In Gorgas Library, room 205,the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Alabama hosted a panel on Black Femininity. The conversation started off with an intense discussion about hypersexualization. The panel included four black women of varying shades and origins and the narrator. One black woman who is an obvious example of hypersexualization is Rihanna . She is one of today’s greatest fashion icons, but also a sexual icon as well. She can rock one of the baddest dresses this season, but you better believe that it will have a plunging neckline or a super-slit up the side. It was said that you’d never see her covered, looking wholesome with a shirt covering her chest.
The conversation never went too deeply on this topic, but it did make me think of the twitter hashtag that had the black community gasping in outrage: #FasttTailedGirls. It was a strong topic that dealt with the hypsexualization of black women the moment puberty hit. Was she still playing with the little boy next door? Fast-tailed. Were grown men checking out her budding breasts? Then, she was fast-tailed. The gist of the conversation was how dehumanizing the title fast-tailed was. It came from the mouth of your mother, who heard it from her mom, for fear of you being raped, because you were a young woman showing signs of entering adolescence. The phrase made you an object that needed to be locked away, because no one would tell young men to not rape you, but that you “better not get raped”.
The media plays a key role in the hypersexualization of the African-American female body with shows like “Becoming Mary Jane” and “Scandal.” The problem here is that a black woman simply cannot be successful and have a balanced home life. Mary Jane is successful but sleeps with someone else’s husband, because her own relationships fail. Olivia Pope sleeps with the president, because he is the project that made her successful. It’s exploitation of the black body. And even in shows like Sleepy Hollow it is clear that Detective lll is starting to develop feelings for Ichabod Crane (a very married man). What is that saying about black women? What is it telling black women at all age levels? Is it saying to young girls, ” Of course daddy left”? Is it saying to teenage and adult women, “Don’t expect to get married and keep that marriage”?
The discussion then turned to role models for black women. Michelle Obama was the prime topic. The media looks for ways to push her into the role of what they created to be the stereotypical black woman. Unfortunately, there is no stereotypical black woman, and for Michelle Obama, there is no certain role for her to play. She is fit, well-educated, a lady, goofy, and a good wife. What is there left to say? Can a woman not have dirty laundry, especially a black woman that is constantly in the public eye? Unfortunately we have to tell the media that this time they cannot attack a black woman and get the story to stick. And I’m pretty sure they were hoping to call either her or her daughters some type of whore, but they are some of the most well-dressed women out there. At the end of the day the message was clear: Leave black women alone, because we do not fit into man-made molds, and we are not sex objects, but living, breathing human beings.