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Love & Ms. Fat Booty
Episode 33rd April 2023 • Culture Lit • Octavia Dosier
00:00:00 00:19:36

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Why does it seem to be that women have to have a certain body type, shape, and size to be worthy of love? I grew up with Seventeen magazine and there was no diversity in there. None. Zero. I’ve always been thick or curvy my whole life and because of the layers of socioeconomic dynamics, white supremacy, and unrealistic beauty standards we all grew up with, I got stuck in the idea that there’s only one body type that is deserving of love.

How do romantic narratives explore or influence our ideas of which bodies are desirable or deserving of love or romantic partners? And who decides what those desirable bodies look like? Today’s discussion goes deep into what beauty, desire, and attractiveness really is and why black love is so revolutionary. 

I have curated a list of recommendations featuring curvy bodies, chubby bodies, fat bodies, because all bodies are good bodies, and Ms. Fat Booty gets all the happy endings. Find it on Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/CultureLitPodcast

Culture Lit is a community in celebration of black women and black love, and a reminder that black women deserve joy, love, success, second chances, and all the beautiful magic the world has to offer.

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Transcripts

Octavia Marie:

recently I was scrolling through the socials and happened upon a

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thread comparing two plus size models.

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The comments were about on par to what I'd expect of the comments anytime the

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bodies of black women are discussed.

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I wasn't very surprised by what I read.

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Some comments were disguised as fake concern for health of the models.

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Of course, some colors and comments were thrown in for shits and giggles.

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Then the comments turned to why neither model would get a man until they lost

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some weight, which again, didn't surprise.

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And this led me here.

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How do romantic narratives explore or influence our ideas of which

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bodies are desirable or deserving of love or romantic partners?

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how individuals must produce desirable bodies to create quote unquote

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value in a romantic relationship.

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And who decides what those desirable bodies look like?

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What lens, especially when you looking at the bodies of black women.

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And let's be clear.

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Whiteness and white supremacy plays a role here too.

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Even when the desirability is being discussed by our black hemp folk.

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And then there's honestly even a socioeconomic dynamic at play here.

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Do you know your place?

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Do you know your role in this culture?

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And are you adhering to the norms of your identity and how you fit into this S.

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, there are so many lanes to go down here, but let's just niche it on

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down and talk about our bodies and how that plays into romantic love.

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I've gone around and around about what message I wanted to get across.

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We hit on my love of romance novels, and even in some of my favorite books

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by my favorite authors, we still get caught up in what bodies recur

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the most, or a representative of D.

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When we think about beauty standards and we think about the dominant idea of beauty

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standards, I think about when I was a teenager and I used to read 17 Magazine

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and see the models on the cover and inside there wasn't a black teen equivalent.

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I think the closest might have been right on magazine.

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What were teenage girls supposed to look like?

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Or better yet, what did black teenage girls look.

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, they had us believing they were supposed to look like tall, white, thin,

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young, beautiful, and probably blonde.

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So suffice it to say black teen girls were questioning their bodies long

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before the body positivity movement.

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We never questioned where this idea came from, though there was absolutely

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no diversity in those magazines, especially no body diversity.

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. I'm a woman that is thick, black, and 50 ish.

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Mind your business.

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I've dealt with these ideas of my body and what it should look like during

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my life as a thick or curvy woman.

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I've been different sizes throughout my entire adult life, but I've

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mainly been curvy and thick.

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I think about who deserves love and again, what we've been told about love.

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If we go back, I really want to kick my 16 year old self for having spent

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my tween years reading all these different magazines and then thinking

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if you just lost those 10 pounds, that guy would be really interested in you.

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And here we are in 2023, speaking that same trash to our women and girls.

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we're focusing on the physical aspect of what's considered

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attractive and what's not.

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For me, the big old booty wasn't always a desired body.

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Now women are paying thousands of dollars for the same body.

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I shunned in my teen years.

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I'm not gonna lie, the body talk messed with my mind in my twenties.

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Then I finally decided they're gonna get whatever my body's given.

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Enough is enough.

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My thing is sting and they gonna get all of this.

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I didn't start reading romance until my early twenties.

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I've been a dedicated romance reader for decades now, but I remember my favorites

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from the start of my romance reading.

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I'm not gonna then shame anyone because that was a long time ago.

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And authors have come a very long way in diversifying their leading ladies.

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But this traditional romantic lead, she is a 23 year old girl who's tall

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and lean and she's Every guy's desire.

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I've read those books.

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There's still quite a few of those books that I really enjoy,

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but I don't identify with them.

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When I seek out romance, there are some books that I just won't read.

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People continually advocate for representation, not just ethnic

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representation, but body diversity too.

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I don't want to read books where the main character is talking about

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dieting so she can lose weight to capture the hero's attention.

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No.

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Nope, not interested.

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There's a book that came out last year titled Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell.

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I was really looking forward to reading this book.

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The Cover had a curvy black woman with natural wild hair.

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But as I started to read the first pages of the book, I felt the story going in

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that direction, and I was so disappointed.

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Almost put the book down.

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There were some great parts in the book and some of the book focused on

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a revenge body theme after breaking up with her boyfriend who left her

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with cruel words about her body.

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However, I kept with it because I really liked the character Sheldon, and it

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ended up being one of my favorite books.

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I think about what are we telling women is desirable and what do they need

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to do to themselves to be desirable?

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And this is inclusive of all people who identify as a woman.

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When we get down to it, romance is a written art, right?

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People are creative and they come up with these stories and they want us to.

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But there's also the capitalism behind selling books.

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Early in my career journey, I was a romance copy editor, so I've

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edited a few of these romance.

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, there's all these craft books about what a romance is supposed to do, and

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we all know about the trop and we all know about the tropes and the rhythm

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of books and the cheat sheets and all that, but what's going to sell?

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Are you gonna sell a book where a 41 year old fat woman finds

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love without self-loathing?

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, when we talk about writing black or brown romance, all of these

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different things, what it comes down to is what's going to sell, right?

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The perpetuation of this idea, not just of love and being worthy of love.

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Have you worked hard enough to deserve this love?

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I think that every single person is deserving of love, and that's

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what's angered me about the comments on this woman's post.

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Why is she not deserving of love and why do you think she has to

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be a certain body to be worthy of?

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, we need to throw that away with all the other trash ideas floating around in 2023.

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I can't believe some of this bullshit.

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One does not need to do anything, attain anything to be worthy of love.

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There are probably things individuals do to have successful relationships, right?

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We're all in control of our behavior.

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and partners are also in charge of their behavior, but

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everyone is deserving of love.

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I think the problem is that when we see the same archetype recurring

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over and over again, it's the vast majority of representation.

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However, it's a much smaller percentage of actual representation, like in real life.

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It starts to reinforce those ideas that certain people are

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desirable, certain bodies are d.

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And I think it's really important when talking specifically about body

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positivity, is to acknowledge the appropriation of body positivity by

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white feminism, consumer feminism.

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When we think about the reasons why people in stories say they

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desire something, the reasons why are almost just important as what.

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I think the lens is very important as we start to talk about bodies,

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and particularly in text, and that can conclude a literal text,

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like a book or a film or a TV show.

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That the way we talk about things sometimes they may be representing their

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body that does not conform entirely into that European beauty standard,

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but still reinforces the exact same ideology because all they do

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is switch what is included in what should be accepted as beautiful.

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Bell Hooks was a voracious reader of romance novels, and in her

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essay, black is a Woman's Color.

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She begins with Good.

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. That's the expression we all know.

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It.

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Begin to hear when we were small children, when we were sitting

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between the legs of mothers and sisters, getting our hair combed.

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Good hair is hair that is not kinky.

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Hair that does not feel like balls of steel, wool, hair that does not take

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hours to comb hair, that does not need tons of grease to untangle hair.

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That is long.

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Real good hair is straight.

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Hair.

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Hair like white folks'.

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. We pretend that the standards we measure are beauty by are our own invention.

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that it is a question of time and money that lead us to make distinctions

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between good hair and bad hair.

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Getting our hair pressed is an important ritual.

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It is not a sign of our longing to be white.

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It is not a sign of our quest to be beautiful.

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We are girls.

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It is a sign of our desire to be women, and I just thought that this distinctly

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captures how we convince ourselves under that ideology to believe that these goals

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are our goals, that they have nothing to do with these other ideologies, that

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this is just what we are choosing to.

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Also, it encapsulates that project that we undertake informing our bodies to

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be, to fit a certain standard and not to question how we formed that idea.

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To begin with.

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In my teen years, I was such an activist and was so against romantic notions

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from my young teen understanding of feminism, but none of those

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women were from an adult viewpoint.

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They weren't my age.

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, I hear so many women my a saying, I don't wanna read about 23 year olds,

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and I absolutely don't wanna read about skinny 23 year olds all the time.

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I think as teenage black girls, we needed that and didn't always get it.

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And so in the essay by Bell Hooks, I think about why it's so important to see black

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beauty and not just represented in ads.

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There's a whole discussion on lighter skin and hair, and that's what we see in ads.

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That's who we see model.

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. But when we think about women who have forcey hair getting represented in ads,

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women who deal with this pigmentation women of all sizes and shapes and shades.

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I think that's what young girls need to see.

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It's also why I believe black love is so revolutionary and we

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need to see and read more about black women and the idea of love.

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Jessica Pride released an anthology last year titled Black Love Matters

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that showcases personal essays that reflect how black love has been depicted

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in media from social justice, the publishing industry to desirability,

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and it's a must for those who want to engage with the concept of black

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love as a form of liberation and self.

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from the moment you are born, there are these expectations by

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who you should be as a woman.

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My bestie and I talk a lot about growing up with a mom who constantly talked

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about dieting or being on a diet, always trying some diet shake or exercising.

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If you weren't working out, you weren't losing weight.

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If you weren't drinking these shakes and eating bland chicken for

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dinner, you weren't losing weight.

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All in the pursuit of losing.

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because it was what was tied to self-worth, and that was passed on to me.

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So when we think about who deserves success, who deserves love, not

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the people who can't control themselves that eat too much.

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There's an assumption that fat people are lesser than, do not have

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control, and therefore are unworthy of love as they are right now.

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But here's the thing, it's what we're told.

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. It's how we are raised.

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And when it comes to body size, the goal there is to be small.

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So the behavior is to achieve a particular goal that when you actually

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think about the goal, you're like, why is it better to be smaller or

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to be a particular prescribed size?

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Right?

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Like, why is that the goal?

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. As I've worked towards having a healthier relationship with my body, I

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actually really wanted to resist that.

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Why do I have to be smaller?

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Why do I have to do particular things to adhere to a beauty standard?

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I don't have to do it for those reasons.

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But there are other reasons to take a walk.

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If you change the goal of I need to punish my body for eating something by doing this

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with the goal of getting smaller, that's a very different frame of mind from if I pay

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attention to my body, when I take a walk, I feel better, my mind is more clear.

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When I include some physical activity in my day, it becomes about the framing.

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We've all struggled with the same thing and connecting exercise with weight loss

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and doing exercise for weight loss is again, how it's been framed for so long.

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I will say though, that it feels like things are changing.

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That actually comes back to the idea of romance as a marketplace where the

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illusion of all the choice actually turns us into consumers of romantic

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partners and as producers of ourselves as product in that romantic marketplace.

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And so that too really enforces this idea.

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We need to make ourselves as valuable as possible in this romantic marketplace.

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And when I see blacks finally getting it and writing books about black women

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and love, that deconstructs the beauty standard for women in terms of size,

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the women may not be conventionally attractive by every other aspect.

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Like she's dark skin, she's able bodied, she's upper middle class.

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Her body is shaped in a way that I think is considered to be more

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conventionally attractive, like big boobs.

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It feels we're really breaking down body stereotypes and

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expectations for women here, but are we doing the same for men also?

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Are we reinforcing the value of certain male beauty standards in this story?

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There's a number of books that I've read over the past few years I'd say, that

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really have shown that representation, both on the male side and female.

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If the narrative focus exclusively on like the one, you can have one flaw, and

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God forbid, that it goes against the European beauty standards when thinking

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about that sort of intersectionality, you are a fat black woman who is also

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socioeconomically less privileged.

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Is that too much?

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Can we not handle that in our romance?

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and I don't wanna just talk about romance novel cuz I think that this really

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extends to all romantic narratives, like writing a script with a film or like

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creating a character in a TV show or casting actors, literal people in visual

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representation of these fictional stories.

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even in advertisements, usually there's a narrative to an advertisement.

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And so if the casting of people is, okay, great, we're gonna do the Dove ad

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and we are going to, we've got our Asian woman, we've got our size, whatever.

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We've got some stretch marks and itself becomes problematic as.

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It becomes like a checklist.

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I've been paying a little bit more attention to this as I read,

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because books that I really enjoy by authors like Talia Hibbert,

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Rebecca Weatherspoon, Jasmine Guie.

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The depth is there.

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The depth is there.

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So what are my choices?

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What kind of book would be either sold or self-published?

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Who would write the story?

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We think about feminism and romance.

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and I know you've had these conversations before.

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What is the limit?

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What is allowable?

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What is palatable?

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How far can you go?

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I struggle in talking about this regarding romantic novels, but if you think about

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movies and you think about TV shows, it comes down to what's going to sell

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and what are people going to watch.

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Is the investment worth it?

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Consumerism isn't about feeding the people what they want.

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It's about making money.

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It's about making profit and selling people.

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Like I love that.

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That's the ethics of marketing.

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It's are you truly giving people what they want and need, or are

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you making people go get interest loans for something they don't

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probably need, but also can't afford?

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And then, so what's your end game?

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What is the goal of capitalism?

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It's making money.

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Their incentive is to sell you something.

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They literally don't have a job if they can't sell the manuscript.

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So they are then dependent on this preconceived idea about what sells.

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And this reminds me of something I posted on Twitter recently about

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this idea of when publishers say something doesn't have a market, what

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they usually mean is either they.

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Ever acquired a thing like this so they have no sales data, or they have acquired

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something like this that has some element in common with this, and they chalked up

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its lack of success to this one thing.

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Right or wrong.

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They only have one thing like it and they're painting all of this token

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representation of like, we tried a book with a fat character once

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and it didn't do well, or we're not gonna pay attention to the fact that

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we did market the book effectively.

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We didn't put any budget behind it that this particular story maybe

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didn't resonate with people as well as another story was a Fat character.

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You know how it goes.

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The list goes.

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. So that's my take for today.

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My rent is over.

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If you're looking for some great reads, I've included a link for

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recommendations featuring curvy bodies, chubby bodies, fat bodies,

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because all bodies are good bodies.

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Romances, where Miss Fat Booty gets all the happy endings, all of them.