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Sex & Gender

The world feels entitled to Black women’s bodies, this dates back to slavery

July 20, 2018
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Black women’s sexuality has been at the focal point of unwarranted actions and conversations dating back to slavery. Whether classified as a Jezebel, Mammy or an Angry Black Woman, preconceived notions have led to the development of roles that too often we’re expected to fill.

Combine these pressures with that of modern day social media and you have the grandest situationship of them all. You might be wondering, “what’s a situationship?” Well, from what I gather, it’s all of the fixings of a real relationship without the title. Sometimes it’s exclusive and other times it’s exclusively casual.

Nonetheless, if you compare the media’s relationship with Black women’s sexuality to that of a situationship, you’d be shocked to learn that there aren’t very many differences. Getting to know someone, paying attention to their likes and dislikes, spending time together and becoming intimate are all indicative of a developing relationship. But what happens when boundaries are ignored, qualities are taken for granted and voices are silenced?

A video recently resurfaced of X-Factor co-host and Spice Girl, Mel B being groped by former co-host Louis Walsh during an episode. She can be seen acknowledging and then drawing attention to his hand on her bottom. Since the video’s resurfacing, social media users have shared their thoughts about the footage.

Walsh himself made the comment of “looking out for” Mel B by patting and squeezing her rear and then proceeding to continue the on-air conversation. While he and many social media users may see his actions as “light” or “playful”, his behavior and that of his boundary-ignoring counterparts has prompted the entire, #MeToo movement. By denying inappropriate intention in touching Mel B, Walsh is policing her sexuality by attempting to silence her and justify entitlement to her body.

There’s a silence that women are expected to embrace despite being wronged. And any act of objection is met with shame-inducing rebuttals. Model Salem Mitchell was featured in an Instagram post on TeenVogue’s feed, wearing a one piece swimsuit, chunky braid individuals and looking like #summergoals. But of course, it wasn’t long before a follower of the page made remarks about her appearance: deeming it “ghetto”.

Like the bold, trailblazer that she is, Mitchell responded alerting social media users and the general media that it’s the features of Black women that are and have always been considered beautiful…on other women. But by using such racially and culturally motivated remarks, that user attempted to negate her beauty and sexuality completely.

Now, more than ever is the time to reclaim our sexuality as these women have done by calling out the assaults and acts of discrimination. Model and activist, Samirah Raheem sets the record straight about terminology and the root of woman-bashing language.

Another case of a video resurfacing features the model-activist being interviewed by Jesse Peterson, an ultraconservative pastor. They discuss the term “slut”, to whom it does and does not apply. Raheem goes onto explain why the term “slut” no longer carries the same meaning as before because it’s been reclaimed and can apply to anyone.

By reclaiming the term to have diverse meanings, Raheem eliminates any power that a man may think he has in shaming a woman for owning and embracing her own body. She confirms that her body “is not a political playground” to which Peterson responds with “subtle” digs at her outfit and boisterous nature.

Each of these moments in media speak to our culture and the frequency at which Black women are silenced and policed. Whether legitimizing harassment or basing a woman’s worth on her sexual history, policing women must come to a stop. Particularly when the very elements of our identities that we’re shamed for embracing can be celebrated or rationalized on that of other women.

Learning about the impact of Black women on history, our contributions to beauty and celebrating them insincerely are the common missteps of those that attempt to berate our existence, to place us in a situationship without boundaries and without promise.

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