A Commentary on the Celebration of a certain “type” of Black Woman
By: Jasmine Kiah
Now we all know that Black women are alluring majestic beings. Hence the term Black girl magic. We are versatile, changing our weaves and natural hair to fit the mood we are in. Our wardrobe, body image and more have been copied and pasted to the lives of women who aspire to be like us. We’ve embodied strength in areas of weakness, but through all of that “magic”, it is still taking media some time to warm up to seeing Black women as the “norm” or a standard.
Black women have been historically underrepresented and unappreciated in so many areas of life due to society failing to recognize the intersections of being both woman and Black. Malcolm X said it best, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”
This disrespect and dismissal of Black women is seen in the appropriation of our cultural trends, the fetishization of our bodies (especially when the same traits are glorified on other women *cough cough* the Kylie Jenner’s of the world) and the silencing of social issues that heavily impact us. Now this is not to say that Black women were not on television or seen at all, but rather limited to platforms such as Hip Hop videos where dozens of Black women are displayed as accessories to men. To be clear, this is not a celebration of and for Black women; and is definitely a false representation, reducing us to solely a hypersexualized body.
However, for the past few years, Black women have, more than ever before, with the help of prominent social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, taken it upon themselves to celebrate themselves and each other. But this celebration has left some standing in the doorway of what is now being deemed as “the ideal Black woman.”
Notable Instagram accounts such as @melenin.feed, @melanin.art and @blackskinwomen to name a few, are the mecca for the celebration of Black women and Black culture. But these accounts also shut out a vast majority of Black women whose body types do not identify with the slim-waist, big booty, flat stomach and perky breast image. The forever prevalent struggle of Black women fully loving themselves in their skin as it is still ranks as a pressing issue; but it is devastating to see accounts run by Black women solely praising Black women with “ideal” body features that are glorified by society as the norm all women should strive for. If these accounts somehow succeed in including various ethnic Black women from around the world, and women with various skin tones, then why not succeed in including various body types too?
The exclusion and underrepresentation on these pages cause body image insecurities among those that don’t fit the false “standard.” By no means is it the responsibility of the owners of these Instagram pages to provide some sort of affirmation and feeling of importance to every Black woman, but it is important to recognize the epidemic of many accounts only appreciating the “slim-thick”, model-like body type.
After interviewing a few Black women with various body types, some identifying with the body types on the accounts and some not, they all agreed that these accounts are a false representation of an entire community of Black women as far as body image.
“I’d like to see more women with bodies I can identify with,” said one woman.
“These women make me want to go to the gym and buy a waist trainer” said another.
Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the gym, (the waist trainer is a bit questionable), the reason should not be because of an exclusivity issue from Instagram accounts that are supposed to uplift ALL black women. If that is a person’s first response when looking at a page that features thousands of black women, then the account is not doing its job and fulfilling its purpose.
Celebrate our diversities amongst Black women, not just those that have infiltrated social media as “ideal.”