The Pressure To Be Thick


The Pressure To Be ThickWhen my 12-year-old daughter first told me she wished she wasn’t so skinny, I immediately thought back to my middle school days and how I felt about being overweight. I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I would have sold my internal organs to be able to confidently wear a two-piece swimsuit at her age.

I pretty much dismissed her comment because who wouldn’t want to be skinny?

I grew up in the ’90s when most supermodels wore a size 0. The girls I looked up to on TV were mostly covered up and wholesome. As a black girl, I idolized Laura Winslow from Family Matters and Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell. Those were the girls I wanted to look like, and they were a lot smaller than me. However, a lot has changed since then. While I appreciate the push for women to express themselves and be comfortable in their own skin, the pressure to look “perfect” remains. Now, many young black girls want the perfect body, particularly the perfect shape: small waist, wide hips and a big behind. However, many of the girls who naturally have those features, have to worry about looking more womanly than their age would indicate.

In the black community, there is an unspoken notion that friends and family members can casually comment on women’s bodies. These comments normally come from other women. “Girl, you need to put some meat on those bones,” said to the slim-figured girl. Or “She’s trying to be grown” from the girl who may be fuller figured who wears short shorts. These are all things most black women have heard growing up. It becomes a cycle of indirect and unwelcome comments from friends and family. The duality can become exhausting. On one hand, black women are celebrated for their natural curves, but on the other hand, young black girls feel the weight of being sexualized because of those curves. As a high school teacher of predominantly black teen girls, I see this all too often. We no longer live in a world of fat vs skinny.

I started to reflect on my own body image and what indirect messages I might be sending to my daughter. Did I celebrate other women around her? Or did I judge them? Did she hear me compliment myself or did she hear me talk about all the things wrong with my body? It’s not enough that we tell our girls how smart and beautiful they are. They must see us celebrate ourselves.


  1. Thanks for your perspective. As a painfully skinny girl growing up and becoming that pinup young adult to the overweight woman, each season had its trials that affected my ability to see me. Keep giving positive reflections and much love to your daughter and all your charges!

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