Self-care is warfare. “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde’s much loved quote opened discussions on Thick, a documentary about black women, eating, stress, and size by Robin D. Stone, a journalist and health coach. The NYC premiere screening was a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-NY Alumnae Chapter, Health & Wellness community outreach program. Click here for more on the Delta-NY Alumnae Chapter programs.
Thick is a perfect title for a much needed conversation about being overweight in a stressful world. The recent timing, Tuesday, 11/17/2015 at The New School, was ideal as we get ready for Thanksgiving. Being ‘thick’ in all the right places—butt, legs, breasts— is considered attractive. Therein lies the mixed message. Would you risk your life and health to be sexy? There are many ways to answer this question. According to the Urban Dictionary, a ‘thick’ woman is “sexy, curvy, full-bodied, or big boned.”
‘Thick’ Black women were the stars of Stone’s documentary. Each told personal stories about weight, eating, and stress. One discussed her man’s preference for a ‘woman with some meat on her bones.’ Several recalled stories about ‘thick’ relatives who loved over-feeding them. One Sister listed diseases in her family resulting from obesity—diabetes and stroke. Another Sister recalled an obese friend who recently suffered a heart attack at 30! One young Sister, 19, reflected on her mother’s recent death from diabetes.
We were invited to “listen, witness and reflect.” It was wonderful group therapy in a theater full of multi-generational black women!
“We as black women are not supposed to be here. We were not expected to survive our history,” said Ms. Stone.
During the Q & A session, several shared micro-aggressive comments from family and friends: “Why are you going to the gym? You’re not fat!” “I know you don’t do drugs, so why are you losing weight?” The connection between money and access to healthy food was discussed. Bulimia and extreme weight loss was also part of the conversation. But emotional and mental stress was a major focus.
“As caretakers of the world, it’s time for us to get radical about our self-care,” Stone said.
My Fat Genes: Attending this event made me think about my fat relatives. I witnessed their difficulties. It is war! Like Oprah, they would win and lose their battles against weight gain several times over the years. We continue to cheer for them for being on a healthy journey. Event attendees wondered about what words should we with ourselves and others when the pounds pile back on. Do you say: “Big is beautiful” or “It’s ok to be you!” The current trend for big butts, breasts and implant surgeries was also discussed. One Sister in the film said that her doctor’s advice to get lap band surgery was a wake-up call. A while back I posted My Fat Genes to show the importance of genealogy with tips on how to learn about your family’s health history. What illnesses do you have in your family that are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices?
Click here to read more from My Fat Genes.
Audre Lorde’s quote: Self-care is a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual war. The Delta event inspired me re-read Lorde’s writing and the writing of other Black feminists who posted about her work, especially, A Burst of Light. I had forgotten that Lorde’s popular quote was taken from stories written while she struggled to live with breast cancer that had already spread to her liver. Clearly, she was fighting the battle of her life. Lorde fiercely described the challenges, from diagnosis, Western and Eastern medicine practices, doctors, so-called ‘experts,’ natural remedies, treatments, and prognosis. Lorde’s legacy to us then, is to get ready for battle on many fronts and keep fighting to the end. Here’s an excerpt from a commentary about Lord’s ‘warfare’ writing.
“A Burst of Light is an account of how the struggle for survival is a life struggle and a political struggle. Some of us, Audre Lorde notes, were never meant to survive. To have some body, to be a member of some group, can be a death sentence. When you are not supposed to live, as you are, where you are, with whom you are with, then survival is a radical action.”
Click here to read the full post.
In conclusion, Thick was a bold reality check for black women’s health. I thank Ms. Stone and the women who participated in this soul-searching documentary for their courage, honesty, and inspiration. I also thank the Deltas for excellent community outreach. I believe that many left the event feeling inspired and motivated to do at least one thing —take a walk, drink more water, or cook organic meals.
As the event closed, we were given three self-care prompts for homework:
- What does your body reveal about your life story?
- What has your body taught you about life?
- What have you had to do to have peace with your body?
What stories does your body tell you today?