Anaconda’s Grip: How Body Shaming Is Strangling Black Women’s Self-Esteem

Updated Jul 31, 2015

Fueled by a short-lived twitter war between Nikki Minaj and Taylor Swift, the topic of what constitutes ideal body sizes between mainstream White America and Black women was re-ignited. Recently, Minaj asserted that the music industry’s ‘body shaming’ practices were targeted at curvaceous Black women.

Minaj blamed body shaming as the primary culprit, for her song “Anaconda,” not being nominated for “Video of the Year” by MTV. The video has been viewed more than 490 million times on YouTube alone. Minaj, known for her bodacious assets, as much as her quick-tongued lyrics, suggested that body sizes similar to her own are not lauded.

“Anaconda” is a celebration of the erotica of the bodacious parts of thicker women. Nikki Minaj is a stunningly beautiful woman with unmatched talent. Minaj’s protest of body shaming within the entertainment world highlights prejudices that artists of her stature continue to face. Nikki Minaj deserves applause for her courageous outcry of what she sees as a denouncement of Black female sexuality. While mainstream White America has been demonized for body shaming Black women, there is a revolution of body shaming within the Black community. Born from exaggerated images of Black women’s newly desired measurements, Black women find their self-esteem under siege.

The days of “36-24-36” are long past. With the increase of breast-butt augmentations, 38-22- 40 will soon be insufficient. Enhanced images of unrealistic figures have now contributed to a different kind of body shaming of Black women that has gone from one extreme to another. For the 32-28-30 women, have African-Americans created and sustained a degree of body shaming?

The body shaming dialogue must be a well-balanced conversation between Black men and women. Body shaming practices transcend media outlets. College campuses are just one of the many environments in which body shaming alters the very essence of a woman’s self-esteem.

The popularity of the waist-trainer, a modern-day corset designed to help women achieve the coke-bottle figure, is on the rise among African-American women. Even more extreme, rather than the re-investment of financial aid refund checks, many Black women have signed on for financing breasts and butt augmentations. The horrifying tales of Black women losing their lives after seeking butt injections from non-licensed perpetrators in unsterile settings is just the beginning of how far self-esteem has nose-dived.

The sedentary, disease-inviting lifestyle of many Black women can, in part, be attributed to the gentle admonitions not to lose too much weight. Exercise equates loss of curves with subsequent loss of attractiveness. Hip hop artist Drake’s lyric “I like my women BBW … so thick they make everyone else in the room so uncomfortable” serves as another example of the hugely-pressurized atmosphere of Black culture perpetuating a certain body type.

This is not an onslaught on body sizes, natural or artificial. All body images should be celebrated, from the beautifully bodacious to the sensationally slim. Many impressionable young women have not reached their social awareness peaks; many are just coming to terms with the hard fact that, when it comes to body size, you get what you get, when you’re going to get it.

The conversation must continue beyond the Video Music Awards. College campuses must set the stage for raising self-esteem. Otherwise, it is a crime to raise a generation of young Black women to feel small because their hips aren’t big enough.