Thought for the Day:
“To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t, is to learn inequality in little ways all day long.”
Question for the Day:
Do you think Black women are hypersexualized?
Okay, so once again I might have to go out on the limb of political incorrectness and take an unpopular stance in the name of helping my sisters getting lifted. Everyone’s (except real hip hop fans) favorite female rappers Cardi B and Meg the Stallion have dropped their hot new single “W.A.P.” and as expected, it’s blowin’ up. If you haven’t heard the song (and you’re over eighteen and not easily appalled), then take a moment to check it out and then holla back at me because I can’t even explain the title without offending my mama. I’ll wait…
Listen to audio here: https://youtu.be/Wc5IbN4xw70
Now after listening to that, I’m sure some of you are like many millennials who are pumping their fists in excitement. The women who are twerking their little hearts out to this record are claiming that it’s all about “female empowerment.” To them, it’s a celebration of a woman’s right to live however she chooses and is an example of strong women taking back control over their bodies and defining sexuality for themselves. Okay, maybe if that were all there was to it, I could get with that. Contrary to what folks might assume about us Gen Xs and Baby Boomers, we don’t take issue with sex or with a woman getting her fair share. However, because many of us were raised by parents and grandparents who experienced racism and sexism to a much greater degree, we were taught that how we present ourselves to the world matters. We still enjoy sex but mostly within the parameters of a healthy, committed relationship. Our generation is responsible for coining the phrase “lady in the streets, and freak in the sheets” which basically meant that all the nasty stuff you do should be kept at home and shared with someone special instead of being on full display for the entire world to see.
Call me old school (no really, I don’t mind), but I still believe that it’s no one’s business how I get down in my most intimate moments. This is why turning on the radio first thing in the morning and hearing braggadocious descriptions of sex acts while I’m having my coffee is, for me, off putting. What’s even more troublesome is that no matter how much I try to monitor what my daughter consumes, she will hear this music and could possibly accept the faulty idea that the power to get ahead lies between her thighs. Yes, I do my part to raise her right and to instill good values, but anyone who’s raised a teenage daughter knows that life advice sounds a whole lot sexier coming from a rapper. No, I don’t think it is an entertainer’s sole responsibility to impart good morals and values onto our children, but Black female artists do have a responsibility to understand our history enough to be conscious about the messages their music sends to the young queens who admire them. Racism, societal bias, and an overload of negative media depictions mean that Black women don’t have the luxury of consistently putting images out into the world that present us in a stereotypical light without consequences. I would never want my daughter to listen to “W.A.P” and determine that being good in bed is the way to get her tuition paid or “get a ring.” I would much rather she demand that people value her mind, her heart and her spirit first before they even qualify to experience her sexually.
As Black women, we need an awful lot of empowerment and encouragement which was my reason for creating this blog. But if we’re honest, sexual empowerment is probably the least important area of focus especially considering we have always been exploited and fetishized by larger society. The image of sexuality attached to American Black women was shaped in slavery as we were repeatedly and brutally raped by White slave owners. This chronic culture of sexual violence was justified much like all of the injustices enslaved Africans endured by reducing the Black woman’s humanity. White slave owners and overseers did not see female slaves as women, but as sex objects that provided an endless supply of free sex that could be taken regardless of a lack of consent. Black women were not allowed to legally marry Black men or engage in healthy sexual relationships with their men as their husband’s could be sold away at any moment. The emotional trauma that Black women suffered throughout the course of slavery was unspeakable as their men and children were frequently snatched from their lives by slave masters who also had the power to pillage their bodies at will. Sex between a Black man and woman was only tolerated as a means to create more slaves, not as a way to build families or communities. We were not allowed to read or become educated and could not openly practice the spirituality of our native lands. This denial of identity and human rights still has lingering effects as many of us are still fighting to reclaim that stolen identity which is why consistent efforts to affirm, validate, liberate, and empower Black women is a part of my life’s purpose.
True, Black women do need to be sexually liberated in terms of reclaiming ownership of our bodies, and I’m here for that. However, what I’m NOT here for is us buying into the slave mentality that asserts that a Black women’s p**** is the ONLY thing that makes her valuable. I’m also not here for the continued exploitation of our sexuality, especially when we’re the ones doing it to ourselves. Though I’m not a fan of either Cardi B or Meg the Stallion’s music, I respect that both of them have hustled their way to the top and are working to position themselves as business women who are creating opportunities for others and building wealth for their families. I also really love the fact that Meg the Stallion is a student at Texas Southern University and seems to recognize that even being a successful rapper doesn’t mean one’s education should be forfeited. Yet this is why I also find the lyrics to W.A.P. so troubling. A successful business woman and an HBCU student shouldn’t be making “there’s some hoes in this house” their mantra. When Cardi says “I don’t cook, I don’t clean, let me tell you how I got this ring” and Megan says “Pay my tuition just to kiss me on this…” they are basically disregarding everything else about them that makes them admirable women. Instead of letting the young women who idolize them know that inner beauty and a loving spirit can (and should) be what gets you a husband and that intelligence is what gets one through college, they are playing into the stereotype that Black women are wild, hypersexual and exist to fulfill a man’s kinkiest fantasies. This is the mentality that supported the long history of sexual trauma perpetuated against Black women. Unfortunately, some of us are willing to allow that narrative to continue if it means more money in our pockets.
Look, I’m not attempting to shame Cardi or Meg for being comfortable in their sexuality and being willing to express it. I do, however, hold them and all Black women of influence accountable for the distorted messages they may attach to sexuality. I am also taking our community to task for the dangerous imbalance that exists with regard to the messages and imagery we choose to support. If we were half as excited about the countless displays of intellectual and spiritual power that other Black women in our community have to offer, then this would be less of an issue for me. How many songwriters, poets and singers who seek to empower young Black girls intellectually, emotionally or spiritually go unsigned, underappreciated and unnoticed? When’s the last time you saw a female artist with a message of intellectual and emotional empowerment hit 20 million views in one day? The point is, I personally don’t think our society needs anymore emphasis on Black women as sexual beings. That point has been made loud and clear and largely at the expense of our ancestors.
My guess is that female Africans who were enslaved, raped, beaten, and exploited would much rather us use the freedom they were denied to showcase all of the other beautiful aspects of Black womanhood that they were never allowed to display. We can celebrate sexual empowerment all day as long as intellectual, emotional and spiritual empowerment don’t continue to bring up the rear. “W.A.P.s” have their place, but what about pride? I hope for our ancestors sake, it’ll be trending one day as well.
“Who can find virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”