So in case you haven’t heard about the latest controversial buzz to hit the internet, a young lady by the name of Jen Caron (a writer for popular opinion-based web portal xoJane.com) has ruffled quite a few feathers with a recent post entitled “It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Class and I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It“. Read & digest it if you haven’t already.
I’ll spare you the angry rant about how ridiculously offensive the premise of the article is. Another xoJane writer Pia did an excellent job of that. To sum up the article, the writer Jen Caron goes on and on about how a heavyset black female behind her appeared uncomfortable at her yoga class. That, in turn, made her uncomfortable (and eventually made her go home and cry. Yes, cue the violins.) I’ll also refrain from making jokes about how this exact frame of mind could be flipped & reversed to overtly marginalize the “skinny white girl” – this girl KazzleDazz did an excellent job of that with her “It Happened To Me: There Are No White People in My Twerk-Out Class” article. I cried real tears.
Are They Really Bothered?
Anyway, what I really love about this controversy and debate is that it opens up the conversation about women with curves and the fitness “struggle”. As a woman of color AND a woman with curves (also considered plus sized by American standards), I was taken aback by the notion that me walking into an Upper East Side yoga studio could potentially incite feelings of offense or discomfort for my non-black/non-curvy yoga classmates. NOT to say that this actually happens regularly. I understand that this was written by ONE woman with ONE opinion – her own. But just the idea that this woman’s point of view could potentially represent the views of a large population of women who attend these classes makes me wonder if I SHOULD feel weird or uncomfortable in a setting like that.
Are We Really Self-Conscious?
The debate also makes me wonder how many of us women of color or women with curves actually FEEL like the “heavyset woman” described in this article. I remember a year ago I purchased a Groupon for a very popular Kettlebell Kickboxing class in downtown Manhattan. No, it wasn’t January and it wasn’t part of my New Year’s resolutions. I just wanted to try something new in my quest to get in shape. I’m not a “treadmill & weights” kinda girl. I hate the gym and would much rather burn calories at a party, so I took it as an opportunity to try something new.
I do vaguely remember walking in and being overwhelmed at how fit everyone in the class was. After all this was a class for “all levels” so I assumed there would be more women of varying sizes and shapes. But the class was overwhemingly dominated by thin, toned blonde girls. Honestly, I thought about it for all of 5 seconds. And then I was over it! No long pondering. No running to the corner of the class or curling up in a ball.
Let’s be clear. I’ve spent the better part of my life (going to a specialized high school in NYC, then to an Ivy league school, then working in corporate America) being surrounded by women just like this. Women who look nothing like me, come from a seemingly different world/background and don’t have to deal with the challenges of being a triple minority. Many of these women became good friends of mine throughout the year. IT JUST DOESN’T BOTHER ME THAT I’M DIFFERENT. I did my workout, had a great time, and thanked the instructor afterward who made sure to let me know I did great for my first time. I mean, it just…wasn’t THAT serious. I certainly hope I didn’t make any of my classmates run home and cry in despair. So you can probably understand my bewilderment when I read that article from Jen Caron. Jen, girl. Honey boo boo. I guarantee that “heavyset black woman” was not thinking about you. So why were you thinking about her? Sigh. That’s my three cents on the topic.
This is my experience, but what are your thoughts on the xoJane yoga article controversy? Do YOU ever feel uncomfortable in your fitness class due to your race or size? Soundoff below!
This Sunday, February 2nd at 4:30PM EST join us on Twitter @LoveBrownSugar for an #LBSLounge chat about fitness and curves as it pertains to women of color. We want to hear from you!
Check out some of my favorite response pieces to the xoJane article:
TheBigGirlBlog pens an eloquent response piece as a plus-sized fit girl.
BlackGirlsGuideToWeightLoss explains her sentiments as a 5 year yogi here.
KazzleDazzle made me giggle with her “Twerk-Out” class remake.
Calvin Cato’s “Jerk Chicken” version is just all the way hilarious.