First, let me preface this with a thank you to The Crunk Feminist Collective – yes, you read that right – for even existing… ’cause I might not be here, in this form and fashion mentally, if it weren’t for them. I also love environments where women of color can come, converse, and be in support of women and vociferously defend their stance as such in a realistic fashion. I’m sad to say, there isn’t enough of that out here.
And, apparently, many of my readers hang out over there, as well, because like four of y’all sent this to me apparently within hours of it coming out. (Never stop sending me stuff, though. I can’t keep up with everything, especially now with all the studying for my certification.)
Now…on to the business.
The following excerpt appeared on the CFC’s blog:
Because desire is socially constructed (no matter how much folks justify their limited dating choices based on ‘natural preference’), the fact that we live in a fat-hating culture greatly affects who we’re attracted to, and what we find attractive. The idea that we’re only attractive within a range of sizes is absurd. And narrow. And it is absolutely a function of patriarchy. And yet, I live daily with those realities.
Some (admittedly anecdotal) examples:
Several months ago I was in a bar/lounge type spot, with a group of 7 or 8 homegirls. We ranged in size and skin tone, from short and petite, to tall and lanky, from light-skinned to dark-skinned, from skinny to fat (me being the fat one), and everything in between. The homeboy of one of my homegirls happened to be in the club. Now in many ways, he was my type. Mid-height, stocky, dark-skinned, bald-headed. My girl gave us his vital statistics and it turns out the brother is highly intelligent and very accomplished. He was also a natural flirt. This I discovered, as I watched him at different points during the evening, strike up a conversation and flirt with every single girl in the crew—except me. My homegirl indicated to me at some point that I should make sure to meet him, because she thought we’d have similar interests. Not one to be shy, I did at some point attempt to strike up a conversation. He barely acknowledged me! I mean he literally didn’t look me in the eye, made no real attempt at conversation, and pretty much gave me the brush off. And starting talking to another one of my homegirls!
It was clear to me that he wasn’t really that interested in a serious thing with any of the girls at the bar that night. He was just doing the bar/lounge thing, as was I. But why the cold shoulder, from a brother I’d never met? Why the unique snub reserved for the one fat girl in the crew? I wish I could say that this experience was isolated, but it’s been more the rule rather than the exception for me.
I think of all that CRUNK club-hopping I did in ATL back in the early days of the CFC. Nothing can make me dance with abandon like a smoke-filled club strung out on CRUNK. And when me and my girls would go and shut the club down, routinely, I’d be the only chick that hadn’t been approached, danced with, hit on. Now I never thought I’d find my prince charming in a club. But everyone likes to be desired. So no matter how much Big Boi proclaimed back in 2003 that “Big Girls need love, too,” I don’t think the other ATLiens got the message.
And of course there is that story of the time that Crunkadelic and I went to one of those Big Beautiful Women parties. But um, I’m not trying to date a dude with a fat fetish. No hate on fetishes, but being the object of that particular one feels…objectifying. I want to date a man that has a range of desires wide enough to see a big girl as attractive. Just like I find a range of men attractive.
Getting back to Big Boi, the reality is that Big Girls do need love. This big girl anyway. So as much as I resent the limited range of desire that it seems (Black) men have and the ever-present male privilege that allows them to never have to interrogate their sexual and romantic investments, I hate my limited partnering prospects much more. As un-feminist as I’m sure it is, and as much my Sagittarian self wants to say f**k the world and embrace my life of singleness in a blaze of principled feminist big girl glory, the #truestory is that I’m seriously trying to figure out how I can get my J.Hud on. (Well, maybe not to that extreme!) In my thirties, I’m prioritizing self-care and that includes being loved on and getting my groove on. Regularly. And I know for sure that those things are feminist. I also know being thinner won’t guarantee me a date, but I’m willing to bet it’ll improve my chances.[source]
It’s a really hard thing to admit, and it’s a really nasty realization that one of the things you stand against, as a feminist, is also one of the things you still have to live with and grapple with in order to live the life you want.
I’ve written about it before – the fact that, the smaller I got, the more likely it was that men who weren’t even trying to hear me like that before now wanted to “be down” in different ways. In the Huffington Post feature on me, I talked about being at a sorority event (which, after a 7-month and 90lb disappearance, was a bit like a “big unveiling”) and men were touching me in entirely different ways. I spoke about this on my appearance on Michael Baisden’s show. In both the HuffPo comments and on the show, the sentiment was the same: “they didn’t want to touch you like that before because you were fat. Duh.”
It’s kind of soul crushing. As a big girl, you’re often shielded from the kinds of things people say about big girls because the people who love you [and, assumedly, want to see you happy] aren’t going to say any foolishness like that to you. No one wants to hurt your feelings like that.
Dating while considerably smaller is… interesting. Especially when, as I’ve had to do, you explain to someone that you blog about weight loss because you used to be over 300lbs.
“Wow, I could never see you as being so fat.”
“Were you single during that whole time? Or….what?”
“Soooooo… you’re never gonna gain that weight again, right?”
It’s hard to be oblivious to the change in the tone and context that people use to discuss weight – or fatness, rather – at a smaller size, because the conversation is much less about “health” and much more about “these fat b-tches are so unappealing to my precious eyes! Get them treadmills, stat!” As a big girl, whenever you hear “weight” it’s about “health.” It’s always [insert list of diseases]. But, the smaller I became, it was more about “Oh, so you’re out here getting these fat Black women into shape, huh?”
In fact, when you’re in a position like mine, you start to notice a lot about people’s dating habits. You also wind up making friends with guys who admit their dating preferences freely, knowing that – since you’re no longer fat – they won’t offend you. I’ve had men admit to me that they get chewed out for dating so many non-Black women, but they don’t seek out women who are simply non-Black – they seek out women who are fit. They seek out women who work out. They meet women and make friends in the gym, the one place where they spend all their non-work time, and want a partner that not only understands that but will be right there with him…working out. They don’t want a partner who complains about how much time they spend “up in the gym, just workin’ on their fitness.” You and I might know that now, but I certainly didn’t know it before.
You also start to notice the pairs on the subway, late on a “date night,” out together. Him, in his cardigan, bowtie and hat… her, in her cute dress, jacket and heels. Neither one overweight.
You also start to hear stories of how some men only “use” overweight Black girls as a “last resort,” meaning that if a guy can’t pull a more socially-approved-as-sexy-looking-woman, he’ll go to her because at least he knows “I’ll get laid tonight, and breakfast tomorrow.” You start to find out how some men manipulate society’s fat-hating culture into a way to skate by without accepting any responsibility for anything: “if fat Black women are considered the least worthy of love and affection, then if I choose one, she’ll do anything and tolerate anything to keep me.”
How do I hear all of this? People often misjudge me as one of those people who loses weight and now “hates” fat people to the point where I would high-five them for telling me these things.
Big girls have to live, date and eventually love in this environment. It’s especially difficult as a feminist – admitting you’re doing it because you want to benefit from the patriarchal bargain of being more of what men want to look at – because during 22.5 hours of the day, you’re fighting the patriarchy… but there’s an hour and a half of the day you’re working hard to increase your ability to benefit from it.
Hard as a feminist…hell, it’s hard as a Black person, period – the higher up the assimilation scale you go, the more you realize there are fewer and fewer people wo look like you period, let alone overweight people. With upper-middle-classdom, ostensibly, there is the time required to commit to your fitness, or at least the money available to make sure you “don’t gain weight,” whatever that means.
The point, truthfully, is that dating is far more complex than that when you’ve got the advantage. Think about it. We’re beat over the head with the idea that there are only twelve “Good Black Men” out there, and we’re all clamoring for them. “Good Black Man” is never defined clearly, and any dude with a job, a car, and a studio apartment think he’s “good” and has the right to choose who and what he wants… and he wants the thing that society says is most desirable. Unfortunately that means, for certain men in certain cities with certain careers, certain traits get you sent straight out of the window.
Trust me… I know. When I’m in NYC, men love my ‘fro (which extends well beyond my shoulders in width.) I took my ‘fro to Indianapolis? Um…let’s just say that there were plenty people in general giving me the gas face. Men in finance, as opposed to, say, a man in customer service? A man with a higher-up position in a company as opposed to a peon? I’m just sayin’…holding up society’s standards start to matter more, the higher up you get. Messy, messy, messy.
Do I think the blogger is right to make this decision? I don’t think it’s my place to determine right and wrong for someone else… because, just as I can judge based on what she’s written, I also have to remember that for every word written, there’s almost always five other words not being written. I think a few things will happen, though: I think, for starters, she’ll be pretty grossed out by how quickly men who have always been present in her life will start to approach her differently; secondly, I think she’ll be annoyed by the new-found “thin-privilege” she may experience depending upon how much weight she chooses to lose; and thirdly, I think she’ll be more skeptical of the men she does encounter in wondering if they would like her if she was heavier…and what that says about their character.
The comments over there are full of gems so, please, do check it out and see what they’re saying. I’m also interested in what experiences y’all have had with dating and what you’ve heard people saying about dating and size preferences. Think I’m off the mark, here? Let’s hear it!