Body Image According to Awkward Black Girl: Are compliments holding us back?

IMG_8949I love The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl! I discovered the web series when I was pregnant and it helped me through when I was wide awake with a sleeping baby attached to me. So of course when my book club nominated Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl for our last book I was quick to vote with an enthusiastic fist bump (we have a very complex kinesthetic voting system). I have to admit I don’t really consider myself an ABG after reading the book but there are definitely things that I identify with. One of the chapters that I found really interesting is titled “Fat” of course. In this chapter Rae writes about the responses she got after she went on a master cleanse where she “ass-peed for the first time as an adult”. Rae writes:

Completing the Master Cleanse opened up a whole new door of masochism for me. I was now privy to my starvation limits and would undoubtedly subject myself to something of equal or greater suffering in the future, just to reach my body goals. Because once the compliments come in, you’re totally seduced into equating self-worth with skinniness. Wow, you look great! Oh my God, so skinny! Geez, what’s your workout plan? The compliments were the most addictive drug of all.

Ooh what we wouldn’t do for a compliment?! This passage was so thought provoking for me. My mind went from, maybe we shouldn’t compliment each other on our weight loss to maybe we should just always compliment each other on anything and everything. My mind never settled but I can say this passage exemplifies a larger issue in our society of sexism and sizeism where the expectation to be thin is so entrenched in our psyche that it is even difficult for me, someone who strives for body positivity, to imagine not complimenting someone on their weight loss. What makes her words so profound is that she knows that extreme dieting is wrong because she describes it as “masochism” but was “seduced into equating self-worth with skinniness.” I am sure she is not in the minority of women who feel this way but likely in the minority of women who would admit it.

So thank you Issa Rae for your vulnerable, honest account of your weight loss journeys. Thank you for confessing that compliments are “the most addictive drug of all.”


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