The hyper-sexualization of Black bodies is a real thing, one that starts young and travels with you your entire life. The first time I was catcalled, I was walking to the library. I had on jeans, an oversized hoodie and Converse sneakers. I can drive you home if you need me to.
I looked around frantically to see if any adults were in sight, and quickly ran into the library where I waited for my mother to come and get me. You know, the one who could make all the men fall at her feet, who could get anything that she wanted and had all the confidence in the world.
Of course, that was just the dream sold to Black youth and Black girls like me — it omitted the nightmare that came with it. And, when compared to white girls of the same age, the study suggested Black girls needed less protection, less support and comfort, and knew more about adult topics, like sex.
While being sexualized at a young age is not exclusive to Black and Latinx girls, it does seem to be more prevalent and, dare I say, normalized in our communities, although it did not actually START with Black or Latinx people.
During slavery, that idea was used to justify the rape, murder and other atrocities that Black girls and women were subjected to including mothering illegitimate children from their slave masters and even being objectified as pleasantries to white mistresses. She is me and every Black girl. Things such as wearing certain colors or styles of dress to even just how she looks could be enough to solicit attention.
I retreated into myself as a child to avoid such attention, especially given my natural ability to start and make conversation anywhere I go. I remember once wearing a tank top and shorts to the mall as a teenager, and immediately felt like my body was on display to the whole world against my will.
I felt dirty just walking in my own body, a feeling so many of us experience every day just by being who we naturally are. Later on, I was reprimanded by an elder for wearing the outfit to the mall, rather than consoled about how the negative attention from older men made me feel. Even into adulthood, I stayed away from shorts above my knee for the longest time. The problem is that the attributes the world has picked and prodded at in Black girls are the same things lauded when seen on a non-Black influencer or celebrity.
Social media has just exacerbated its visibility. The things seen as beautiful on Kylie Jenner are considered whoreish on me. Social media, and media as a whole, warped my brain as a child, so much to a point that I soon began to disassociate my body as beautiful.
It was difficult to look in the mirror and say that my body was sexy or gorgeous when everything around me was showing that a different type of body or a different type of girl was accepted even into adulthood and even with subsequent consequences. Okay, I have to jump. In my 20s, I learned about body dysmorphia and began to do research to see if there was any real merit to the idea that how one saw themselves could be different than how others saw them.
I would look in the mirror and I would see one thing, but my family and friends would see another. The rest of us just had to fall in line. I love my booty and my thighs, my smile and even my belly pudge.
Sometimes when you see the same type of influencer or body type, gaining momentum and steam based on a lie, it messes with you. Photoshop fails, both from influencers and celebrities alike, have shown that there is still an unhealthy obsession with how one looks, but more importantly, how others perceive them to be. Working in media now allows me to actively work toward changing the narrative that was constantly sold to me as a child, hopefully by showing more authentic and real examples of beautiful people from all walks of life.
I wish I could have told the younger me that she, even back then, already had it going on. Well, we can start now. Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the products and deals we love. If you love them too and decide to purchase through the links below, we may receive a commission.
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