Saturday, March 03, 2012

What does it mean that black women have 'High self esteem' ?

3rd March 2012
I want to say first of all that I have had to disable anonymous comments, because allowing anonymous comments meant also allow an amazing amount of spam. So to leave comments, please sign in (I believe you can also sign in as a guest, though not too sure about that one!).

Ok now we have heard about the latest 'negative' focus on black women and their lives and this time from Kaiser foundation and the survey they have done about black women and their body image. I am glad to see the healthy and diverse debate across the black female advocacy-blogsphere. Some say black women should not have to be focussed on, just like bacteria in a petri dish and this has a lot of truth to it. Others say black women should heed the wake up call and also black women cannot avoid 'media gawking' because they tend to as a demographic, trace out an existence that is just atypical even bizarre to the rest of society. I can also agree with these points.

Some have also countered the secondary argument that arose due to the debate on the Kaiser study (google Kaiser, black women, self-eseteem for more on the study) of black female body atitudes  -the secondary argument that it is about time that black women quit being 'happy with fatty'- by insisting that black women who made such remarks are wrong for denying black women their self esteem and the strength that they have shown in and despite their situation. They see black women having a positive self-image even though obese as a good thing.

I want to point out also that black women tend to, for their view points, be entrenched in the liberal position on most things. I can detect the subtext in the ensuing debate, of the liberal canard that people deserve to be who they are and who they want to be without judgement or criticism. Thus black women should not be picked on because of who or what they are. The trouble with this perspective is that it freezes black women in the frame they are currently in and locks out space for any transformation. Are we saying that, (replacing the words people with black women of the liberal position above) black women deserve to be (obese, unhealthy eaters, in denial about the realities of obesity and health) without judgement or criticism.

I also want to suggest that what we deem as healthy self esteem might not necessarily be such. Self esteem also requires an acknowledgement or a 'tie' with reality to be authentic in my view not a dismissing of the end point of a particular course.  It is a bit problematic for black women to be happy and comfortable in a situation that is dangerous and damaging and points to something different from 'healthy self-esteem' in my view (possibly an unhealthy high self-esteem might describe the situation!).

Beware of judging black women's self esteem by the same indicators as those used to judge that of women who are not black. It seems it is now necessary to come up with a different range of indicators to test out this supposed high self-esteem among black women.



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7 comments:

Tiffany said...

Halima, may I tell my story? I apologize in advance for the long-windedness, but if my story helps someone, then I think it's worth it.

In 2010, I had reached my heaviest weight. Feeling miserable and at my wit's end, I took a long look in the mirror at myself. I abhorred what I saw, what I had become. It was time for a change, both in the way I looked and the way I felt. Those changes did not happen overnight. It was the daily self pick-me-ups, like choosing to walk outside rather than stay inside and veg out with the television, that fueled my efforts. Fast forward to today: I have lost over 40 pounds (close to 50) in my quest to get and stay healthy. I feel happier now than I did then.

I do know of some black women who are content with the way they look, and I attribute that to lack of self-awareness or not wanting to be gazed at like the lab rats/circus animals that Kaiser and WaPo are making black women out to be. While I am not one to tell people what to do, I am just going to offer the advice that helped me: look at yourself, REALLY look at yourself. Not what the DBR's see, but what you see. Not what the media see, but what YOU see. If you are not happy, then work on changing it.

Black women need to look at themselves without attaching all the baggage of black community politics on their shoulders. Be open to examining their possibilities and embracing them wholeheartedly. That's the message I hope black women who are currently dealing with weight issues get eventually. It took me awhile to fully get it, and I thank you and other BWE bloggers for being a source of encouragement and hope for me and countless others.

CHER said...

Hi Halima...Great post!

More Black women really need to retrain themselves to stop thinking in terms of "hunky-dory", and take a look at what's going on here. We are literally being killed (and eliminating ourselves from competing globally in any significant manner) with low expectations.

GoldenAh said...

I am not even sure what the media means by "self-esteem". I think as you say, BW might be using the word in a different context. It may mean a surviving and coping tactic of working with what you've got (in hectic environments).

I was rather fit, medium sized, and mostly walked when I was in NYC. I moved to NJ, drove everywhere, and the weight climbed. It was a struggle to take it off.

I've literally lost my appetite for food, because I can tell myself, "That's enough", and put it aside for another day.

From the first day I started work, a BW who's been watching and studying me (my hair, clothes and personal life), has started to tell everyone (who'd listen) how much weight she's lost and will lose.

I feel for her. She suffers from: asthma, diabetes, likely a thyroid problem, and a disabled leg.

It's great that she's taken action, but I wonder why she waited all these years after being afflicted with severe health issues to do something about it. I don't know what truly motivates her now, but I hope she sticks with it.

And, by the way, she's got great "self-esteem."

Zabeth said...

"Beware of judging black women's self esteem by the same indicators as those used to judge that of women who are not black. It seems it is now necessary to come up with a different range of indicators to test out this supposed high self-esteem among black women."

Great post Halima. This is pretty much how I feel about the WAPO article and subsequent debates. My only concern with applying different definitions to BW's self esteem and situation is that it will only further other BW.

arthur said...

The whole 'Self Esteem' idea has become something that only has one good answer: "Yes, I have good self esteem!" To say anything else would be the public admission of a defect or weakness. How can a 'strong' bw, struggling to take care of everything and everyone in her life possibly say anything else?

It's just another game, run by outsiders, to keep bw classified as 'other'. A way of showing that bw are really okay with being the mules of the bc. No other group of women in the world would choose to be be worked and exploited as bw do. But the exploiters can say that bw in that mess seem to thrive on it ... after all, they are all reporting 'high self esteem'!

socialitedreams said...

the problem is that contentment breeds stagnation. black women are overall not winning and instead are dropping dead from heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity related things, so until they aren't content with being "okay" and are instead wanting more and wanting the best, then nothing will change. it's the same thing that was said about being a single mom "well i came out okay" but why is okay good enough? why is living to 50 with some bad health okay when you could be fabulous and fit and like 112? too many are content with just getting by :(

Faith said...

Considering the disruption and push-back from black women over this issue - like Red Tails - like separating from dysfunctional thinking it's interesting to see where and how and why many draw a line at breaking through. After blogging for 4 years I have noticed the shift, but see the reactionary defensiveness on top of the denigrators. People still can't figure out advocacy and IR mating have common purposes but it would be a mistake to confuse them as encompassing all area of empowerment. Discernment is more important than ever, but no one should be surprised by the "fractures" as bw loudly declare their side to these perspectives. There's really only a small amount of bw who will choose to thrive instead of being just okay. And this is what it all comes down to.