Don’t Feel Guilty If…You Aren’t White

by Elisabeth on April 27, 2010 · 66 comments

[Since so much of what we choose to blog seems tied up in what we feel like we should blog about, we at Hollaback decided to start a feature called, “Don’t feel guilty if…” Many bloggers have expressed concerns about blogging about aspects of their lives that might be different from what they see on other health blogs. So we’re going to be giving you lots of examples of things that are “OK” — things that maybe we didn’t feel OK about when we started blogging, but now we know totally are. Love, the Hollaback Girls.]

I don’t do average.

I was delivered by my father, on the floor of my parents tiny little house on a road named after a barn. This is not average.

When I was born, I weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces.

I’ve never done a cartwheel.

I once knocked the wind out of myself during a failed front somersault attempt.

I peed my pants in the fourth grade.

I’ve never been interested in white men, but I’m white.  You know—I’m white; but not WHITE white.

I haven’t checked the statistics, but I would venture to say that most health bloggers are white females who were raised in upper middle-class homes, with an average age of around 23-27.  If the blogger is married, her husband is also white.  He likes to drink beer.  He usually wears plaid shorts, Polo shirts, and Birkenstocks.  Sometimes, he lets the blogger take pictures of him posing with the wonderful food that was just prepared (and subsequently photographed).  Sometimes, he even cooks (and what a great husband he is)!

Me? I just turned 33.  Lipton Noodles and Rice-A-Roni were often on the menu growing up.  I’m lucky to have a great job now that allows me to branch out from packaged foods, but I’m intimately familiar with generic peanut butter, cheese, and cereal.  I’m engaged to a black man.  He’s black.  He was born and raised in DC, and as a young boy, he shared his home with roaches.  Did I mention that he’s black?  He played basketball so that he could get a college scholarship, and after graduation, he became a black cop. He likes kung fu movies, wouldn’t be caught dead in anything plaid, isn’t photogenic, doesn’t drink alcohol, and let’s just say I’m not marrying him because he can cook.

It may be shocking to hear, but just prior to starting my blog in 2008, I didn’t even realize that health and fitness blogs existed.  At that time, I only knew about one blog: The Pioneer Woman. I loved her quirk, her humor, and her love of life.

“I’m quirky, I’m funny, I love life!”

I’ll start a blog!

At that time, I was bursting with passion.  I was fresh out of treatment for my eating disorder, and I had signed up for my first 15K race.  I had a lot to say about health, body image, eating disorders, and I wanted to be the voice of a woman who broke out of her shell after 15 years in hiding with her eating disorder.  I was feeling very ‘girl power’, and I was ready to conquer the world!  After starting my blog and trolling around the Internet, I quickly realized that in the world of health and fitness bloggers, White wins.

When I realized that I had firmly embedded myself in the white bread world of health blogging, I started to feel left out in many ways.  In order to quell this feeling of not belonging, I tried personally connecting with other health bloggers.  However, when my fiancé and I were afforded an opportunity to meet some of these bloggers face-to-face, we both felt ostracized.  Based upon all of the concerned looks I received, I gathered that the majority of these health bloggers were not ‘down with the brown’.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time searching for my voice in the health blogging world, and I’ve invested a lot of time struggling to find a perfectly shaped role for myself in this virtual society.  Whereas health blogger would be my most accurate designation (considering that health is my ultimate goal in life), given the conventional cookie-cutter version of a “health blogger,” I’m just not sure I’m white enough to call myself one.  I don’t fit in anywhere in this health blogging world.  It’s been difficult to find my groove in a virtual world that is so overrun by people who are seemingly the exact opposite of myself, and it’s been nearly impossible to connect with people that I don’t innately know how to talk to.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m speaking an entirely different language, and nobody else understands or cares.

A great example of this minority blogger phenomena lies in the website Black Girls Run.  I have been reading Ashley and Toni’s site since they first started writing, and it has really drawn me in and allowed me to see things from the perspective of healthy women of color who are maintaining healthy lifestyles.  I love seeing this fresh perspective on running, health, and fitness in general.  It’s information like this that we need to see more of in the world of health blogging.

To me, learning is all about convenience, availability, and motivation.  If we are motivated to learn about something, and the information is convenient and readily available, we will likely learn about it.  However,  as health bloggers and readers of health blogs, how can we derive a fair amount of information from the thousands (millions?) of personal health blogs in existence if they are all the same, written from the same voice, and represented by the same type of people? When new health blogs come into existence and the writer represents a new cross section of the universe, rather than shy away, we should embrace them!  Thank them for showing us something fresh, and for opening up their world and their life to the rest of us.

Do you know of any other health bloggers who don’t fit the typical “mold”?  Please, tell me about them.

(If they live in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area, they are quirky, and like cycling, long walks in the park, dogs, and Chipotle guacamole, it would be preferred.  I need some friends).

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