Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Haley Reading (Group 2): Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s “The Body’s Defense Against Itself”

[Haley Reading groups Spring 2021]

By Lakenzie Walls and Howard Rambsy II

In Nafissa Thompson-Spires's story “The Body’s Defense Against Itself,” we catch up with Fatima as an adult. She is in the midst of yoga poses when Fatima notices another Black woman in the yoga session. Fatima looks back on her childhood relationship with Christinia, the only Black girl in her elementary school.

In one instance, Fatima reflects on her conflicts and rivalries with other Black girls and that preceded her thoughts about the Black woman in her yoga class. At the end of the story, she recalls, “I’ve been doing this yoga since I was a child. I wish I were more evolved” (64). Apparently, Fatima realizes that she somehow struggled with the only other Black girl or Black woman for quite some time.

It’s easy and understandable to have a judgement about Fatima’s struggles with the only other one. But for now, let’s replacement judgement with curiosity.

What’s something you became curious about, wondered about, or questioned as a result of reading this story? In brief, why would the question you raised or what you became curious about be important to consider?

54 comments:

Tatiana D. said...

One thing I questioned about Fatima is whether or not these poor experiences she's had in the past with girls her race has contributed to the way in which her mind is conditioned as an adult. Fatima has on multiple occasions found herself comparing herself to other women (Black women in particular) and I'm wondering is this due to something in her past. It is not uncommon for women with a history of abnormalities and or other insecurities so constantly compare themselves to others, therefore I believe this is worth considering due to her friendship history.

Arielle S. said...

My question is and always will be why so some women view other women as competition rather than as peers? I am big on feminism, equality, and fairness when it comes to gender roles and all of that but women really need to come out of this fake competition with each other and learn to lift others.
Joining NACWC was one of the best things I could have ever done I created a new bond of sisters and we love "Lifting as we climb." In the story, Fatima is continually trying to compete with Christina; talking about her mother's occupation as well as the two of them going back and forth. This needs to stop

Paris S. said...

From reading Fatima's story, one thing I came to question is how Fatima's past experiences influenced the way she perceives herself and other black women. From her past experiences, she always compared herself to other black women, such as Christinia. It makes me wonder if her comparing herself to other women is a form of insecurity that she has of herself. In today's society, I believe that it is important for black women to uplift each other rather than compete against one another.

Walter Carroll said...

This story made me bring up the question again, why are we as black men always so condescending and hurtful towards black women? I hear from a lot of black women that they feel most disrespected by the black men, that they always fight to protect, sometimes more so than they do from any white person. I think this disrespect that is shown to black woman also is a major cause for them to feel insecure and feel like they are in a competition with each other.

-Walter C.

Kayla Person said...

Reading this story made me questioned why we as women sometimes tend to have have rivalries with other women without even knowing one another. It can start at a very young age, similar to Fatima and Christinia. I wonder if this is something that naturally happens or if it is learned. It’s important for black women to come together considering today’s society.

-Kayla P.

Peyton Payne said...

As a result of reading this story, the question that was raised was that I wonder how many people can relate to each others struggles but go unnoticed for some reason. Rivalries are common and often distract us from someone we may relate to on a personal level.

Lesley S. said...

This story has made me wonder why women, specifically black women, need to do the most just to be looked as as an equal by their peers. Fatima has attempted multiple times to "be perfect," yet she is still made fun of. Often times, females get called a "try hard" when they want to present themselves better, but then they also get called a slob whenever they don't. It's like women are expected to please everyone and end up comparing themselves to other women who are praised. This is not a healthy mindset for anyone, male or female, so why is it such a problem?

Paige G. said...

My biggest question is why did Fatima alienate herself from the person who would be able to understand her better than anyone else around her. Women should support women and that especially goes for women of color because they have such a hard time finding their place in society as it is. The rivalry they have is astounding to me as I tried to befriend everyone who looked like me growing up in Texas because it was easier to relate to them.

Brighten B. said...

Something that I have become curious about as a result of reading this story is if other people like me have felt the same way in situations I have felt odd in. Seeing how Fatima has struggled made me curious about if people have felt the same way as me. This curiosity that has come about is important because it helps me see myself as me. It is also important because it helps me realize that other people like me have been in the same situations and felt the same way as me in those situations. This curiosity has led me to deeply think about this and made me realize how I feel about it.

Marianne Huck said...

My question is: why all the competition? While I suppose I know why feel down: society has always pitted minorities against each other because if you can’t see your other fellow down in their luck human as a partner or friend then you won’t work together to revel against the oppressor. America has always pitted Africans against African Americans and vice versa and until the age of Roots no majority ever questioned the status quo. I suppose the scenes in this chapter make me think a lot about our current society.

Marianne Huck

Marianne Huck said...

After reading this chapter, I mostly thought about how people go though life living with the false narrative that they have to be alone and they should isolate from things that aren’t familiar to them.

Nyah Crockett said...

Something I questioned after reading Fatima's story is why women always feel the need to compare themselves and compete against other women. I even find that this is true in myself at times and it baffles me because I wonder why we feel this way. And as a result of these comparisons, we try to bring others down because of it, like Christina noticing the only other black girl, Fatima, had a "better" body than hers for example.

Zaria Hankins said...

After reading this story something I have become curious about is why do women tend to become so fixated or obsessed with image. Fatima seems to spend a lot of time obsessing over and criticizing both her image and other women’s image. She, similar to many women, seems to be determined to be seen as perfect. And it seems like she only notices positive things about herself after she points out negative things about other women whether it be their weight or their “desperation” to be seen and accepted by others. This would be an important question to consider because jealousy and competition are very common in our society especially between women. And this constant need to be the perfect or better woman often prevents women from uplifting and celebrating each other. It leads to women having more insecurities and believing that their worth is dependent on their appearance.

Maurice King said...

A question I have regarding Fatima is why is she letting experiences in her childhood control how she views herself and other women, especially black women, through adulthood. Itis important because from what I have experienced is you can change no matter what anyone says about you. You are the only person you need to impress.

Chaianna Curry said...

One thing I became curious about as a result of reading this story is why women (including Fatima) tend to automatically throw themselves into a mental competition with other women. Is it because we've been so conditioned by society to always compete for male attention? Or is it because we trigger insecurities in one another? I wonder how this issue can be resolved, seeing as it showed up in this story as well as in every day life (both on and off social media).
-Chaianna Curry

Aalita Cole said...

Something I've questioned while reading this story is what other people see when they see me. When Fatima was doing yoga she unconsciously judged the new woman who joined, she judged her by her weight, her gracefulness (or lack thereof) and created her own opinion of her filled with some animosity that she had from past experiences. I wonder what people think of when they see me, do I remind them of their past, do they misjudge me and determine an attitude towards me despite the fact we've never talked?

Tyler Bean-Catencamp said...

I suppose something I became curious about would be Christina's mindset when it came to Fatima. In a predominantly white school, why would you torment the only other black female student there? Especially in school, where people tend to group up with other students like themselves. I guess it raises the question of why she did it. Was is possible that Christina herself was insecure about being one of only two black girls at the school?

Jania Garrison said...

While reading this story one question I have is why do women, specifically black women, feel that they are competing against each other. I question this a lot because black women and women in general are constantly facing criticism, so why would we as black women not try to lift each other up and be there more for each other. Fatima and Christina's relationship is a prime example of this. They go to a predominantly white school and instead of being a support system for one another, they are each others biggest rivals.

Tiffany Ellison said...

One thing that I wonder about, especially since reading this story is how judgemental and competitive black women can be towards each other. Even though it's not always. Like in the story, Fatima had judged the new woman before actually talking to her. And throughout the story, you can see Fatima's "rivalry" with Christinia, and how Christinia picks on Fatima a lot more than everyone else in their school, even though they are the only two black people. This story has got me thinking about just how many times I've been judged unconsciously or how I've judged unconsciously and it's just really interesting to think about.

-Tiffany E.

Jared Willis said...

One thing I questioned when reading was the fact that Fatima compared herself to other black women and instead of being uplifting, she was quite the opposite. I feel like in today's world it is important to be uplifting of others, especially concerning those considered a minority whether it be race or even gender. Seeing as Fatima is a black woman it was just strange to me that she wouldn't be supportive of other black women who were doing better and use that to grow rather than get upset about the situation.

-Jared Willis

Nijay Spellman said...

While reading the story, I'm curious about why Fatima always has a problem with not being the only African American woman in a setting? I feel that this just makes her compare herself to others and causes her to have low self-esteem. I feel that this is important to consider because we need to be comfortable in our skin to where we are not concerned about others and that we have no problem uplighting others as well.

Nijay S

Kiya R. said...

One question that I have since reading this story is: How does the process of socialization that Black women specifically go through possibly lead to Black girls and women feeling as if they have to compete with one another? Through seeing Fatima and Christinia, I have realized that their desire to compete with each other as children is not an isolated incident at all, and it made me wonder about what specific aspect of the socialization process that we go through may prioritize this same competition. Due to the intersection of racism and sexism (amongst many other identities depending on the person) that Black women experience, I believe that these oppressive systems have somehow caused Black women to sometimes want to compete with one another, perhaps because we are provided with even less opportunities than the average individual.

I believe this is an important question to pose because it may help Black women put their childhoods (or even adulthood) into perspective. There may have been many times where Black women may hold grudges from people who tried to compete with them, which is valid, but we also must provide each other with some grace sometimes due to oppression affecting all aspects of our lives, including communication with others.

Josy Kanyi said...

After this reading, I began to do some reflection and started thinking about how many black women I've felt threatened by just based off of past experiences. I came to the realization that I didn't per se feel threatened or feel the need to compete but I've in the past, same as Fatima, held higher expectations for black women with common thoughts such as, "she knows better," or "her momma taught her better". The most recent occasion whereby I had these thoughts was when I recently started working at Starbucks and needless to say, it's a predominantly white environment so I walked in with the expectation that the other two black baristas would immediately bond with me and oh was I in for a rude awakening.
{Josy Kanyi}

Elizabeth Kyande said...

my question would be, Why must it always be a pattern when it comes to females being rivals? Growing up my closets family were males. I never really had female figures that I could look up to and I simply avoided females just because of that stereotype that females always have drama and all. In my late teenage years, all that changes because I choose go give females a chance and that has been a blessing in my life Despite that there can be drama at times, issues can always be solved through communications and actions.

-Elizabeth Kyande

Lexis Lewis said...

Something i questioned is why did Fatima make fun of Christinia once they were in high school together. In grammar school the two were not friends at all. As time went on Christinia bullied Fatima more. But when the two went to high school they were considered "friends". But in the text you see that Fatima talks about Christinia weight in front of all of their friends and they laugh at her. But Fatima did not approve when Christinia made fun of her for having her sweating issues. It is important to consider why does when a person try to change for the better there are always negativity that follows them where ever they go. Christinia was a bad person to Fatima but that doesn't have the right to allow Fatima to do the same to her. T

Alleson Huntspon said...

One thing I've alway been curious about that was exemplified in this story is the fact that somewhere in history the union of our race has been damaged. We as black folk are supposed to stick together because often times we are the ones discriminated within our world.We're suppose to have each other's back at the end of the day, but it seems like we are often the ones discrediting, degrading, and tearing each other down or even worse like the two younger girl's experiences here in competition with each other. What changed what made us become often at war with one another instead of team working situations together and getting through things together. -Alleson H.

Richard Haley said...

My question is why does Fatima always compare herself to other women. When she compared herself to them it was never in a good way she never uplifted them it always seemed to be a competition between her and another black woman. I feel like she should be doing the opposite considering the fact that black women get treated the worst out of everyone in society.

-Richard Haley

Cynthia Martin said...

A question that kept coming to mind is why Fatima feels the need to compare herself to other black women in a setting like this. It seems to come from a place of insecurity and low self esteem. Often times the minorities in a social setting are drawn to each other as they share a similar experience and can understand each other more.

Mya Jackson said...

One thing that this story made me question is why women feel the need to compare themselves to other women. For example, Fatima is comparing herself to the only other black woman in the room without knowing her. I believe Fatima does this because she feels like she is constantly in a competition. Similar to when Fatima is comparing herself to Christina in negative ways. This scenario is common for women in our society which causes us to make false assumptions about other women. However, it would be more beneficial for women in today's society to uplift other women rather than bring them down.

K Carter said...

I wondered why sometimes black women tend to see each other as competition and not as queens that uplift each other. This question is important because as black women in society we should uplift each other and avoid being jealous of one another.

Ilysa Walker said...

My question is when will we, as African Americans stop degrading and alienating each other rather than encourage, shield, and enlighten each other? It is what other races slap us with that we can't defend against until we come together and negate those faults. It is imperative to uplift our race so that our unity can be a weapon rather than our dissociation being our downfall.

Ilysa Walker said...

My question is when will we, as African Americans stop degrading and alienating each other rather than encourage, shield, and enlighten each other? It is what other races slap us with that we can't defend against until we come together and negate those faults. It is imperative to uplift our race so that our unity can be a weapon rather than our dissociation being our downfall.

Byron Coulter said...

A question that has risen in my head is, is competition worth the possible relationship you could have with someone? In my opinion I think competition is healthy. Its one of the reasons for self improvement. For example Samsung and Apple are in continuous competition with one another but with that, they are constantly pushing out better more innovative products to keep up with each other, thus making their consumers happy in the process. The reason this question was relevant to me is because even if competition leads to self improvement, is that worth having a genuine relationship with someone of your same demographic. Relationships are something of high substance when you are living in todays society. In Fatima's situation a good relationship with another person who looks like her would do wonders. But she only cares about being better than her peers. Which could possibly lead to more negative effects rather than positive.

Carah F. said...

My question is what’s an appropriate amount of time to allow your past trauma and childhood issues rule your life? I absolutely believe that everyone should confront and acknowledge it. However, some don’t realize you should just move on. It seems so exhausting to keep worrying about the past.

Anonymous said...

Thaira Mason said...
One thing I questioned was why did Fatima always feel the need to compare and compete with the other black women? This is something that happens often and it is very sad. As black women we need to stick together and come together because we are very powerful individuals. I think women as a whole should be uplifting one another but especially black women because it is a true proven fact that we are the most disrespected people in the world. We need to stop judging one another including me.
-Thaira Mason
March 20, 2021 at 12:07 AM

Anonymous said...

One thing I became curious about after reading this story is how common it is for minorities to compare themselves to others in search of differences rather than in search of similarities. This entire book has had moments of highlighting the differences between characters and the individual character's struggles over said differences, such as Fatima competing with the only other black girl in school and even seeing her think back to that years after the fact. Rarely in my personal life do I experience the opposite, where similarities are subconsciously highlighted and appreciated, most commonly it is differences -both good and bad- that are first drawn to my attention. To a degree I agree with Fatima and share a similar mindset which in and of itself is an example of just the opposite. I think it is important for all of us to realize it is okay to be similar and different to other minorities. It is good for us to maintain diversity in our personalities and presentations, to not fit stereotypes and to express individuality. More importantly, to not compete with or judge each other for our differences and similarities.

Kendall Fry 3/19/21

Anonymous said...

I was really curious about how her experiences with other black women early on in life shaped who she was today. It seems like her interactions are driven by comparison and competition, and I wonder how that has affected her personal life up to this point. It’s a common expression that black women have to work twice as hard to get half the credit, and seeing how Fatima places herself in competition mode constantly seems to point at societal pressure for her to act that way.

Jalen White 3/20/21

Anonymous said...

Something this story stirred up in me while reading it would be my own identity as a black person because this book showed me that there are so many different walks of life and not one single black narrative we all relate to. The question of who am I as a black woman is important because I’m gonna be this person my whole life or I need to make changes to be more of an asset to my community and figure out how to navigate spaces in the best way for me. Once I know and am secure in my identity everything else should flow with me.

Kaelyn Cupil, 3/21/21

Anonymous said...

Ebonie Byrd said...
From reading this portion in the book, my question would be why does Christiania hold so much significance in her life still? It seems Fatima still has issues that have stemmed from Christiana and I think she should focus on how she can get over these issues.Since Fatima didn’t grow up around a lot of black girls I feel she has a need to constantly compete with other black women to prove her place.
March 16, 2021 at 8:48 PM

Unknown said...

In the story, Fatima is constantly in competition with Christina. This made me question why sometimes women see other women as a competitor rather than a teammate. I ask this, not solely because I am a feminist, but also because women empowering other women is important. As a woman in society, it is HARD. We already have to deal with the patriarchy, societal expectations, and so much more, that other women should not be one of our issues. If all women viewed other women as friends instead of potential enemies, we could be so much stronger as a whole.

Kylie Jackson

Tymia Sleet said...

This story made me question why women, especially black women feel as though they have to always compete with one another. Fatima always saw Christina as a competition and their mother's made them feel that way. It is a very challenging thing to be black AND be a woman in society and we need the empowerment from other black women instead of competition.

Anonymous said...

Something I became curious about while reading this story is the competitiveness between women. I find this to be true especially with black women and I wish that we could use this energy to come together and create instead of using this energy for rivalry. I think sometimes we aren't even aware that we are doing it, it has just become a part of society but we can change it.
Fatima Bashir

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Reading this story made me question why women feel like their image have to meet a certain standard and why they feel as if they are in competition with each other. I believe that your image should be based off of yourself and how you want to be viewed, not based off of what the next person or woman is doing. African American women specifically should try to look at each other as friends and peers, not as competition all the time.

Janielle F. said...

This story made me question why women, especially black women, aren't allowed to see each other as equals when put in the same situations. Fatima and Christina had a lot in common yet they were almost always at odds with each other for no reason other. I wish they had been friends rather than rivals.

A'nyse Huddleston said...

After reading the story, the question raised of why can't we as black women learn to accept all of who we are as a person and as a woman. That includes mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; also knowing that it is okay to show emotion and we don't always have to be strong. God didn't give us emotions to not use or experience them all. With us as black women, we are the most degraded and underappreciated by the world and the sad part is it's also within our own community. These two women have a trait of not loving all of who they are for it was past down from their mothers who do the same thing, but it is also a defense mechanism to shield the truth about what all that consists of their true being. A lot of times we don't allow ourselves to feel and have a moment to not have it all together or taking a moment to express how we feel in that moment and release it. All of this comes with time and self discovery and knowing it is okay to be human and to be no more than what we are.

A'nyse Huddleston said...

After reading the story, the question arose is why we as women, especially black women can't love ourselves fully flaws and all. This story shows two young women who were given a unstable defense mechanism to shield against who they really are mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. To stow away their feelings and how they perceive things. This story tells us there is a lack of true self love for ourselves as women and for one another.

Kamya C. said...

Throughout reading Fatima's story, I questioned why she felt competitive towards other black women and if her first interaction with Christinia caused it. I think this is important because this was her perhaps her first memorable interaction with another black girl and because they were the only ones, it felt as if they were pitted each because of their environment. Instead of coming together they became enemies and from that point on Fatima seemed to connect black women with Christina (that being their negative relationship) and thus view them as enemies.

Deja L. said...

After reading this I wondered why as black women we're always compared. I think it's important because Fatima felt the need to compete with every black woman in her life, but society makes us compete regardless. It's almost treated like diversity is a huge need and we wanna see black women eat, but there is only one seat at the table.
-Deja Lane

Unknown said...

A question that kept coming to mind is why Fatima feels the need to compare herself to other black women in a setting like this. It appears to be the product of fear and low self-esteem. Minorities in a social setting are often attracted to one another because they have a common history and can better understand one another.

Ashanti Young 3/22/21

Alexis Short said...

Being a mixed girl and woman I hate trying to compare myself to other girls rather they are of a different race or ethnicity. I hate that in this story Fatima is always comparing herself to others when she is her own person and I hate that Christina and Fatima were the same race and they hated and despised each other. It also did not help that their own mothers put that mindset of hating each other when they actually needed each other in many ways. Competitiveness and judgemental, unfortunately, is a mindset most women have because women can be very self-conscious about themselves and they are always wanting to look like victoria's secret models which not many women can look like that it can make women look at their bodies and hate themselves for it. I just wish women would work together instead of against each other and be unique and not copy others, just be your true self.
-Alexis Short

Cheyenne Carpenter said...

This made me wonder why does she feel the need to be more evolved? Who has she compared herself to that makes her feel like she should be better? I agree with wishing to be better because as Black Women, society has definitely made us feel less than others, even our counterparts.

Mark Steven Lewis said...

I'm curious about how she conditions other parts of her life; since we mostly focused on the school, we ended up skipping over a decade worth of information. The fact that she went on the pill seems more impactful than it was portrayed to be. I think it's important to see how whatever decisions she made between 19 and 33 affect her now.

Chantay Peoples said...

I am curious as to why is everyone trying one up and compete with one another. It's not surprising since it's always been like this. It's the modern-day system that was built for old-time views. To pit minorities against each other is to blind them from the greatness they can achieve if they banded together. I guess I just hoped to be surprised by people banding together even though I know that it will more than likely never happen. My curiosity is naive, my mind overwhelmed, and my heart numb to it all.
Chantay Peoples

Avery Owusu-Asiedu said...

I wonder why she feels the need to compete with every black women she sees. It seems like her experience in school has really had an impact on her, and each day she feels the need to prove herself.