Black Women: Heavier but Happier

Aerobics instructor Michelle Gibson (Marvin Joseph/the Washington Post)

A recent survey by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation on body image and self-esteem showed that black women tend to be heavier than white women but also happier with their physical appearance.

Princeton professor Imani Perry, who teaches interdisciplinary classes in African-American studies, explained to the Post that this is nothing new; nor is it hard to explain: "Historically, [self-esteem] research on black girls and women has always been the highest among all groups," she said. "It's really a powerful statement about our resilience given the dominant images of black women present in American culture, which have been generally degrading and unattractive, or hypersexual and less feminine."


The other side of this phenomenon is that in 2009, black women had an obesity rate of of almost 43 percent, compared with 25 percent for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, African-American women suffer from higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other serious health problems.

New York-based writer and image activist Michaela Angela Davis put the results in context: "We're not saying its super fly to be super fat. We've never said that," She explained. But unlike in white culture, "black women are not criminalized for it."

Read more at the Washington Post.

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