An unapologetic ode to my fat, Black female self.
Oh, to be a fat, Black female in a society that, if it had its way, would eradicate me and others like me from existence. Where do I even begin with the injustices that face anyone who embodies these qualities?
First of all, society treats being fat like an airborne disease that needs to be cured. Fatphobia is engrained in every corner of society, and the more the body positivity movement pushes in the wrong direction – models wearing ‘fat pads’ – the harder it is to love yourself against the subliminal and overt messaging that is the anti-fat agenda.
Next up: being a Black woman. Being Black in Western society is bad enough, but let us not pretend that Black women aren’t the most undervalued women in society. Sadly, we don’t even need to look that far back in our history to see why this is true. From our underrepresentation in the media to targeting products at us that can kill you (Lye-based products), the anti-Black female agenda could not be more clear.
Last but certainly not least, otherwise we would not need a whole calendar month to raise awareness and recognise our achievements, is being a woman. Women have been second-class citizens since what feels like the dawn of time. It doesn’t seem to matter that we can bring life into the world or are responsible for some of this world’s greatest inventions; we still can’t get paid the same as our male counterparts or hold men accountable for their actions towards us. Don’t even get me started on the deluge of injustice and prejudice that trans women have to endure.
In this outdated, patriarchal society that values all of the wrong things, it’s clear to see how being one of these three things could put you at a disadvantage. Imagine being all three and still defying all expectations of what I am or not meant to have achieved.
I could add growing up working-class in an environment where betting on which teenager would be pregnant next was a normal conversation among parents in the playground. I could also bring up being a young person in a society that refuses to put any worth on today’s youth even though we are the future. But, then again, if I were to claim all these “disadvantages”, there wouldn’t be any left for anyone else, and I’m nothing if not generous.
My very existence breaks the bias, and I am willing to argue with anyone who tells me otherwise. When being treated like a hostile enemy of the state, you have to understand how easy it would have been to go in another direction and succumb to the fact that you aren’t worthy and won’t amount to anything. Every day that I choose to succeed, instead of wallowing in a hell of society’s making, I am proving to any marginalised person who sadly believes their circumstances or personal qualities have to define them that they don’t.
We don’t all have the best starts in life, and despite what people like Molly Mae and Kim Kardashian may have convinced themselves to disguise their privilege, we do not all have the same 24 hours in a day. However, if we choose to try, that’s half the battle. Then it’s a mix of getting someone to give you a chance and, more importantly, giving yourself a chance which I’d argue is harder than the former. But it is possible.
Despite everything I didn’t have growing up, my mother always told me that I could do anything. I changed my career trajectory more times than I would change my socks. No matter what I said I wanted to be, my mother told me to go for it. By the age of thirteen, I went from wanting to be a dancer to a lawyer to a mother of 11 (because I couldn’t choose between baby names) back to a lawyer and then a fashion promoter. I went from course to course before I zeroed in on where I thought I belonged, just to see an awful lot of white faces, angling to be the next Shakespear who made me feel as if there was no room for my style of writing. Another obstacle and another flood of self-doubt that saw me trying to squeeze into a space I never wanted to be in.
People say you don’t achieve anything alone, and as much as I hate the thought of leaning on another, it’s the truth. I was lucky enough to have a strong-willed mother who taught me endurance. I was lucky enough to have some good mentors along the way who taught me to stick to my guns and trust in my voice. It helps that I am and have always been a stubborn person who does not like the word no. As hard and debilitating as my journey has been, constantly seeing parts of myself degraded and put on trial, I would not change my journey for the world.
Today, I’m a 26-year-old writer with my name on the cover of a book and a byline in Cosmopolitan. I’m the Deputy Editor of a magazine I love, where I believe I’ve done my part to help make a change for today’s youth. I’ve been published numerous times, I’m a mentor for young girls, worked with some great people, and I’m building a profile for myself. It’s taken a lot to get here, and I am in no way as established as I wish to be, but I am on the way, and I have myself to thank for that as much as I do all those who have supported me. I never had a leg up in life, I’ve never cut corners, and my journey has been anything but straight. However, despite my so-called “disadvantages”, I already have loads to be proud of.
We, as women, already have the power to change and inspire the world. But let us not pretend that external factors don’t often get in the way. Whether that’s in the way of us supporting one another, believing we can be more than our gender, or, you know, all those misogynistic values that we still have to abide by for some reason. Imagine if we all stopped caring and just did us? Imagine if we all broke away from the male gaze or society’s expectations and just did what we all believed we were born to do. One by one, we’d be unstoppable.
To all those who believe you have to shrink yourself in any way to be the person you want to be, just remember that you’ll never be able to make everyone happy. And once you’ve accepted that and chosen to please yourself instead, you can never truly lose.
This article was originally published on VoiceMagUK. Artwork by Lucy Evans.