“When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud.”
-Denzel Washington/Robert McCall, “The Equalizer”
I knew it wouldn’t be long before newly minted and the world’s first BBW supermodel Ms. Tess Holliday would find herself in the crosshairs for breaking the size-barrier in the beauty world – and to be sure, she’s had to contend with more than her fair share of detractors, concern trolls and yes, outright haters. But all of that is small potatoes compared to the kerfuffle Holliday finds herself in, right now.
I say that because her recent quote, part of a larger in-depth piece written up on her life and times appearing on the Guardian website, is in so many ways, the shot heard around the world:
“We’re in a cafe, finally sitting down after a six-hour shoot that’s had Holliday traipsing blocks in oppressive heat and then a rainstorm. Throughout, she’s been a hilarious corrective to the notion of models as mute and biddable clotheshorses. At one point, an African American guy, middle-aged, said something appreciative as he walked by. “What do guys think they’ll achieve by yelling something?” she asked, shifting her weight and adjusting the cape primly. “They’re like: ‘She’ll love this, I’ll definitely get her number.’” A pause, and then she added, with some satisfaction, “I do admit that black men love me. I always forget that, and then I come to a black neighbourhood and I remember.” And no one quite knew what to say. Later, finally and effortfully manoeuvred into some lethal-looking Christian Louboutin stilettos, adding height to her 5ft 5in, she’d calmly told the photographer: “If you’re not shooting my shoes, I will fuck you up.””
Ms. Holliday’s off-the-cuff observations about the preferences of certain Black men, set the Sistahood off on a tizzy not seen since #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen a few summers back – thus far, both the Root and Clutch have weighed in with the appropriate recoiling in righteous indignation, while over at Ms. Ann owned and operated outrage-machine Jezebel, the comments section is aflame in a frenzied micro-parsing of Ms. Holliday’s now infamous quotation – it all falls into the catergory of “you just cannot make this stuff up”.
There’s a heck of a lot of meat on the bone here – pardon the pun – so, let’s get right to it, shall we?
In A Time Of Universal Deceit, Telling The Truth Becomes A Revolutionary Act
First, let’s address the obvious – what Ms. Holliday said, about Black men finding her attractive, IS TRUE. It’s so true, in fact, that it is a staple of standup comedy routines, as both Chris Rock and more recently, Amy Schumer, clearly demonstrates. Everyone knows that Black men, when compared to white ones, do indeed tend to prefer their women built for comfort, rather than speed. Sure, the handwringing interlocutors will be keen to point out, ALL Black men don’t go in for BBW gals; no doubt about it. BUT, it is fair to say that, all other things being equal, it is not at all uncommon for Brothas to be seen preferring the ladies who have dress sizes going well into the double digit figures. As both Rock and Schumer jokingly point out above, this is particularly true when it comes to white women – and someone like Holliday, who was born and largely raised in the Deep South – Mississippi, one of the Blackest states in the union, in fact – ought to know. The southern states have long been known to be among the largest, especially when it comes to the ladies on average, and, well, the results speak for themselves. Spend ANY time below the Mason-Dixon line, and you will find two easily observable things:
- The ladies are hella larger, both Black and white
- The Brothas love it.
Only the grossly naive or the ideologically blinkered, would even attempt to dispute this simple fact of American life.
But wait, there’s more to this plus-sized Gordian knot – one that is right in Ms. Holliday’s newfound wheelhouse…
All BBWs Are NOT Equal
Ah, the irony. At the same time Tess holds herself out as challenging standards of beauty, she finds herself with a bullseye on her ample bottom for promoting many of the very same standards – of course, race, but of something else:
It may be deeply politically incorrect to say so within polite company, but the harsh truth is that lighter-skinned women – namely white, but failing that, the fairer-complexioned of ladies from other ethnicities – are nearly universally seen as MORE attractive, than their more dusky-hued sisters. Put that together with the fact that, no matter what one may think of Ms. Holliday’s dress size, she truly does have a very pretty face – and it has long been known that a Big Girl can get a whole lot farther in life with a pretty face, than just being a Big Girl. And the plain truth of the matter is, that there are quite a few big girls in Black America, who are nowhere near as comely as Ms. Holliday – there, I said it. This is hardly anything shocking or new, but it seems that it does need to be put on blast. But, there’s something else we have to note with Ms. Holliday that explains why she gets so many Brothas coming out to the yard:
Despite her large frame, she is still shapely – this is borne out in the excerpts of her Red Hook, Brooklyn (location very important – read on) photoshoot, where she is clad in little more than undergarments which includes a corset – you can clearly see a defined waist and hips. Even in other shoots where she’s not wearing any waist-binding garments, her figure is apparent. Indeed, I am quite certain that one of the reasons why she has prevailed in being a model despite her overall dress size, is BECAUSE she is both still shapely, AND because she is facially very pretty. Her alabaster white skin is the icing on the cake, insofar as beauty standards go – and the irony is not lost one little bit on the Sistahood.
As I’ve noted in a previous series of podcasts on YouTube, one of the dirty little secrets the ladies – particularly Black – don’t want out in the open, is the long-running “beef” between the varying factions of the BBW community. Part of it does indeed have to do with race, as Ms. Lisa Respers-France recently bemoaned when Ms. Holliday’s People magazine cover first made the newsstands; but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a not insiginficant portion of larger ladies in BBW discussion spaces and venues online (and off!) who feel that the “pretty big girls” – those like a Tess Holliday, a Sofia Rose (fashion model/pornstar), a Rosie Mercado or the late Mia Amber Davis – all women who definitely would fit, pardon the pun, the technical description of “BBW”, but who still meet enough of the conventional beauty standards (waist to hip ratio, i.e., “hourglass” figure; lots of cleavage/big bustline; conventionally pretty faces; longer hair, lighter complexions, etc.) – are taking all of the air out of the room when it comes to the idea of challenging conventional standards of beauty and attractiveness – that in truth, they do more harm than good for the “Beautiful At All Sizes” movement, because their “offsets” acts to put the overall issue of size/fat acceptance to sleep. After all, a pretty faced woman is a pretty faced woman, regardless of her dress size – right?
Let’s compare and contrast, shall we? I’m going to ask all the men – especially Black – out there, if you had to choose which lady you’d like to be with for the evening, based on nothing more than appearance, would you choose:
- Tess Holliday
- Brittney Cooper
Both ladies are roughly equivalent in terms of height, weight and dress size, give or take. Both would definitely be considered “BBWs”, if not more, right? And yes, one is Black – Cooper – while the other is white – Holliday. Granted.
But, race aside for a moment, is anyone here going to seriously argue that there isn’t a heck of a lot of difference between these two ladies?
Look, I ain’t even gonna front – if I have to choose between Tess or Brittney for the evening, I’m taking Tess in a New York nanosecond, bang, there it is.
Who would you pick, fellas? Tell the truth and shame the devil, now.
The Delicious Irony Of The “Big & Beautiful” Movement – Among Other Things
As I was reading the coverage, ahem, of Ms. Holliday’s most recent exploits, I couldn’t help but notice all of the ironies, the paradoxes, the contradictions that her very presence in this time, brings bubbling to the surface. As Ms. Amy Otto of the Federalist recently discussed on a closely-related topic and which I developed further in a piece of mine on Prof. Cooper herself, there very much seems to be a desire to, on the one hand, cajole society at large into accepting women who fall a bit off the mark when it comes to that which is deemed pretty and attractive; and on the other – as the Protein World “Beach Body” scandal bears out, there seems to be a push to get ALL women to “dumb down” that which is deemed attractive, so that “all” women can be “beautiful”. I’ll let Ms. Otto tell it:
“Women engaged in this stampede of weaponized envy are at the root of why women shy away from achievement. The enforced norm in female culture of managing expectations down to the lowest common denominator needs to stop. The fact is, Crawford per this recent photo is still spectacular-looking.
The sheer desperation displayed during the moment they diminish another woman shows why women still aren’t measuring up to men. Men do not spend their days lamenting Brad Pitt’s good looks. They accept differences in allocation as the norm. Women often find it easier to avoid building their own capacity and resort to establishing their value by tearing others down.
It’s depressing to watch women regress to redistributive tendencies instead of taking their own initiative to control what they can and let go of what they cannot. There is little value in worrying about what Cindy Crawford looks like, and men as a group seem to largely understand this. Women instead enforce the idea that only “good” woman is one who lowers her expectations to never exceed the lowest common denominator amongst the female population. Remember how a bad photo makes them “love” Crawford more.
The desperate need to attack accomplished women because they may make other women feel bad about their own accomplishments is a predominately female trait at the crux of what holds women back from assuming a sane and equal partnership in society. Until women are capable of admiring and aspiring towards those who achieve more than they can at that moment, they will remain behind.”
This explains why, in part, there is this kneejerk reaction to “respectability politics” among folk like Brittney Cooper, because being respectable takes work – just like looking good does. Yes, Tess is white and yeah, despite her large dress size, she still has a lot going for her, which explains in part why she’s getting all the press she’s getting right now. Nevertheless, it is plain as day as to the work she puts into her appearance – the meticulous makeup, the coiffed hairstyles, the choices in clothing – and that, as much as anything, is what sets a lot of the Sistahood off. As Ms. Otto rightly points out, it is the tendency and preference, for the Babe Borg Hivemind to denigrate those who put effort into anything, in this case, how they look, rather then bigging them up and aspiring to achieve at least something coming close – to do the best they can, to be the best they can be. As Ms. Otto further points out in her piece, men simply don’t spend a lot of time hating on Idris Elba or Brad Pitt – and that has definitely been true for yours truly. I may not have the looks of a George Clooney or a Tom Cruise, but I can work to improve what I DO have, while admiring them both from afar for their achievements and being class acts of human beings in the process.
The other irony that is glaring in the Guardian treament of Ms. Tess Holliday, is her tendency to do what I call a Princess Di Move. The late Royal was, at one time at least, the most photographed woman on the planet and would often use her paparazzi-fueled fame as a sounding board for issues she cared about – land mines and their impact on children in war torn third-world countries, AIDS and so forth; but Lady Diana also tried to engage the public and the press when it suited her, and pulled back or otherwise lament and berate them when it didn’t. Human nature aside, the truth of the matter was that Di chose to be in the spotlight; she chose to use that spotlight to her own ends. Yet, she also refused to pay the price of being in said spotlight – which entailed less than flattering media coverage of her life and times.
The exact same thing is seen here with activists of varying stripe like Ms. Holliday; I’ve experienced it firsthand in my tussles with Ms. Feminista Jones, to name just a few: ladies who feel that the media is their personal sounding board and bullhorn, that the public square is their personal stage and amphitheatre, one in which they simply don’t have to deal with, or even engage, those who dare to take a differing point of view to that which they have presented. If ignoring/blocking you doesn’t work, they take to trying to shame you, and if that doesn’t work, out comes silly and ridiculous charges of “stalking” and the like. These ladies conveniently leave out the fact that they were the ones who chose to make themselves public figures, and, well, there are long established rules for such an undertaking – you take all comers. You can’t be strong and independent and brazenly making a statement and striking a blow for all (BBW/”alt”) women everywhere on the one hand, and flop all over the fainting couch when the heat is on in reaction to what you’ve said or done, on the other. Acting in such a manner doesn’t acquit feminists well and in fact does more to support the view among many in the Manosphere itself, that a substantial number of women do indeed behave like children, not fully formed adults.
More Ironies Abound
Yet another ironic point in all of this, was something that I noted in my previous piece on Ms. Holliday and the larger, pardon the pun, issue she drew attention to: constrictive or rigid standards of attractiveness. As I pointed out to CNN’s Ms. Lisa Respers-France a week ago, while she and other Black women seem hellbent on “challenging” attractiveness standards FOR THEM, they don’t seem all that bothered by the fact People magazine hasn’t had a Black or other man of color “Sexiest Man Alive!” in nearly two decades, and hasn’t had a short-statured one in 25 years – as I make clear in an unpublished comment I left over on Clutch’s previous Tess Holliday discussion:
The problem I’m having with this discussion is the fact that very often, the very women who bemoan not being held up as a standard of beauty in society often will have no qualms in the least with checking only for the most conventionally attractive of men(!). I’ve discussed this in more detail in my column today:
Size Matters: How Tess Holliday Can Usher In A Larger Discussion About Standards Of Attractiveness
For example: using People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive!” cover issues, I took a look at the past three decades’ worth of such men; the results?
1. 15 of the 25 men selected/voted were 6′ tall and above (vs. only 15% of the adult American male population being that height)
2. Four of the men selected made the Sexiest Man Alive! cover, twice (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Richard Gere and Johnny Depp)
3. ALL of the men selected were in phenomenal shape – no “teddy bears” like Jonah Hill or John Goodman
4. Only ONE man of color has EVER made the list in THIRTY YEARS – Denzel Washington, in 1996 – and there hasn’t been a man of color to do so since
5. Only ONE short man has made the list – Tom Cruise, and that was 25 years ago(!).
A few weeks back, Clutch magazine covered remarks made by Mr. Eddie Huang and how he was savaged by Black feminists for daring to state the obvious – that out on the open mating market, Asian men are very similar to Black women in that both are seen as less desirable when compared to other demographic groups. People’s “Sexiest Man Alive!” list corroborates all that he’s said on the male side of things, because no Asian males have ever made the cut.
In my view, so long as women, in this case Black, are either unable or unwilling to take a long, hard look at their own attractiveness standards when it comes to (Black) men, nothing will really, truly, ever change. And worse, it will only mark them out as entitled hypocrites.
Mumia Obsidian Ali,
A Voice For Men”
Where The Brothas Aren’t
Finally, going back now to Ms. Holliday’s “Black men like me” remarks – I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone trotted out the bugbear known as “street harassment” and connected it to the infamous video made by outrage-outfit Hollaback! NYC last fall; I’ve treated that particular issue in some detail, as have my good friend and colleague Mr. Rom Wills, so I won’t belabor any of that.
What I do want to say this time around however, is to again note the delicious irony of the social justice warriors here – how they’re so quick to speak FOR Black men, especially of the variety that makeup the demographics of places like Red Hook, Brooklyn, instead of actually talking TO them. It’s why I became a citizen journo in the first place, because it became clear to me that Black men like me – working class, blue collar and salt of the earth – were never going to get a place at the media table to tell our stories and give our take on the issues of the day if we didn’t represent for ourselves. More than five years on from making that fateful decision, it’s good to see that I continue to be vindicated.
Neither Jezebel, the Root, Clutch or the Guardian, has saw it fit to talk to any Black men about Ms. Holliday’s remarks, one way or the other – this, in a age where we are supposed to be about listening to the voices of “others”. Hmm.
My personal experience of the so-called SJW crowd has been anything but positive – they seem so self-absorbed in their self-righteous crusades and lecturing of others as to how the world should work, that on the off-chance they actually come across someone like me – you know, who can actually write, think and express himself well beyond the grunts and snorts that are imputed to me and mine – I’m met with what AVfM colleague and social media director Ms. Janet Bloomfield has term “stunned silence”. Indeed, we kind of have a running inside joke and bet as to what it will finally take for the SJWs of the world to finally take notice of the “poor little people” like yours truly for a change. And since it has become clear to me that they will never actually sit down with guys like me, I’ve decided to give Black men like me a voice – hence the recent launching of my YouTube channel featuring, among other things, my daily podcasts, to be coupled very soon with video documentary content depicting everyday Black men speaking in their own voices.
I can just picture all the pearls that will be clutched, right now.
As for Ms Holliday, as the Guardian article makes poignantly clear, she is far from a natural public relations expert and has feet of clay with the best of them. Perhaps this episode will give her a lot to think about before she goes back out into the spotlight to tout her “cause” before the world.
One, can hope…
Recommended reading: Watchout For The Big Girl(TM): Real Rap Mating Info/Advice For The Larger Ladies
Don’t forget to checkout Obsidian Radio on YouTube – new podcasts daily! Here’s the latest: Concluding Thoughts (For Now) On Tess Holliday, “BBW Supermodel” & My AVFM Article