“You don’t think I want to be a couple pounds heavier? Black men like their women with a little meat. All my life Black men have told me how flawed I am.” — Jada Pinkett Smith
A week ago when I read Jada’s cover story in the July issue of Essence, I immediately tweeted her quote. For once someone was speaking about the very real body image issues many petite women have had since childhood, and have often carried into adulthood.
I know that articles and television will have you believe that only overweight women face ridicule. We’re asked to sympathize with the size 16+ woman, encourage her to eat healthier, and shame on anyone who dare make a fat joke. Yet no one raised an eyebrow when comedian Monique first hit the comedy scene with her “skinny bitches are evil” campaign. All of a sudden it was hilarious when the joke was on us.
Most of us would agree that Mrs. Pinkett Smith is a gorgeous woman with natural beauty. Even on “A Different World” with no make up and a hideous wardrobe, Jada was stunning. But at 38-years-old, she admitted to the world her insecurity about her size.
In the Black community, we celebrate a woman’s curves. It’s all about the round derrière, succulent breasts, slim waist, and thick thighs. We glorify this image so often that anyone whose figure is not a brick-house frame is in danger of being viewed as being less of a woman.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a man say “ooh she thick,” in regards to a woman with meat in all the right places, I swear I could shoot craps in Vegas with Wall Street stock brokers. If I could add $2 to that collection for every time I heard a man or woman discredit a woman’s beauty because of her non-curvy frame, I’d sound like Dave Chappelle screaming, “I’m rich bitch!”
Of course, all of this could be explained as personal preference, and some of it is. But it goes a little deeper.
These attitudes are why many Black petite women will not miss a meal, eat even if their not hungry, and be injected with Depo Provera every three months (a birth control shot known for causing women to gain weight). It’s as if some of us feel that we are not as beautiful without curves because we’ve been told so all our lives.
It always blew my mind that people would have no qualms about coming up to me to say, “Damn girl you’re so tiny. You need to eat,” but people wouldn’t dare approach a big girl and say, “You are so big. You eat too much.”
Not everybody’s built to fit a size 14, just like I wouldn’t suggest everybody wear a size 2. The beauty of Black women is that we come in all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and with various hair textures.
Self is something only self can make or break. But outside factors also contribute to how someone views herself. By only accepting one standard of beauty, we are contributing to young girls growing up believing that they aren’t beautiful just the way they are.
Our little girls have enough images from the media showing them how they should look; and having brown and black skin is already not desired starting at a very young age.
Fortunately for me I am quite content being petite.
Any time a woman as beautiful as Jada Pinkett Smith reveals how her size has been considered flawed her entire life, I think it’s important, at the very least, to think about why our community subscribes to a one-size-fits-all ideal of beauty.
Just as much as we recognize how gorgeous Beyoncé or Trina are as thick women, we should also be able to recognize how pretty the Joy Bryant’s and Zoe Seldana’s of the world are.
Until we learn to truly appreciate all shapes, grown women well into adulthood will have that child-like feeling of not being good enough.
At the very least, don’t broadcast your opinion of how skinny a woman is to her face unless you’re prepared for the counter reaction regarding how big you may be. #imjustsayin