Black Women Don't Want to Be "Tits on a Stick," Mizzou Grad Student Finds

Research shows black women also like big butts, they cannot lie.
Rashanta Bledman grew up in LA's South Central neighborhood, full of black and Latina women who loved their curvy bodies and big butts. When she started high school in Hollywood and, later, college in Orange County, she discovered that her white classmates had an entirely different idea of the perfect body: tall and skinny and curveless (except in the upper torso).

"At home I was too thin," Bledman recalls. "But at school I fit in."

Like many women, Bledman spent a lot of time thinking about body image and discussing it with her friends. But now, as a grad student in counseling psychology at Mizzou, she actually gets course credit for it, and her research on black women's body image just won an award from the American Psychological Association.

Bledman surveyed 79 African-American women, mostly students at Mizzou. She asked them to look at a series of drawings of women's bodies and pick out their actual figure and then their ideal. She discovered that most were satisfied with their bodies except for three things: They wanted flatter stomachs and smaller waists and bigger butts.

"They liked a curvy shape," says Bledman, "not thin. The women in the study were normal weight, or overweight on the BMI scale. There's something in African-American culture that encourages women to embrace their bodies. You don't have to be thin to be considered attractive."

Still, some of the black women most represented in mainstream media, like Beyoncé, are thin and have European features. Bledman still hasn't figured out why that is, though she notes that African-American women place less of an emphasis on weight and body shape when they consider their overall attractiveness.

"It's not the only factor," she explains. "It's also hair and skin color and style of dress, everything. It's more complex. It's more inclusive. A woman can be heavier but have great style and still be considered attractive."

Bledman's study is one of the first to concentrate exclusively on African-American women's body image instead of comparing them to white women. "Historically, it's been difficult to do research within the African-American community," she says. "There's a distrust of research because of ethical violations in the past."

In the future, Bledman hopes to expand her study to include older women and to conduct more in-depth interviews with her subjects about their feelings about body image.

"The topic is personal to me because I am a black woman," she says. "It's also doing something I love."

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