yes, I was a child of the 90’s) Maybe they were piqued by the tendency of my extended family members to make comments on my weight (“You’re getting fat!”)
I am the statistic that is often hidden away: the black woman with body image conflict.
I know I am not the only one with this story. I know there are women of color out there who could detail similar tales of body preoccupation. I also know there are stories out there that vary greatly from mine. I know there are actually some women of color out there who are doing great work around body positivity. I want to see them show up on Google searches as well.
Do you think a woman of color perspective is missing in the body positive movement? What would you like to see if you Googled the word combinations I did?
Up next…8 Women of Color Who Inspired My Body Love Journey
Hannah Eko was crowned Miss Tall International 2014 and is the goodwill ambassador of Tall Clubs International. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is a graduate of Penn State's Community and Economic Development program. Hannah loves Great Danes, Wonder Woman, and walking around cities with her headphones on. She blogs at hanabonanza.com