Edited by Azizi Powell
Kids are cruel. When I was a child, I was so thin & so shy that I was an easy target for these words from the Rock n Roll song “Boney Macaroni”:
"I got a girl name boney macaroni
She’s as skinny as a piece of macaroni"
I’m much older now, and I’ve gained much more weight and developed much more self-confidence. But I still remember being teased because I was so thin (I still don’t like the word “skinny”). Even when the mainstream media said that “thin was in” and promoted that really thin British woman name Twiggy as what an attractive female body should look like, I knew they weren’t talking to me & my people. Most Black people like women with meat on their bones. Take R&B artist/actress Beyonce for an example. She’s a big boned Black woman. Black folks like big boned women who can shake what their mama gave them (meaning of course, their b. u. t. t.).
Another way that Black folks (In the USA) refer to females or males being “big boned” is “thick”. Being “thick” is cool, but if you’re too thick or real thick, you’ll get teased just as much as if you are real thin. For instance, check out YouTube videos about the stomp and shake type of cheerleading that Black folks started in North Carolina & Virginia around the late 1970s. Invariably, the comment thread of those videos includes people writing about how there’s too many fat girls on those squads and how everybody knows that cheerleaders can’t have all that weight. Take this video for instance:
Work It (Cheer)
Uploaded by rsharpe4 on Jun 4, 2008
Here’s what two cheerleaders wrote in response to comments that cheerleaders have to be a certain weight:
"WhYy iS EVERYONE COMiN iN hERE TAlkiN AbOUT hOW FAT ThEYy ARE.. i AM A THiCkk ChEERlEAdER ANdd i AM GOOd AT WhAT idO..All ChEERlEAdERS ARENT SkiNNYy YA kNOW....i hAVE ChEEREd MAYbE 500 GAMESx ANdd i hAVE SEEN iT All..iT dOESNT MATTER hOW BiG YOU ARE, iF YOU WANT TO ChEER, ChEER. NOT All ThE SkiNNYy ChEERlEAdERS ARE GOOd ChEERlEAdERS SO WhYy WOUld YOU WANT TO dESCRiMiNATE AGAiNST ThE BiG ONES...MAYbE i Will hAVE TO UPlOAd A VidEO OF OUR SQUAd ANd lET YOU SEE hOW iT dONE WiT ThE ThiCk GiRlS.
"It doesnt matter how skinny or thick you are....as long as you can get out on the field &work it just as hard as any other cheerleader...then do so! Im a FAT cheerleader &iwork just as hard as the skinny girls on my team...if not harder! SIZE DOESNT MATTER....SO KILL IT!
You go, girls!
Nowadays, there are health campaign about how Black folks (and other folks) need to eat better and lose weight in order to live better & live longer. I’m all for these campaigns and I know that I need to lose some weight. But while I applaud those campaigns, I believe we also need some “Be kind to others” campaigns that remind people that no matter what size you are, it’s what inside that counts.
[Content Revision 1/2/2013]
Here are four additional videos that are presented in no particular order for your enjoyment and to further illustrate my comments about stomp & shake cheerleading squads's acceptance of "heavier" build females:
Example #1: The World Renown Woo Woos of Virginia State University
Uploaded by GoTrojans on Sep 30, 2010
2009 Freedom Classic
January 2009, Richmond, VA
Cheer name -"Let's Go"
"These are the beautiful bodies of black women w/o much effort on our parts..we R fine tuned, we R strong & in shape, physical endurance, swag &all. Thats whats wrong w/ society now..all of this anorexia & bulimia BS..2 many ppl buying into the LIE that thin is all that! This is what a body that's been fed w/ mom's home cooking & MILK looks like. We R fine & we know it...long be4 Kim Kardash & JLo there was Thelma on Good times & all of us around the way gurls! Ya'll R Beautiful curves & all!"
-HearNSee1; November 2011
Example #2: VUU Homecoming The Rah-Rah's & Alumni
Stephanie Paige, Oct 25, 2009
Example #3: Howard University [Washington D.C.] Battle Cheer
CoachSpence October 19, 2006
Howard University Battle Cheer "Sit Back Down"
Example #4: Bring it On: Manning High School vs. Timberland High School
Uploaded on Oct 8, 2010
MHS cheerleaders going head to head in a cheer-off against THS.
[Timberland High School] South Carolina.
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIcLsCHKglw for several comments in this video's viewer comment thread about the tradition of cheer battles.
Also click http://cocojams.com/content/childrens-cheerleader-cheers for this cheer video, two of those comments, and numerous text examples of children's and teens' mainstream cheerleader cheers/stomp & shake cheers.
The text for the cheers in the first three videos can be found on this page of my cultural website: http://www.cocojams.com/content/stomp-and-shake-cheerleader-cheers
To clarify, I'm not asserting that the females in these videos are what African Americans would call "thick" ("heavyset"). However, it seems to me that at least some of the members of these stomp & cheer squads don't fit the slender body build which is thought to be the ideal female body build for mainstream American cheerleaders.
Here's a link to a post that I wrote on another blog: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/07/21/race-and-the-changing-shape-of-cheerleading/
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/05/videos-of-african-musical-productions.html Video #3: Umoja - The Spirit Of Together 2
(4:43-6:50) for examples of "thick" (big boned) South African female dancers. The build of those dancers suggests that South Africans also share African Americans' perceptions of what are acceptable, and valued body weights for adult females.
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jnwq5Pq40A Seven Videos Of Botswana Music Group "Culture Spears"
I added a comment to that post that the female dancers' attire reminded me of the flared skirts that some stomp & shake cheerleaders wear. I also wrote that it would be interesting if some stomp & shake squads were to incorporate some of the movements that these Botswana female dancers perform.
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.
Visitor comments are welcome.