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Seeking light in a murky world

Back When Baby Didn’t Have Back

My daughter noticed something odd the other day. Odd to her, anyway, and, now that I think about it, odd to me too. In different ways, though. 

See, she came to visit the other day and as I had to finish something up in the other room she dropped down on the couch to visit with her grandmother, who was watching Soul Train, one from the 70s, on the TV. As I left the room, she was barely containing her laughter at all the “weird” clothing (as if kids today have room to talk) and dances.  When I came back in, though, she had such a strange look on her face… a combination of puzzlement, disgust and ... I don’t know. Disbelief, or something.

I looked to see what they were doing - the people had formed two lines and couples danced down the middle. I don’ t know that they do that these days on dance shows, still… though it WAS the 70s, it didn’t seem too outlandish. Not enough to cause that look on her face. So, I asked her what the matter was.

“What’s wrong with them?” she asks.  So, I look again. Okay, so maybe the dances are a little silly looking, but surely she’s seen sillier ones?

“No”, she says… ”look at them! Why are they all so skinny?” And, sure enough, I look again and there are dozens of Black people, men and women, and all thin as rails. I sat down too, and we kept looking, pointing out when it appeared that a woman had hips, only to see it was because she was wearing baggy parachute type pants or something; some of them had visible breasts, but not many. Not a one had a “booty”. Even the men were super thin - little muscle tone, and certainly no bulk to them at all. And now that she’d pointed it out, I remembered when that was the look to aspire to. 

I don’t have pictures, but here is a short video of a 1974 Soul Train dance line.

All of a sudden she exclaims, “Ugh! They all look like they have AIDS or are on crack.” I then turn to look at her, wondering why in the world she choose those particular comparisons… and then it hit me.

She was born in 1979. Crack invaded many Black neighborhoods in the early 80s and AIDS not long after, plus one barely mentions Africa without also mentioning, or at least thinking about, the AIDS epidemic in many countries there.  In the world that young Black people my daughters age and younger have grown up in, a good many really skinny Black people they come into contact with, see in the movies or on the news, are simply not healthy for one reason or another. Some are, of course, there are plenty of healthy, thin Black people, but my daughter and just about all of her female friends that I know of are… curvaceous. Hips, breasts, rounded bellies - and they love themselves and their looks, which I think is a great thing.

I was reminded of this by this post of Sewere’s, at Rachel’s Tavern ,where he has a conversation going about theBlack Male Gaze causing self-esteem issues, referencing a Post Secret confession.  I know there was a study done not too long ago that said something like that, contrary to most White women, Black women are actually healthier when they have a little meat on their bones. Still, I have to wonder if part of the reason for the shift in desirable body type, at least among some younger US Black folk, is a reaction to the “skinny = sick” thing.

You think?

(little update: actually, watching the video up above all the way through, at least in this set of dancers there are a few who are curvier. Still, considering that TV adds 1o lbs (or so) to your frame… )

cross-posted at feministe

Posted by Nanette on 08/22 at 05:45 PM
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