We’ve all heard the phrase “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” and we’d all like to believe that to be true. I have a hard time putting my faith in this saying because it seems as if people have a misconception of what beauty really is. Are we really letting society starve young women to death? Is less more?
Kanye West’s lyrics made me think about the underlying taboo of eating disorders in minorities. I began to wonder where it all started. Culturally, African Americans have an advantage over European Americans when it comes to issues of weight. African Americans tend to find larger body types attractive and have fewer restrictions on their diets. As the ideals of older generations subside newer perceptions have emerged.
The modern entertainment industry has had an indirect hand in crippling the Western World’s sense of self. Television programs such as America’s Next Top Model as well as a significant amount of movies give a false representation of what a real woman should look like. Song lyrics as well as music videos have young women killing themselves from the inside out just to feel beautiful.
Ever since disordered eating habits were discovered and put in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) the majority of studies and experiments were geared towards upper class Caucasian women. I am sure one of the reasons why eating disorders have grown in the African American community is because psychologists and psychiatrists only focused on one group of people.
The mixing of upper class white culture has had a definite impact on African American women and how they view themselves. Generally, people who are considered attractive have more self-confidence and are more socially popular. Overall, attractiveness can lead to a more well-rounded social circle and even job promotion. Young African American women who have been affected by this distortion often fuse attractiveness and thinness. They become dissatisfied with their bodies and have gone through great length to change that.
When disordered eating was first studied in African American women it was found that most had what was called “Binge Eating Disorder.” This disorder is categorized by eating large amounts of food in a small amount of time and eating up until physical discomfort. People with this disorder often use food to fill an emotional void. Some psychologists theorized that it was arising in African American women become of low socio-economic status and everyday life stressors. As I went further into my research I also discovered that some upper class, affluent African Americans associated body type with socioeconomic status. They associated thinness with those who belonged to the higher class and those with wider, more round bodies with the lower class. This even affects young women at the university level. The young women who went to predominately black colleges were less worried about their weight and liked the idea of having a curvy body. A percentage of those who attended predominately white college answered differently. They wanted to loose more weight and weren’t very receptive to larger body types.
After reading research on this topic, it made me wonder what had happened to the African part of our culture. My father is from the area of Congo and those people’s view of beauty is quite different from that of the western world. They find strong bone structure, wide hips, and an over all buxom stature more appealing rather than emaciated, frail bodies. This is also the case in Fiji, but a recent study showed that when western television series (mainly the popular sitcom Friends) started to air in their country the some young women began to compare themselves to the European American bodies. Some of the teenage girls were even reported saying “I would like a body like that.” It’s disturbing how an American television show can cause that much self-awareness among people who are not even American.
How are young African American women supposed to be comfortable in their own skin when we keep trying to shrink it? There are already so many stressors in one’s everyday life and to add weight to it would be unbearable. The surprising thing is that not one article that I read say anything about being healthy. If you want to loose weight it should be for your health. All of these television commercials and magazines ads advertise all the drugs to “Get thin quick” and totally disregard how being too thin can be detrimental.
I feel as if African Americans are beginning to loose sight of what truly makes someone beautiful. People put things like good character and philanthropy on the back burner while a small waist and large breast are at the top of the list. I believe all women are beautiful in their own way and Kanye, Tyra, and whoever thinks otherwise is wrong. Let yourself be the beholder of beauty and not the twisted views of society. So, appreciate your curves and if you want to lose weight (in the healthy way) do it for yourself and no one else.