Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings — A Book Review
Below is a guest post from LK Nutrition dietetic intern, Candacy Prince. As part of her rotation with us, she read the book Fearing the Black Body, and was kind enough to share her reflections below.
I was formally introduced to Fearing the Black Body as part of my reading resources during my emphasis rotation which focused one eating disorders. I've seen this book recommended on Facebook but never pursued it because I had put myself on a break from books, movies, and tv shows that promoted black trauma in any shape or form. I’ve guarded my peace, more so since we’re still riding the Covid-19 rollercoaster and the emotional issues that comes with it. In addition to Covid-19, we’ve also had to witness the constant murders of black bodies and waves of racism that rose like an unsuspecting Tsunami. I was not ready, and so my entertainment focused on my list of shows that were trickling in one after the other due to a halt in production, because of, well you know, Covid-19. In my attempt to get immersed int my rotation, I begrudgingly chose this book, which I borrowed from the library. I took a breath and told myself, just take in the information and see what happens. Well, I was completely unprepared for what Sabrina Strings had written and dumped on me.
Fearing the Black Body providers harrowing details on the birth of fat phobia which began with colonization and slavery. The first few hours focused on what was considered beautiful, healthy, and non-heathy bodies by men. It gave a picture of how European beauty standards were attributed to black women. More so, the link to obesity to laziness, inferiority and the underserving of care can still be seen in how black women and even women in general are labeled. It is this very bias that has cost the lives of black women during childbirth. It is this same bias that prevents people in larger bodies from visiting doctors or making follow-up appointments. It is this same bias that recommends weight loss as a treatment to every ailment one experiences. It is that very bias, that allows other chronic diseases to go untreated until it is too late for the patient.
This book holds up a mirror to show how much of what we see on social media and even in health care is heavily influenced by the past. It affects how we relate to our cultural foods and the pride we once held on to. For some, the shame and pressure that comes with assimilating to a new culture often creates conflict with themselves and even family members. With access to various platforms on social media, there are even more promises and expectations of what a healthy body should look like. These unrealistic ideals account for unhealthy relationships with foods that once nourished bodies and souls and create body image issues that comes along with countless and ever emerging fad diets that constantly flickers across our social media feeds.
I've had to take several breaks while listening to this book, because although it educates, it enrages you also. I could not help but imagine that black women from the shores of Africa to the US, the West Indies, the Americas, and other destinations, have been subjected to these ideals in one way or another. That this trauma has been passed down from generation to generation and has even brought contention within family circles about body size and acceptance. Fearing the Black Body shows us too, that fat phobia transcends continents, cultures, and genders, professions, physical ability, age, and social and financial status. I have hope that the dismantling of these expectations will someday free not only women, but any person who is affected by centuries and generations of fat phobia. We are all deserving of respect, medical care, love, accessibility, our foods, and the right to be heard, without any kind of bias.
-Candacy Prince, Intern.