And yall thought I was crazy to talk about black womens weight and hair!
I was, but when I write something like that, Im usually hermetically sealed inside an underground bunker located on an alfalfa farm in Chatham County. For instance, after writing a column on the women criticizing Olympic Gymnastics gold medalist Gabby Douglas hair, I went unseen for a week.
In case you missed it, some black people used the Internet and other media to pseudonymously criticize, of all things, that little girls hair as if she didnt have anything more important to worry about during the Olympics.
Those critics, I wrote, were out to lunch.
Speaking of lunch, I noted that some of the women criticizing Douglas probably spent more time fixing their hair than exercising and hadnt performed a back flip since Arbys brought back its popular 5 for $5.95 roast beef sandwich special.
Message for the masses
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, unlike me, waded right into the lions den when she addressed the touchy relationship between weight and hair among some black women.
For the third year in a row, Benjamin in August went to the Atlanta hair extravaganza, known as the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show, to touch on those two very touchy subjects.
She laughed when I asked if shed been afraid for her safety.
Bronner Brothers has 10,000 hair stylists there, she said. What a great place to get your message out. We have to take public health messages to where people are. Women see their hair stylists more often than they see their doctors, so we want to make stylists our ambassadors to talk about diabetes, HIV and other health issues.
The message she wanted to get out to black women: Dont let your hair kill you... Over 50 percent of African American women over 25 are obese, she said, and some studies say 80 percent are overweight. It was against that backdrop that she cited a Wake Forest University study in which 31 percent of the black women surveyed said they didnt exercise because they feared messing up their do.
We wanted to remove one of those barriers to working out, she said.
That may be why the workshop encouraging stylists to create exercise-friendly hair styles with a $5,000 first prize was standing room only. The prize was not, Benjamin emphasized, from government money.
If its any consolation, hair and weight concerns arent just the province of black women.
Dr. Benjamin said two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese, and a white state representative wrote to me after my original piece on Gabby and her detractors to say that women worrying about hair is universal.
Fixated on hair
The issue, she said, is a little more nuanced than your strong condemnation of the critics. First of all, most women think about hair a lot of the time. And we do notice other peoples hair. I often criticize Secretary Hillary Clintons hair... Just last week I thought, her hair looks as though it hadnt been washed in weeks, and cant she do something with it. The only time Clintons hair has looked good is when she was running for president and her handlers made sure she had a presentable image. Of course, Clinton, like Douglas, has more important things to concentrate on.
Right on. That was my love-filled message to Douglas small-minded critics.
Hundreds of incensed sisters nonetheless wanted my scalp, but theyll have to stand in line behind one named Alicia, who wrote: I read Mr. Saunders piece on black women. In it, he refers to black women as mostly obese, without real statistics... impl(ies) black women are ignorant and have no values (I implied no such thing and she knows that) and proceeds to blame black women for the tweets of an ignorant few... He produced no records, no statistics, only his opinions? Even an opinion piece must have some basis in reality and research.
The most painful thing is that she and many other women wrote that I am biased against big women. Bull. Ive always been an unabashed fan. You know those ads for weight-loss products theyre always showing on television with women in before and after bathing suit photos side by side?
I usually prefer the befores.