Body acceptance movements have become the order of the day, and rightfully so.
Women are pushing back against society’s perception of the “perfect body” and celebrating themselves as they are.
But when you consider how society deems black female bodies, the issue of body positivity becomes even weightier. Many plus size women have spoken out about the fact that many of these mainstream body movements have excluded women of color to a large degree. But isn’t that usually the case with most things–that black women are the last in line to be celebrated in general? But not when it comes to the way we celebrate EACH OTHER. Just take a look at Ebony Magazine’s last issue titled, “Body Brigade.”
It’s in the spirit of that celebration that we bring you our third photo story titled, “Body Noire.” For this series you will meet five diverse women who’ve faced different obstacles in coming to accept their bodies. The inspiration came during Serena Williams’ domination of female tennis in 2015. As she embarked on yet another grand slam somehow her physique became the topic on social media and in mainstream publications. “Muscular,” “Manly,” and “Too Strong,” were the words used to describe her at a time when “champion” “inspiration” and “legend” should have been the sole verbiage associated with the legendary athlete. But as a black woman, she was held under a microscope for her appearance as many of us are.
But even through such trials, somehow black women as a whole seem to show up #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful. We don’t just sprinkle #BlackGirlMagic on our obstacles, we douse it!
My Body Story
Like many young women, I’ve always had a love hate relationship with my body–I was always the tall girl with the slender build and pudgy stomach. But over the years my body chemistry has become more of an issue for me than my actual frame. When I was in my early 20s I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a condition that throws female hormones out of whack. It causes an array of challenges including insulin resistance, mood swings, and facial hair growth to name a few. Processing sugar and carbohydrates is even more of a challenge for women with PCOS.
At first I didn’t understand how problematic the condition was for me until my husband and I decided to start a family. When fertility issues ensued, I started to feel betrayed by my body. Somehow I worked through it. After at least a year of adopting a strict diet similar to one of a diabetic, a regular exercise routine, and fertility treatments, we were able to conceive.
But nothing was more challenging that giving birth to my daughter three month early. While my doctors aren’t sure if PCOS was the cause of my premature delivery, it was yet another blow to me. Once again I felt like my body had done me wrong. Watching my sweet little girl need the assistance of machines to do the things I felt I should have been doing for her was the hardest part.
But then my body did something amazing. My nurses told me early on that having breast milk was crucial for my daughter since preemies her size have a hard time digesting formula. In many cases, it’s a matter of life and death. So as I sat in my hospital bed post C Section, I started pumping. Like most women, at first it was just a drip or two of milk, but as the weeks went by, I began producing over 40 ounces of milk daily! Let’s just say, we had to buy a deep freezer and call on friends to help us store the milk.
It felt like a miracle. So whenever I’m feeling down about my weight or imperfections, I think about how my body helped me save my daughter’s life. I think about how my body showed up and showed out at the perfect time. It allows me to thank my body for all it’s done and give it a break for the challenges I continue to face. My body is my own. My body is my temple.
Kunle Ayodeji, AyodejiPhotography.com
Yetty Bames, YettyBames.com, BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com Editor-at-Large
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