Commentary: Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes

The Lexington Herald-LeaderFebruary 13, 2013 

An Alabama high school football coach took time out in his fifth-hour psychology class last month to voice his opinions about First Lady Michelle Obama's body.

Critical of the healthy lunch choices the school offered, and noting that Obama was responsible for those low-calorie offerings, Bob Grisham called her "fat butt."

The only reason we know that is because a student recorded his comments. What made the student do that, I don't know.

"Look at her," Grisham said to the class. "She looks like she weighs 185 to 190 pounds. She is overweight."

He then told the class how he really felt about gays and lesbians, although he used a more derogatory term. The school board suspended Grisham without pay, ordered him to attend sensitivity training for four days, and removed him from that class for the rest of the year.

That's fine, but Grisham is just one of many discerning observers who are quick to call the bodies of some fit black women overweight.

I can't see any part of Obama that looks fat. She has a thin waistline, muscular arms and a rather normal-looking rear end. Based on what I've read about her, I think she is quite fit. I also think tennis champion Serena Williams is quite fit, despite the negative criticism she receives from her peers and the media because she can't be described as slim.

And then there is the teenage tennis champion Taylor Townsend, who nearly missed the U.S. Open last year because Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the U.S. Tennis Association's player development program, said he was not going to finance her in any more tournaments until she got in better shape.

"Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player," McEnroe said later.

Taylor is a mini-Serena Williams. She is 5-foot-6 and weighs about 170 pounds. The scales didn't stop her from earning the No. 1 year-end ranking for junior girls in 2012, the first time an American has done that since 1982.

Fortunately, Williams and Lindsey Davenport spoke out in her favor and the USTA refunded the entry fees Townsend's mother paid. McEnroe said the refusal had nothing to do with weight or body type. It was a "miscommunication."

Reportedly, Townsend cried when she heard what McEnroe said.

Look. I'm going to let you in on a secret: Not all women are built like Barbie. Not all women are thin as sticks. And yet, they seem to be quite healthy, despite not fitting our image of perfection.

Williams is one of the greatest women tennis players of all time. She has played in singles and doubles games on the same day. Fat, out-of-shape folks can't do that. Some skinny folks can't, either.

With all the exercise she gets, Williams has not shrunk one inch. She is who she is, and she is shaped the way God intended. She is strong. She is a professional athlete.

What are we doing to our girls? What are we doing to our women athletes? If Taylor is heavier than her opponents, but still skilled enough to beat them, what is the problem?

And why aren't we judging men with the same measuring stick? If it weren't for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, very few men would be in the news because of their size or body type.

If Grisham is correct and Michelle Obama has a big butt, so what? It hasn't stopped her from carrying out her duties intelligently and with grace. And looking beautiful in everything she wears.

I am not advocating being overweight. I'm advocating being fit, no matter what size you are.

One of these days, that will be the measuring stick for not only men but women, also.

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