Why do researchers feel the need to continually study the habits and trends of black women in particular as if we're science projects?
Tell me, have you ever seen this headline in a mainstream newspaper:
Studies Show That White Women Account for 71% of All Plastic Surgeries Despite Risks of Death
Studies Show that White Women Continue to Tan Despite Serious Health Risks
Matter of fact, have you ever read any major news headline that had the phrase "white women" in it at all? Although they do have stories on these topics, the writer never mentions the race of the women most affected. Tanning deaths are a major concern. Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that approximately 71% of plastic surgery procedures are performed on white women even thought there is a significant risk of death. That is a major story, is it not?
I am a frequent observer of media stories and I can not recall one instance where white women, or any other group of women other than black, was singled out for a negative study then had to endure seeing the findings published on Huffington Post, Fox News, Washington Post and other major news outlets for the world to read.
So why are researchers and media professionals so specifically concerned with studying the habits and behaviors of BLACK WOMEN as if we are an ongoing science project?
Hair Stops Us from Exercising?
Yet another "study" popped up on my radar today which BOLDLY states that black women don't exercise because of their hair!
The "study" claims that 2 out of 5 black women say they don't work out because of their hair. It was based on a survey of 103 black women... Of what socioeconomic level? Where were they from? How were they chosen? Were they picked out of a salon getting their "hair did" or from the street? Were they permed or natural?
I'm a little ashamed to learn that a black woman, Dr. Amy McMichael, led this research without being more thorough, especially considering the stereotypes of black women that we deal with every day. Even she admits that "they only surveyed African-American women, and they can't say whether this is a problem shared by other ethnicities." She has played right into a negative narrative of our sisters that the mainstream media ultimately ran with.
Never mind the countless other plausible reasons why some black women don't exercise, such as working multiple jobs and carrying a family on their own. Or simply not having the extra money to pay for a monthly gym membership considering the tighter economy.
Never mind the fact that there has been a major natural hair revolution going on in the black community. When you wear your natural hair "sweating your perm out" is no longer an issue.
Never mind that there are organizations like Black Girls Run and countless fitness meetup groups targeted for black women across the country that have black women of all ages bursting at the seams to sign up. They are successfully addressing the health issue IN BLACK WOMAN CIRCLES.
What is the real purpose behind these studies? Some researchers may claim that it is meant to somehow help, but when has attempting to shame someone with a negative narrative ever helped?
Even though the head researcher turned out to be a fellow black woman, I would have to wonder why? What is her point? What does she hope to accomplish? And why would this type of study be funded in the first place?
Hello: America is Fat
Yes. Black women obesity rates are very high and should be addressed. But guess what? So are the obesity rates of black men. So are whites and Latinos. So is the American obesity rate overall compared to that of other countries. So why don't these researchers ever see a need to come up with ultra-specific studies on why every other American group is fat?
My theory is that it is because America has a very twisted obsession with black women -- they both admire and hate us at the same time.
The problem isn't hair. The problem is American culture. We generally eat too much and have an unhealthy diet that includes sugary soda, red meat, fatty dairy products and lots of bread. We also have a more sedentary lifestyle, spent in front of the television whenever we have a free moment. That is not a color issue, it is more of a culture issue. It is also a socioeconomic issue because in many cases less affluent people eat unhealthy fast food and can't afford to buy more healthy options for themselves and their families. They also don't have as much free time for working out.
The problem is UNHEALTHY HABITS. All races and genders in America are guilty.
What's probably most important to note is that publishing these types of studies won't solve the problem. Issues with obesity in the African American community are best addressed in community settings, such as community-based healthy-eating programs and learning sessions that don't aim to shame.
Black Women and Self Esteem
What's probably most ironic about all of these "studies" is that despite the constant supposed alarm-ringing, black women STILL seem to be happy with themselves. In fact, black women have the highest self esteem of any group of women regardless of weight. We don't need the validation of others (or like others) to know that we are great.
In conclusion I will say that I am not overweight and never have been. Hair has never prevented me from busting a move at Planet Fitness. So this "study" doesn't get me riled up because of a personal beef. Still, I have questions...
I would honestly like to know what fuels these studies to continue despite the fact that they don't seem to have any positive effects on black women or society in general? Who is funding these studies and why? Are they scientific or is the media behind this, knowing that any story with the words "black women" in the title will get a lot of hits?
Regardless of the answers, most black women ain't studdin' ya. So quit studying us.