Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | 5:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 27, 2010
BY Theresa Berens
COLUMBIA, MO. — Rashanta Bledman grew up in South Central Los Angeles, a mostly black and Latino neighborhood, where curves were prized. When she moved to a largely white college in Orange County, CA., she noticed she didn’t look like everyone else. Thinness was considered more important than shape, she discovered. Bledman had conversations about this with her friends, particularly her black, female friends.
“We didn’t want to be really thin, but we didn’t want to be heavy,” she said. “We wanted to have a small waist, but at the same time have curves.” Despite this, Bledman said she believed that the topic was not something that was discussed in the open — instead limited to small circles of friends.Today, talking about body image is part of Bledman’s academic work. Her studies have explored how black women feel about their bodies, because existing research had indicated a mixture of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the way they look.
Earlier this summer, her research won a graduate student award from the American Psychological Association’s. Bledman surveyed 79 black women, mostly MU students to find out how satisfied they were with their bodies. Using a set of images, she asked them to select their actual body shape and their ideal.Most participants said generally, they were satisfied with their bodies, but given the chance to change something, they would.“Many of the women said that they would have a smaller waist, a flatter stomach and a bigger butt,” Bledman said. “That’s a hard shape to really maintain, unless you’re, like, Kim Kardashian.”
Although she said her research cannot be generalized to the entire African-American population, she said she hopes her research will validate women’s experiences and let them know other women feel the same way. “There’s a societal idea that you should be thin, or you should look a certain way, and sometimes you can’t look that way,” she said. “It’s really hard for an African-American woman to look like a thin white woman.”
Columbia native Renella Ballinger, 45, identifies with Bledman’s findings. She said she is pretty satisfied with her figure but sometimes struggles to keep weight off. “I’ve always been naturally thinner,” Ballinger said. “The weight that I’ve gained has mainly come with age. I’m not really dissatisfied; it’s just hard to maintain without being active.”
“They call us thick,” she said. “We’re built that way.” Ballinger’s sister, Twanda Thomas, 41, agreed with the findings.
She said her concerns about weight have less to do with body image and more to do with health.
“I think we get more worried about (weight) because of diabetes and hypertension,” Thomas said
Contrary to what many non-blacks think black people do not spend a lot of time talking about our history in this country. My opinion is that it is simply too painful and many do not know enough about our history to know that along with the terrorism, the are stories of resilience and triumph. This sadly is not one of them. Paramour rights is a term coined by the great writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Huston. During her studies of turpentine camps in the 1930’s she found that white men would pick black women out for sexually coercive relationships whether they were married or not. This practice which many like to think ended with slavery was alive and well in the 1950’s when of Ruby McCollum, a middle class, married black woman who murdered her white lover and father of two children, Dr. C. Leroy Adams, in Live Oak, Florida, in 1952. When McCollum testified during her 1954 trial she stated that her doctor had forced her to bear his child, and then threatened to kill her if she refused to bear him a second child. The all-white jury convicted her of murder and McCollum was sentenced to die in the electric chair while still pregnant with Adams’ child. She appealed, and three months ago the State Supreme Court ordered a new trial on the ground that the jury had inspected the murder scene without the judge and Ruby McCollum being present. But Ruby was pronounced insane and, instead of being retried, was sent to Florida State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee and was not released until 1980. McCollum was unable to recall most of the events the led up to her institutionalization since her “illness” was treated with Electroconvulsive therapy and anti-psychotic medication.
The era between the Civil War and the modern civil rights is marked with the untold abuse of black women, that I contend contributes to the intensification of black woman hateration over he last 40 years. In this period black women fought to live up to the standards of mainstream white femininity, but how could they do that when white men could debase them at anytime without any fear of legal consequences? Most black women did not have the luxury to be full time homemakers like the standards of femininity required, they were in the homes of white men that still saw his access to a black woman’s body was a God given right? Black men were not economically capable of giving their women the protection of a stay at home wife and risked his life and his family if her attempted to defend his woman’s honor. This phenomenon was on the wane but still in practice during the civil rights movement yet we never discuss it and the impact that decades this abuse may had on black families? Did the pain, anger, frustration of black men who were unable to protect their wives contribute to the contempt many black men have for us today
There are several books and a play about this case available at Amazon Check it out if you want to know more about this vital yet forgotten piece of American history.
Chad Ochocinco has three lovely black daughters but their type beauty is not what he is looking for in his VH1 reality show The Ultimate Catch. The first episode began with 85 contestants of all racial backgrounds and was whittled down to 16 by the end of the hour. Only three of these he picked were black women. One sister who made the selection is already exhibiting some of the “crazy black women’ behaviors that smear the image of all black women. If this show follows the pattern of black male dating shows that ran before it, non-black contestants not the icon of femininity or sanity that any of these men want on their arm in real life, so why so few black women cast if this is simply show business?
When called to task by New York gossip diva and talk show host Wendy Williams Ochocinco professed his desire for white and Hispanic women and actually expected applause for his post-racial preference from an audience that was populated with sisters. Since his children are older that his NFL career, why has his “preferences” gone through such a dramatic change? I wonder what the stimulus revised his idea of what constitutes a desirable woman? Ochocinco is different that the other type of black-woman-hater that has consistently rejected black women as dating and marriage prospects, I cannot read his mind, it is seems that his change of mind happened after the fame, money and glitz of his professional football career reached its peak. Is a non-black woman the ultimate accessory for a black man who has everything? What message does that send to his sable brown daughters? Are black women simply for breeding?
Ochocinco’s behavior can be traced back to the civil rights movement during the mid 1960’s. The biracial cooperation of the Freedom Rides and other projects resulted in interracial commingling that was seen a a patriarchal perk for black men, while “strong black women” were to wait out these dalliances until the black man was ready to help raise a generation of black children free from the plague of segregation. The pain of paramour rights ( the practice of southern white men forcing black women into sexually coercive relationships) may have been on the wane in the 1960’s but the shadow of that exploitation was a factor in black women’s acceptance of their brother’s new preference. Since the sixties the deindustrialization of cities, the backlash against desegregation, the War on Drugs have all contributed to the dissolution of black families and male embrace of the nihilistic thug life. These factors taken together still do not account for the rejection and dehumanization of black women that Ochocinco and supporters embrace so enthusiastically. The idea that this is an individual choice in a new enlightened race friendly America would be easier to swallow if the date on out marriage between the sexes was not so skewed. Ochocinco may tout his individual post-racial right to date whomever he chooses, but to expect that black women will support him while his actions state that we are good for breeding and not marrying is outrageously disrespectful.