Fatphobia Has Racist Roots and Its Limbs Are Steeped in Anti-Blackness
“America, we *still* have a problem.” — Beyonce, probably.
Growing up, my mother always taught me the importance of being mindful of my words and actions, especially when it came to commenting on someone’s weight. She instilled in me that it was considered impolite to refer to someone as “fat” or to make public note of their weight. However, despite these lessons, I soon discovered that many people, particularly within the Black community, accepted and even encouraged shaming others for their weight.
Somewhere along the way, society began to embrace a phenomenon known as “fatphobia,” which is rooted in anti-blackness and post-slave trauma. The notion of being “fat” was viewed as undesirable and unattractive, and individuals who didn’t fit into society’s narrow standards of beauty were often subjected to ridicule and shame. This toxic mindset perpetuates harmful stereotypes and ignores the fact that not everyone has the same body type or metabolism.
In a stitched TikTok video, content creator @ebonywarriorstudios eloquently gave context to the initial video from @trishesmusic speaking to fatphobia being rooted in anti-blackness. “Sarah Baartman was stolen from South Africa and they used her as a freak show attraction because she had a very large rear end,” he shares. ‘White men kidnapped her because she had a big butt.”
The story of Sarah Baartman and her naturally Afro-features of having what was considered a “big” butt, breasts and large facial features feed into the infatuation of European Caucasians being obsessed with the Black body that it led to damnation and hysteria — trickling down through slavery and other marginalized groups, teaching us to hate ourselves.
@ebonywarriorstudios #stitch with @trishesmusic #greenscreen ♬ original sound – The Ebony Ranger ☭
Sarah Baartman’s story is a tragic example of how the obsession with the Black body by European Caucasians led to the condemnation and hysteria that trickled down through slavery and other marginalized groups, resulting in self-hatred. Her natural Afro-features, including her “big” butt, breasts and large facial features, were considered exotic and unusual by Victorians who were fascinated by her body.
This fascination led to her being exhibited like a circus animal and being subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident, as society’s obsession with the Black body continued to perpetuate throughout history, leading to deep-seated prejudices and systemic racism that we still struggle with today. Lizzo‘s recent fall is a perfect example of how society treats fat Black women with no regard or the constant discourse of Beyonce‘s and Megan Thee Stallion‘s weight fluctuation.
It is no secret that Black women’s bodies have been used as a cultural standard, as evidenced by the creation of the “Bustle” dress enhancement during the Victorian era, which imitated the shape of a Black woman’s figure.
Unfortunately, this obsession with the Black body has continued to persist in modern times, as seen in the rise of Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBLs) among BIPOC individuals. Many are striving to attain an unrealistic shape that speaks to harmful societal standards and perpetuates the ongoing problem of body shaming and unrealistic beauty standards.