Critics insist that Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama's pick for U.S. Surgeon General, is too fat for the position. I will admit she has a little meat on her bones - voluptuous, thick at most. Or as my daddy would say "she's Juicy!" But fat? Come on!
The Surgeon General pick and I are both full-figured black women.
I've always been ambitious, but from a early age I knew that my career choices were limited to being an Ashley Stewart sales associate, starring in a gospel musical play extravaganza, selling syrup, being a co-host on the View, or a comedian. I chose the latter.
Not because I can't sing a slamming rendition of "And I am Telling You" or because an employee discount on the latest zebra print jean outfit is not appealing. I mean, what fat black woman has not dreamed of sharing a stage with Barbara Walters? (Although out of all the big black co-hosts, Rosie O'Donnell remains my favorite.)
I chose comedy because everyone knows that sassy, fat black women are funny. Being the butt of the joke is what we do best, right? Yes, I could have gotten a job at the DMV or traveled the world as an international jet-setting ghetto hair show model. But that would be too easy. Next to being a phone sex operator or dominatrix, comedy is one of the most fulfilling jobs for a plus sized black. Sure, spanking a white man's ass is a favorite pastime for many big black women. But me, I want to make people laugh!
Yes, the job market for full-figured black women is expanding!
Before Dr. Benjamin, the only way a full-figured black woman could get a job working in the health industry was to be a security guard at the Medicaid office. Or possibly being a "nurse" on the usher board at church and fanning people when they fall out from getting the Holy Ghost. (Nursing degree and butterscotch candy is not included.)
But what's so wrong with having a full-figured Surgeon General? We all know that she is qualified. Critics say her size sends the wrong message to Americans.
I think it sends an amazing message. I don't mind being fat, but there are times I would rather be a fat white woman, so that I would have a better chance of getting a black husband. But now with the appointment of Dr. Benjamin, being a fat black woman has its benefits too!!
I can see the slogan now:
Be a Fat White Woman. Get A Black Husband.
Be a Fat Black Woman. Get A Better Job!
I love that message. I see nothing wrong with that!
Critics act as if the president went cruising in BBW Chat rooms, or created an online dating profile to find the Surgeon General:
Seeking my Heart Attack!
Extremely attractive, married, bi-racial leader of the free world seeks a Big Beautiful Woman for NSA who cares more about the health of others than her own. My leading lady has arms of steel, so my chick on the side must be thick in the waist and cute in the face. Must enjoy consuming high calorie foods; lead a sedentary lifestyle and love gaining lots of weight, all while being a doctor. I'm looking for a sexy Miss Piggy that can cure my "swine flu"...along with other nationwide health concerns. No pic needed, but your BMI must be over 30. Black women with diabetes and high cholesterol are strongly encouraged to apply.
All jokes a side, this recent controversy over the 52-year-old speaks to larger truths about size discrimination. It is the last prejudice that is allowed in this country. When it comes to race, sex, gender and physical disabilities, we know that it is wrong to discriminate. But size is fair game!
If Dr. Benjamin is not qualified to be Surgeon General because of her size, does that mean a hearing impaired or visually impaired person could not do the job either? What if she was HIV positive? Would she be seen as too unhealthy to do the job?
This illustrates the double standard we hold as a nation about men, women and body size. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop was a "full-figured man," but no one criticized his ability to lead.
When full-figured black women were mammies on plantations, cooking the food, cleaning the house, all while birthing babies for Massa', her size was never criticized. Matter of fact, her fatty breast milk was seen as a prime source of nutrition while she was a wet nurse for white babies. But now that she wants to take care of the health of the nation, all of a sudden she's not good enough? I guess modern day mammies are out of a job!
This is all about civil rights after all. Gay is the new black? Well, Fat is the new Gay!
Fat is the new N-word!
Size discrimination is real. A friend of mine, who is black and a lesbian told me that it's her fat body that seems to offend people the most. Yes, there are some black people and gays who are guilty of discriminating against fat people. It makes no sense! I told her once gay marriage is legal, she better hurry up and marry her partner before legislation bans fat marriage!
Fat people have more in common with minorities than people think. Just as black people have had name changes over the years-once Negroes and colored...larger people have had the same. From rubenesque and zaftig, to chunky, husky, big-boned and plus-sized...our titles have changed with the times. Often reflecting the social, economical, and political climate of the world. In these harsh financial times, maybe having a larger person represent the United States will fool other countries into thinking that we are over here living large and eating well. When of course we know that many of us are not!
There are other advantages to having the "genius grant" fellow as Surgeon General. For one, there are many Americans that are struggling with weight issues that may heed her advice more because she knows first hand what we are going through.
This may be selfish, but I believe she may bring issues to the forefront about black women that have been ignored. Remember during the 2004 debates when Gwen Ifill asked Vice President Cheney how the government planned to address the alarming rates of HIV infection among young African-American women? Cheney said he had "not heard those numbers with respect to African-American women" and was "not aware" there was an "epidemic" of HIV/AIDS among that population. WOW!!!
Now, is that sending the right healthy message to America?
Dr. Benjamin is beyond qualified for the job. Why are we even discussing her dress size?
For all those full-figured black women that are lunch room ladies in a middle school, who spend their days trying to convince students that red Jell-O with pineapple chunks counts as their daily serving of fruit and vegetables, here is your moment to shine!
Embrace who you are, and know that you too can be Surgeon General, if you try!
**This was originally written back in July, but I feel that many of the themes are still relevant. So I wanted to share them. Enjoy! :) **
See "Fat Bitch!"
A One Woman Show by Erica Watson
October 7-10, 2009 @ The Tank Theater, NYC