Fat Black Women Shape Politics & Beauty
Updated: Nov 13
We should never forget the work of women’s rights and voters’ rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. Hamer put her life on the line for us to have the right to vote. In 1962, she learned that she could reshape American politics. It was the day she attended a meeting held by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where she heard “We could vote out people that we didn’t want in office”. It was this experience that leads Hamer to organize Freedom Summer, taught other Black people to read, and fought against voter suppression.
It wasn’t long after election day did we see Stacey Abrams was trending on social media. Stacey Abrams, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate, founded an organization that would register 800,000 marginalized voters in Georgia. At this moment, it became apparent that Black Women have always saved the day.
Black Women have always been on the frontlines of voting rights and the heart of American activist movements. Hamer's influence manifests in Southern fat, Black women.
Lex C. tweeted,” If you’re wondering who to thank, start here. It’s the collective action of Black women that will uncover a new south. Don’t let your thanksgiving end here though. There’s BW in your life right now that deserve to hear it too.” Featuring the names of four fat Black Women and their organizations.
Nse Ufot, CEO of New Georgia Project, has spent years building power throughout Georgia. They knocked on 1 million doors, texted, and called 3 million potential voters.
“This is real,” Ufot says “We have been telling people about this moment for quite some time…Voter Suppression is still happening.” When asked how this work relates to Fannie Lou Hamer, she says “ I say her name every day.” Ufot also praises Stacey Abrams. “She’s in rooms that none of us are in. She made Obama and Biden come to Georgia.”
Alana Belle, State Program Manager for Care in Action, organized phone banking initiatives with domestic workers. She reminded us that many domestic workers are fat Black Femmes and their quality of life must be considered.
Recently, there was a video posted about the history of voting and Fanni Lou Hamer was featured.
“We need to honor fat Black Femmes who got us this far, not just the Black people who are palatable for television.” - Alana Belle
We oftentimes deny the power of beauty standards and the privilege that is awarded to non-fat Black Women. Was it palatable to show Hamer as thin and lighter-skinned?
In an interview with “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, Stacey Abrams referred to herself as, “a sturdy black woman with natural hair.” “When you close your eyes and imagine the person you think of as a leader, I’m likely not the image that pops into your head.” She also discusses being told to lose 100 pounds, straighten her hair and that she was too dark to run for governor.
Funky Dineva, Youtube Personality, makes some uncomfortable statements. He recalls a conversation with his friend, referring to Stacey Abrams as “Mammy”.
“When fat Black Women don’t strive to be the standard of beauty it confuses people about who we are,” says Belle. “Everyone expects us to have a glow up and when that glow up doesn’t appeal to whiteness, we are seen as defiant. When we don’t cater to the male gaze, it is seen as a missed opportunity to be sexy.” She also states that across multiple communities her brilliance is “ based on her looks and they don’t want to see a Mammy”.
Abrams affirms her identity by stating how she is qualified to work in Politics and did not want to change herself to conform to societal standards.
“I wasn't going to wait until Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig turned me into the after picture. I wasn't going to Invisalign myself out of looking like my mother. Because there has not been what I am, Therefore I’m going to be what I am.”
The message is clear. Fat Black Women deserve representation, period.
Fat Black Women have always done the work to help us get to liberation. They help save the day even if some of their political needs are not mentioned at the table.
Fat people have a different set of needs that requires political and social change. Weight discrimination impacts jobs, health care, public spaces, travel, and more, and Michigan is the only state that has banned it. Laws like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the American Disabilities Act (ADA) do not protect larger-bodied communities from weight-based discriminatory hiring practices, employee advancement, and job determination. Issues regarding fat bodies are not a part of our current political discussion, nor has there been any acknowledgment of how fat Black Women’s needs are complex.
After spending some time reflecting on the election, I realized that even I, a fat Black Woman, played a role in this 2020 election. Like Georgia, Florida has deep-seated racist politics, but through working with several young people and fat, Black women from organizations such as Dream Defenders and Florida for All by organizing phone banks, poll monitoring, direct actions, and GOTV events in my hometown of Sanford, Fl. Our hard work had resulted in flipping Seminole County blue for the first time since 1948. I think it’s time for Black Women, especially fat, Black women, to get some rest. It is necessary in order to liberate ALL of our communities.
It’s time to start valuing fat, Black Women’s lives, and regarding them as political. In the words of Hamer herself, “Nobody's free until everybody's free.”
Edited by: Cheymodee