The Evolution of the Black Woman: How Black Women Have Reclaimed and Redefined Femininity
In the 1970s, a new era of film was introduced and put Black women and their sexuality on the main stage. Blaxploitation films starring ‘70s sex symbols like Pam Grier helped to perpetuate stereotypes derived from slavery and evolved over time. However, it also helped to show the individuality and beauty in Black bodies and … Continued The post The Evolution of the Black Woman: How Black Women Have Reclaimed and Redefined Femininity appeared first on The Michigan Chronicle.
In the 1970s, a new era of film was introduced and put Black women and their sexuality on the main stage. Blaxploitation films starring ‘70s sex symbols like Pam Grier helped to perpetuate stereotypes derived from slavery and evolved over time. However, it also helped to show the individuality and beauty in Black bodies and why Black women would make their mark on society by embracing their womanhood.
What was once rooted in racism and sexism has now transformed into the reason why more Black women are embracing their femininity and shifting the classic narrative of womanhood. At Ferris State University, the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia has an entire display dedicated to the Jezebel stereotype. Noted as seductive, lewd, tempting and alluring, the Jezebel was used as a way to categorize Black female bodies. Stacked against the white standard for beauty and virtue, Black women were often made to be the opposite of what white women historically presented. With fuller bodies and a naturally infectious personality, Black women were shamed for what nature created.
Before there was slavery and modern film, there was Sara Baartman. Born in South Africa in 1775 and known for her voluptuous body, Baartman left her homeland under false pretenses and was put on display in “freak shows” across Paris and London. Her body shape was seen as a deformity. Naked and violated, Baartman was the center of attention for attendees to examine the differences in her body compared to European white women. Dying in 1815, Baartman’s remains remained on public display in Paris until 1974. Her remains were returned to her homeland in 2002.
“Some of such deformities today would be seen as curves. No matter the shape, size and background of a Black woman, we are seen as exciting, bizarre and subject to being a spectacle of cruel pranks, jokes and denials, even today,” says Brie Milan Starks, anti-racist educator and activist. “People continue to want to police our bodies in order to keep us in some box so that people who walk by will continue to be pleased. We are not a spectacle, freak show or circus act. We are uniquely formed, shaped and crafted one by one. All of our larger and distinct features make us beautiful, unique and absolutely gorgeous.“
As history unravels, we have seen the natural evolution of Black women from meekness to overt sexual energy. History has presented a clear indicator on Black women and the evolution of their feminine being. Though stemming from negativity, Black women are reclaiming their bodies and welcoming in a new phase of sexual fluidity and acceptance. Beginning in the 1970’s with the introduction of Blaxploitation films and lasting through current day, the celebration of the Black female body has begun to take center stage and Black women are spearheading the revival.
“I think, traditionally, the idea of Black sexual expression has been viewed as a negative thing within our society. The Black body has either been viewed as a capitalistic product or [our] sexuality has been used as a means of devaluation altogether. I think seeing Black women step outside of how society defines their womanhood is exciting,” says Ashley Craft, a clinical therapist Intern.
Hip hop artists of the 1980’s, 1990’s and beyond have also contributed to the hyper-sexual depiction of Black women. Video models such a Melissa Ford and Karrine Steffans helped to lead in a new wave of confident women who no longer place value in sexual rhetoric of the past or allowing the masses to place claims on their body or seductive nature. Embodying confidence, determination and womanliness, Black women are breaking the chains and taking back control.
“It’s just another form of oppression. Another way to keep us down mentally, to suppress our freedom, to justify men’s disgusting actions. Power and control. They love our bodies, but don’t want us to feel loved. So many still want ownership of Black bodies. There’s so much abundance waiting for us on the other side of their negative views,” says Jackie Hunter, early childhood specialist, vegan chef and content creator.
Gaining a lot of attention in the media, Lori Harvey, daughter of comedian and television personality Steve Harvey, has been the subject of speculation since her engagement to Dutch soccer player Memphis Depay in 2017. Since then, the 24-year-old has been romantically linked to singer Trey Songz, mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, rapper Future and most recently actor Michael B. Jordan. Calling attention to her dating life, women are backing the young starlet for choosing to openly date multiple noteworthy men.
“Why care so much about how a Black woman goes about her days finding and keeping love? We have to look at the happiness and confidence of those who wish to judge and condemn another woman. How happy are these people with their own lives? Love lives? It’s important to check ourselves before we continuously put our noses in places they don’t belong. Lori Harvey is a Black woman who has the right to find love or partners of any kind in any way she chooses,” says Starks.
Social media is a modern tool Black women have utilized to put Black female bodies front and center, unapologetically. Instagram model Amber Rose hosts yearly Slut Walks in urban cities across America to spread the message of Black body positivity and frown upon slut-shaming, a term coined for those who insult women based on their private decisions. As Black women become more and more comfortable with their bodies and their sexual natures, they are helping to reclaim the power lost through violations and mishandlings of the Black female being.
“Black women are determined. I think that’s why so much of the world focuses on breaking the women psyche. In an attempt to make us weak, to make us feel insignificant. When in actuality, if and once a Black Woman or any BIPOC woman realizes that we have everything we need inside of us to succeed, we become an unstoppable force,” says Hunter. “They fear that loss of power and control.”
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