I stopped by Caribou Coffee this morning to treat myself to a cup of coffee and a muffin before heading to work. I hadn’t been there in a while so I perused the hanging menu list for something good to eat while waiting in line. While trying to decide between an apple fritter and a low fat berry muffin my eyes were drawn to a picture and headline on the Washington Post. On the front page was a very large picture of a full figured black woman with short natural blond hair wearing a sports bra and spandex work out pants! The headline read “Full of Love for Full Figures – followed by a sub-heading “Black women tend to outweigh white women but like their bodies more.”
Without thinking I snatched up the paper, folded it under my arm and ordered my breakfast thinking, “I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper but I have got to read this!”
I didn’t have time to read it when I first got to work, so I gave it to my co-worker to review while I finished up a morning assignment. A few minutes later I heard. “Oh Lord” following by a chuckle. She then came around the corner holding her chess (still laughing) and read out loud from the article.
“In the pre-dawn darkness, the gym doors closed and the black women started to move”. . . My eyes widened and my jaw dropped and I thought. “What the HELL, is this an article about fitness and health or National Geographic? “Wait” she said, “There is more,” then read, “Her ample bosom strains against the top of her sequined half camisole.” “Oh my god,” I said, and we both threw our hands up in the air and laughed out loud! – “I don’t know if I can read the rest of this,” said my co-worker and she went back to her desk only to come back a few seconds later holding back her laughter as she read another quote from the article. “She demonstrates hinge-kicks above her own head and sweat darkens the waistband that clings to the uber-roundness of her bottom!” We both look at each other and shook our heads. I handed her a highlighter and said, ‘Please highlight those lines . . . this is unbelievable.”
Now mind you our outburst of laughter was not because we found the article funny, ha, ha . . . but FUNNY in the sense we were shocked by the descriptive narrative and the fact it was on the front page of the Washington Post!
We then handed the paper to a white female co-worker who responded the same way. “Oh My God, is this a sex or romance article?” We all tried to see some relevance and agreed it was admirable that the woman featured in the article was proud of her full figure and taught an exercise class . . But that was the only positive factor about the article. The next question we all had was “Who wrote this?”
Lonnae O’Neal Parker was the byline above the article. When we looked at the bio we were surprised to see she was a woman of color with a Masters in Journalism and a regular feature writer for the Washington Post Magazine. I repeated the discovery out loud, still shaking my head, “A woman of color with a Masters in Journalism, whoa.”
If the intention of the article was to applaud full figured black women for having a more positive body image, it failed. Instead, the descriptive narrative of the article (as usual) focused on stereotypical imagery, highlighting how statistically different we are SUPPOSE to be as black women.