Black Women Heavier, Happier With Bodies
66% of overweight or obese black women report having high self-esteem
By Mary Papenfuss, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2012 12:46 AM CST
Updated Feb 28, 2012 6:31 AM CST
A smiling Queen Latifah poses at the premiere of Warner Bros. "Joyful Noise" in Hollywood last month.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Hefty can be heavenly. That seems to be the feeling of many black women. While they tend to be heavier than white women, they're significantly happier with their bodies, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey has discovered. While only 41% of average-sized or thin white women report having high self-esteem, 66% of overweight or obese black women feel the same, the study found. Observers says that black females are particularly adept at shrugging off social expectations that don't fit what they want for themselves. While 90% of black women surveyed said living a healthy lifestyle is important to them, that doesn't mean being tiny. "That's not what I grew up seeing. It's not about trying to identify with somebody else," said a medical technologist working out in a DC-area gym.

Historically, research shows that self-esteem for "black girls and women has always been the highest among all groups," says Princeton Professor Imani Perry. "It’s a powerful statement about our resilience." A 2008 study showed women subjects images of an "ideal" tall, thin, white woman's physique. White women felt badly about themselves afterward, but black women weren't affected. Black women “are just not comparing themselves to these white models,” said the researcher. Identifying with thinner role models may change as more women like Beyonce and Rihanna fill mass media images, but ideas of beauty for black women will likely tend to remain "more elastic," enforced by "positive" phrases for larger women like "full-figured" and "healthy," say observers. That doesn't mean obesity is a good thing. “We’re not saying it's super fly to be super fat. We’ve never said that,” says New York writer Michaela Angela Davis. But, she adds, unlike in white culture, "black women are not criminalized for it."

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Showing 3 of 42 comments
Feb 28, 2012 3:47 PM CST
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and speculate that black people in general have had subSTANtially more experience at "shrugging off social expectations." About four centuries of experience, given the "social expectation" in which they lived. ... and I'll go farther out that same limb and speculate that, as a generality ... black people are somewhat more comfortable with their bodies period. Let the wailing begin.
Feb 28, 2012 1:12 PM CST
Can we have a moratorium on any study involving black women for the next 2 years?? I am soo sick of liberal white women "Helping" black women with their fake admiration. Who are these black women that were studied? Why not study obese white women?? There are plenty!! Black women don't believe the hype. Being fat is a problem in this country, not just for black women
Feb 28, 2012 11:18 AM CST
You guys are all right, let's just tell them all that they have no right to have any self-esteem at all due to their weight or their lifestyle... why not take it a step further and tell EVERYBODY else that they HAVE to live the way YOU expect them to live. Not too skinny Not too fat Not too rich Not too poor Not too tall Not too short Not undereducated Not an overeducated and/or pompous ass But by all means you want to let them all know that you are right and they are wrong, and they must live accordingly to be considered acceptable.