In the post I wrote last September titled Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, & Weight Gain: Facing Facts, I discussed the effects that street harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault and the depression that stems from them all can affect a woman’s psyche. I discussed the fact that the depression compels a lot of us to eat emotionally. I specifically discused the proposition that a lot of us may have allowed ourselves to gain the additional pounds by erroneously thinking it’d convince potential harassers to leave us alone… y’know, because we’re fat now, and “fat women” never deal with sexual assault or harassment. A lot of us might’ve even learned the hard way, after gaining the weight, that “fat women” deal with a whole new class of harassers – both the ones who believe you to be property… only meant to be the receiver of their attention and little more, and the ones who take delight in harassing fat women, because, y’know… they’re fat. They’ll take it because that’s the only attention they ever get.
For clarity’s sake, that’s not what I think. It’s how harassers behave.
My post was therapeutic. I had released that drama and trauma from my life for almost a year prior to writing that post. Just so happening to see Tracy’s post made it click in my head that there is, in fact, a connection there. I’ve been sexually harassed. I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve accepted these things. I’ve learned to cope. And addressing these things has made me an infinitely better human being in the process.
That being said… while my post was therapeutic for me (although I’d kept my own sexual assault to myself until recently), the comments area of that post are rife with women sharing their experiences and how those experiences have affected them. It’s a collective 30+ comments full of women putting their vulnerabilities on display – talking about an extremely negative experience and how this negative experience put them on a path of self-destruction that they are now trying to work through. Do you know how hard it is to get a person – any person… a “strong Black woman,” at that – to be that publicly vulnerable? To humble themselves to that kind of lowest common denominator? So many of us struggle with the mere idea of admitting that we might need to even spend a little time self-reflecting…. public humility and vulnerability? Seriously?
I’m getting off track, here.
Last night, in the comments for this post about sexual/street harassment, this comment was left:
I hope this reply finds its reader in good health and spirits. As man I wanted to share with you my feelings regarding the concept of sacrificing health in order to avoid unwanted male attention.
Great thespians will tell you that they can play many any type of role with conviction because they have the compassion to tap into the soul and inner-being of the character. While I cannot identify with the situations expressed in your blog or by the author of the blog you linked above, I do have the capacity and compassion to identify with the sentiments and emotions from where these feeling are expressed.
With that said, I would like to caution anyone from sacrificing their health for any reason. This is imperative from many standpoints but I would delve into a few to try to obviate the urgency of my words.
First, I am not trying to discount the concepts of the original author but her post, in my opinion, revealed a woman that is very confrontational. The men represented in her blog post were extraordinarily disagreeable but I find it hard to believe that the majority of her experiences with Black Men are as described in her post. In fact, I would surmise that these are a few of the more memorable of the minority encounters with Black Men.
Also, the experiences she noted were so vile and attributed at such a frequency that it is apparent that her safety is perpetually compromised. Considering this predicament any rational person would have removed themselves from that situation.
I wrote the above to express that readers should be careful to not emotionally attach themselves to her experiences as she may not share your sensibilities or mental stability.
Secondly, I am of the belief that we have a social responsibility to be with one another. This is a responsibility that is becoming increasingly difficult due to health/weight issues prevalent in the black community.
While men are able to “love a woman for who she is,” black men cannot ignore the responsibility that we have to our offspring. The natural assumption is that an unhealthy person will reinforce unhealthy dietary practices to our children. This is a major concern and a primary deterrent when confronted with potential mates that are unhealthy.
Finally, assuming unhealthy dietary practices will, in effect, predetermine your pool of potential candidates. I am a 30 year old, well-educated, professional man and I can tell you from experience and from the discourse had with brothers of my ilk that there are only a handful of instances in which a black man will consider a serious relationship with an overweight woman. They are as follows:
• He is a big man himself
• He has children with her and she has gained weight
• He married her and she gained weight
• He has not achieved the same level of education as she has
• He does not have a similar financial status as she does
In short, sacrificing your health will only compound the problem. Many brothers will be immediately deterred from considering you as a potential candidate and you will predestine yourself to someone that is either himself unhealthy, feeling as though he is settling, less educated or broke.
I know my words are curt but the ideas and advice I express are from a place of love.
I’m going to personally and publicly offer my rebuttal because, quite frankly, I want this to be seen by as many women as possible. Not because I’m some man-hater who enjoys this, but because I believe when I know someone’s dropping shit on my plate and calling it steak… I have every right to show them what steak really looks like. I’ve no personal interest in this man in particular, but I have every interest in dealing with the insensitivity shown in this comment.
And yes, there is an abundance of insensitivity.
I cannot begin to express my disappointment in a person who, ostensibly, will never have to deal with sexual harassment – or the accompanying feeling of being objectified as someone’s property – and who can admit to never having these experiences… telling a woman that she is “too confrontational” in regards to these experiences he’s already admitted to not being able to have. If you’ve never been there and never WILL be there, how can you tell a woman how she should speak of it? “I find it hard to believe that the majority of her experiences with Black men are as described in her post.” Do you know? Do you know what her walk to and from work looks like? Do you know what it looks like outside of her front stoop? Outside of her job? Do you know what she deals with when she tries to go to the mall? Do you know what her life is like? Do you stand next to her and keep a running tally of how many times she encounters Black men and has the same experience? If you answered “No.” at least one time… you are wildly inappropriate.
All it TAKES is one time to frighten the hell out of you. That’s it – one time. There are women who’ve had GUNS pulled on them for rejecting a man’s advances! There are women who’ve been grabbed by the throat, chased, and RAPED for rejecting a man’s advances. That is what objectification looks like – you’re not a human. You’re not allowed to say no. You are to shut up and stand there and boost my ego by receiving my advances and responding accordingly. And while this isn’t exclusive to Black men, it is an especially disheartening issue for Black women because for some reason… the shit remains unchecked in the communities where we are most prevalent. Very few men are out there defending our honor, as if y’all have collectively decided we don’t have any honor worth defending or something.
For all of your efforts to tell Tracy – in SAT words and coated with sugar – that she is merely bitter and focusing on the negative instead of the good, how many MEN have you corrected when you see them harassing women? I’m not talking “My brother, that woman is a queen, respect her,” either. I’m talking “Damn, leave her alone dude, seriously.” How many times have YOU done that? How many times have you penned six or seven hundred words to tell your fellow “Black Men” to stop objectifying women? And when you are told “Yeah, well, if they’d stop objectifying themselves, it’d be easier,” do you remind yourself “Well, no woman has ever been exempt from being a victim of street harassment regardless of whether she’s in sweats, a suit, a habit or booty shorts… she is a human who deserves to be able to walk to the store in peace?” Do you say THAT to your fellow “Black Men?” Or do you sit on the Internet looking to tell women, once again, how to be women in a fashion that is acceptable to you?
“[B]e careful to not emotionally attach [your]selves to her experiences as she may not share your sensibilities or mental stability.”
Are we stupid, now, and need you to come tell us the obvious? We don’t have to share her sensibilities (or implied lack thereof) in order to understand the emotion behind them! We’ve ALL been there! I’ve received almost 60 e-mails about this blog post ALONE. The number of women who’ve shared their stories with me – cis-gendered AND trans-gendered – where they’ve become fed up, they’re self-medicating, they’re hurt, they’re scared, they’re frustrated, they’ve identified how this has stolen years of their lives, and they ADMIRE Tracy’s ability to turn those emotions back outward instead of inward and resulting in self-harm the way it has for them. To tell them “That bitch is crazy, don’t connect with her” is the same emotional manipulation that we see, every day, in various forms. It’s creepy, it’s gross, and it implies that we’re all plebians that needed YOU to come and rescue us from our emotional stupidity… in the comments section of a blog post that showed a heightened sense of emotional awareness long before you came by. Irony.
I have no interest in the idea that we “have a social responsibility to be with one another,” especially if that “responsibility” can be considered “difficult” because of a woman’s weight! I guess that responsibility ain’t THAT large, huh?
The last thing I’m going to say is pretty important. It speaks to something I’ve said before and very few women really took it to ear because many felt I was being insensitive myself, but maybe this’ll make it more plain.
Telling a Black woman that she isn’t allowed to be changed by her experiences, that she should “not identify with that bitch — she’s crazy” and then telling her that the weight she gained from her emotional shortcomings is the reason why she can’t get a quality man… in a post where she’s already broken down to the point of humility and ready to accept change? This is the mess I’m talking about when I say that I’m tired of Black women being treated like animals, not allowed to feel emotion.
How insensitive can you be, to talk about relationships in the comments to a post about women coming to grips with sexual assault? How insensitive can you be, to tell a woman to keep her weight in check so that she can get a man… in the same space where women are ALREADY ADMITTING emotional shortcomings that have made relationships difficult for them? Is there not a time and a place for everything? Should “getting a man” always be at the forefront of a Black woman’s mind? (I’m sure that mentality benefits you. Where the hell do you live? Atlanta?) Should a woman put this at the top of her priority list? Do you really think that getting and keeping “a serious relationship” should be mentioned in the same conversation as “I’ve been sexually harassed and it’s changed my idea of how I could and should interact with men?” It makes sense to tell a woman who’s already becoming newly aware of how her experiences have changed her relationships with men… “your fat ass is the reason why you can’t get a date now?” Word?
I see why it’s so hard for Black women to be vulnerable. We are rarely ever “allowed” the space to confront our emotions. When we confront our emotions, we are deemed “hysterical,” “bitter,” “emotionally unstable” as if the answer would be to HIDE those emotions. The hell? No – you CONFRONT those emotions so that you can figure them out and file them accordingly. THAT is how you COPE. Furthermore, THAT is how you COPE WITHOUT FOOD.
I love what I do. What I do reinforces what I’ve learned over the course of my weight loss journey, because I can see it in action. I see, in so many women, the things that I’ve struggled with and I see the mentalities that looked similar to mine on my path to emotional recovery. I see women who I believe may very well struggle, and I see women who are broken down to the point of developing eating disorders because they’re becoming afraid of food. The exposure to the human psyche that I’ve gained is immeasurably valuable.
That being said… I already know what’ll come from this: “Isn’t he right, though?” “She was kinda bitter.” “Didn’t you just blog about weight loss and relationships?”
To that, I reply… “His comments aren’t about ‘rightness.’ His comments are a problem of time and place – there is a time and a place for everything, and his lack of sensitivity is more indicative of a larger problem with how Black women are treated. Dare I say it, but his comments are almost as dehumanizing as the street harassment in and of itself. Is that radical? Yes. Some things require more than a demure nature, though, anyway.”
“She might be bitter – I can’t call it. What I can call, though, is that acknowledging the source of any emotion – as she very well may have been doing – is the path to emotional recovery. Plain and simple.”
“Yes, I blog about weight loss and relationships… but I just got done arguing the point that women should refrain from dating until they’ve taken emotional inventory of themselves. I’m not saying the two can’t and don’t go hand in hand. I don’t even tell the lie that weight doesn’t affect one’s amount or quality of potential suitors. I don’t bring that up in the context of ‘You let your ass get fat over this stupid stuff, and now you can’t get a man!’ though. Not ever.”
At this point, I don’t care whether or not that dude ever returns to my blog and sees this response. It’s far more important to me for women to see this kind of thing fleshed out in full, so that it can be filed away accordingly as the underhanded, self-serving, insensitive tripe that it is. And then we can go back to figuring out how to make delicious and healthy brownies or something.