If there’s one thing that society knows how to do, it’s mind women’s business way more than they should.
Between the cyber-backlash and think pieces about the ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Buss It’ TikTok challenges, Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallion’s “W.A.P,” the rise of OnlyFans income, and Chloe Bailey simply enjoying herself on Instagram, we really can’t have sh*t. And it’s stifling.
While men face their own set of issues concerning sexuality and identity, we can’t deny that, in many cases, women face considerably more harm. It seems like ‘Protect Black Women’ is no more than a performative catchphrase for some to sprinkle onto their social feeds like parsley.
Coded as it may be, the message being sent is quite clear: Black women’s bodies are commodities to be negotiated, scrutinized, and exploited at everyone’s leisure…but our own.
I wouldn’t be real if I didn’t admit that I was once a part of the problem. I’ll take it a step further: I was a f*cking hypocrite.
Though I grew up on empowering artists like Lil’ Kim, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown, and Nicki Minaj who blessed me with the bravado to liberate myself sexually, it was my guilt and insecurities that kept me shackled — the guilt and insecurities plagued by shame, judgment, and whatever else patriarchy and respectability instilled in us from birth. I’d weaponize stereotypes against Black women when it benefited me and satisfied my “internal male gaze.”
To be blunt, it was very f*cked up to project the same vitriol that crippled me psychologically onto other women. How can I claim to love, support, and advocate for Black women when I’m a culprit in the crimes against our humanity?
I needed to do some serious self-checking and soul searching. QUICKLY.
I realized that the “crimes” against us aren’t all as overt as calling someone a “slut/hoe/thot etc.”; the violence comes in many forms.
It’s giving unsolicited opinions on a woman’s appearance or actions.
It’s mistaking a woman’s moment of self-indulgence and expression as an invitation to approach or a cry for attention.
It’s condemning a woman’s behavior under the guise of concern for what people will say about her.
It’s belittling and differentiating yourself from other women to signal that you’re more worthy of respect.
I’ve done these things before. These things have been done to me. And, quite frankly, it’s disgusting.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so eloquently puts it:
“We raise girls to see each other as competitors […] for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way boys are. If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about their girlfriends. But our daughters’ boyfriends? God forbid. (But we of course expect them to bring home the perfect man for marriage when the time is right.)”
The girls that we shame for exploring their sensuality become women who lack the agency to control their bodies and aren’t comfortable expressing themselves. When we aren’t comfortable expressing ourselves, especially in a sexual way, we may caste judgment on and harbor resentment toward those who do so with ease.
I’m glad to be in the process of unlearning all of that BS, and I encourage you to do the same. We should all let go of the fixation with women’s bodies, her sexual past, present, and what they might imply about her future. (If Beyonce can evolve from ‘Nasty Girl‘ to ‘Partition‘ and ‘Flawless‘ then I have faith in us, too.)
If nothing else, leave here with this: a woman’s pleasure does not start nor end with the pursuit of men.
Put on that sexy dress, sis. Or those sweats. Beat your face or stay bare. Play that song and take that photo or record that video — you can even post it if you want. Act (or don’t act) on your own terms, unapologetically.
Listen to your desires, sexual and otherwise, and embrace that feeling. There’s no need to act on the feeling every time; letting it exist without judgment and guilt is enough.
Understand that we must learn how to satisfy ourselves before we can bring satisfaction to others (and middle finger to whoever says or thinks differently.) As I always love to point out: no one can shame us for anything unless we already feel ashamed.
So, the next time somebody tries to give you grief about what you do with your body, how you do it and why, channel your best Mariah Carey energy and simply ask, “Why you so obsessed with me?”