The Policing of Black Women and Clothing
There is something quite sinister I have picked up on; something that reveals a subtle but prevalent belief system, where Nicki Minaj is projected upon the Black Female human body, and outsiders, who have no understanding or knowledge of who you are, judge you as a miscreant.
My Aunt on my Father’s side had purchased some dresses for me. One in particular, with sepia tones with black stripes, went well with my medium-dark skin-tone. It was elegant, and I love it. I wore it many a time to events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and many other types of functions.
This time, I wore this particular dress to work. It flattered me well. While it did have an open chest between it, I had always worn a camisole underneath. Never once have I worn it without one.
I arrive to work, with stares that indicated that I looked as though I was dressed half-naked. The dress was elegant; there was hardly anything inappropriate about it: hardly above the knee, not at all tight fitting, and, except the open chest area, I had concealed it with my camisole; one that went perfectly well with the dress. I have always worn the dress like this. Not once has there been an insinuation of its inappropriateness.
The same went with other clothes, especially the more feminine ones. I had a skirt — long and loose but flattered my body shape — and the same reception was received. And so on, with some other outfits, which I know would not have been deemed inappropriate if it was not worn on a Black body. The problem wasn’t really my clothing; the problem was that I was deemed “too attractive” for a Black Woman. I do not say this to be vain; it is simply something I have noticed over the years. Unlike many people, my hips are more prominent, and they carry everything I wear. I wouldn’t call myself busty, but I am not flat-chested either. So when I wear an outfit that is form-fitting, not otherwise tight, I am altogether condemned as though I am a whore.
This, I believe, goes back to the manner in which Black Women in particular, are represented and portrayed in the media, as well as the racist historical basis of these things. Black Women are often oriented as “hypersexual” and altogether morally deviant. You have TV shows such as Tyler Perry’s “Haves and Have Nots” and ill-labeled shows such as “Scandal”. One can only wonder what is insinuated by such a title. Generally, Black Women are often portrayed in unattractive manners, but when they are attractive, are usually put in rather degrading roles that objectify them and reduces them to sex objects. They are not seen as Women, but objects for lustful and debased sexual gratification. Minaj does not help this at all. She makes herself an icon, with her exaggerated hips, butt, and the scantily-clad outfits she adorns.
I found, people are more comfortable with Black Women, if they are not seen as attractive beings. People want Black Women to fade into the background and those who are neither seen nor heard, nor one who would draw attention. Black Women are not deemed “attractive” at all, unless they possess some level of European ancestry.
So when they fit into neither category; that is, they are neither “whores” nor “mulattos” people haven’t the slightest idea how to relate with us. There is a particular stigma towards Black Women; an unspoken but pervasive rule that permeates into the psyche; an indoctrination that is so well-established, especially here in the West, that, it cannot be ignored. So much so that, if someone, who is not Black, happens to be “attracted” to the Black Woman, she is automatically deemed a ‘seductress’. What is really being implied here is that, Black Women cannot be “attractive”. Therefore, the only basis by which one, especially not Black, would be attracted to a Black Woman, is that she must’ve “done” something ‘seductive’ to warrant the “attraction”.
In John Piper’s book, Bloodlines, he made an insightful observation. I will extract a section of the book where he states this, about “White frat boys, who would later become our corporate captains and managers” that Black Women are seen as,
“sexually indisrciminate, stupid, greedy, and lazy…”
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that this is the truth. I have experienced this first-hand in insulting and underhanded ways. Not to take it out of context, he was specifically referring to rap music and how it taints the supposed ‘Black Culture’. Of course, there are some errors, especially pertaining to Rap, as there are many forms of rap, not otherwise exclusive to gang-banging, the dehumanization of Black Women, or drugs, violence and what have you. However, Rap has become synonymous with this. I digress.
The fact of the matter is, this is how Black Women are perceived. So much so that, in fact, your mode of dressing, which is not otherwise inappropriate, is deemed inappropriate for the simple reason that the Black Woman looks attractive in it.
There is an underlying disrespect for Black Women in general. An implicit narrative that follows us wherever we go. God help you that, as a Black Woman, you are attractive, not possessing any European descent, and you overall dress well.
A best way to illustrate this bias I believe is from the movie, Schindler’s List. Based on a true story, about a German business-man named Schindler, who attempted to smuggle out Jews and sustain them during the Nazi regime, had encountered a violent and psychopathic Nazi-German soldier (Amon Geoth played by Ralph Fiennes), who made one of the Jewish Women his housemaid (Helen Hirsch played by Embeth Davidtz). In the movie, it is obvious that he was attracted to her. But, given the rules that no relationship was to be formed with the Jews, would project his attraction unto her, and blame her for ‘seducing’ him. It would then lead to her being beaten and severely brutalized by this man, who was clearly tormented by the discord between the Nazi-regime and its dogma, and his attraction towards the enslaved Jewish Housemaid. (By the way, an absolute necessity to watch, if no one has seen it).
This is the type of impression I have observed when I see where a Black Woman, does not fit into some pigeon-holed dogma instilled by racist origins and propagated and maintained by the media and perceived societal norms.
This is not to say, that Black Women are less or anything along those lines for that matter. Rather, it is exposing the underlying rhetoric that has been embedded into the psyche of the mostly Western hemisphere. This is not necessarily targeting ‘White Men’ in particular (although it is their ancestors who pioneered this). It is rather the revealing of deep-seated paradigms that influence the narratives and perceptions that is spread about Black Women — any of African descent, especially with no conspicuous revelation of European ancestry, as well as those who do not possess any.
I say this as a result of observed dichotomies with how mixed-race women (that is, possessing, in particular, some degree of African ancestry, but a clear revelation that the individual is not only of African ancestry) are oriented in society, versus Black Women in which it is glaringly obvious that they are of African ancestry.
This fundamentally occurs due to the power dynamics of society. People of African ancestry generally have the shorter end of the stick in society. Therefore, any attempt to challenge pervasive notions is usually downplayed, dismissed and ultimately silenced. The oppressor can act oppressed without facing any real repercussions for their oppressive behaviours.