No, Patricia, black women do not dress that way because of slavery.

A post that has been making the rounds on Facebook by a woman named Patricia expresses her disappointment with the, for lack of a better word, slutty appearance of other black women. She goes so far as to claim that “they feel compelled to walk around half naked, showing their bodies and see nothing wrong with it is because it was beaten and forced upon them during slavery.” And proceeds to claim that “before we were put on those slave ships, we never expose our bodies.”

Essentially, all these black women who attempt to disregard an out-dated subjective moral stance by general society are only doing so because white people forced their ancestors to. Makes sense, right?

Not really. In fact, not even remotely. Why? Let’s break this down (and explain how it itself contains its own racism)

  1. So white slave masters forced women to strip, so the descendants of those women also want to expose their bodies? Okay, and do you have proof that every single “slutty” black woman’s ancestry shows slavery? Humans are not dogs. It is quite literally impossible, biologically speaking, for a woman to have any inherent behavior just because something happened to her ancestors. That isn’t to say the actions of the past do not still affect us, but that is because racism is a modern issue as well. Racism is still relevant. Those that do anything allegedly because of white supremacy aren’t doing so because it once existed. It’s because it still does affect people in 2017. In fact, research has shown that the more subtle a form of prejudice or discrimination exists in society, the greater the impact it has on the target group cognitively. It isn’t enough that slavery is over.
  2. “Slave masters made us strip to humiliate us/punish us.” Did you look at a painting and just guess that? Or do you just ‘feel’ like that makes sense? OR did you actually use historical reverences and first-hand accounts? Yes, there is no question that slave masters humiliated and punished slaves. And yes, white men would rape slaves as a form of control. Sexuality and dominance had a very disturbing significance in relation to slavery, so it actually makes sense to assume that this was why many illustrations of slave women show their bare breasts. But is it the only factor? Of course not. Men were also largely bare in many of these instances, so why is there no supposed inherent black male slutiness? Well for starters, this lack of clothing often was used for slave masters to inspect the physique of the people in question, to see what work (if any) they were deemed useful for. This also allowed easier access to the skin for physical punishment. Female slaves often had their breasts exposed to sexualize the women and make them uncomfortable,and to perhaps increase the chances of sexual assault. But while this did occur, it isn’t true of every female slave. What about the descendants of the females slaves who didn’t have to expose their breasts? Are they the modest women we see today? Unlikely. If it was far more common for female slaves to be paraded around in the nude than it was for them to dress modestly, wouldn’t that mean that virtually all black women in the US are these immodest women? Is that not a bit of a stretch?

 

But easily the most blatantly incorrect and ironically Eurocentric of Patricia’s claims is that “before we were put on those slave ships, we never expose our bodies.” In saying this, Patricia not only reveals her ignorance of history, but she reveals her disrespect of fellow contemporary African women. She erases centuries of history of African women. She shows shame in the very ancestors that are responsible for her existence. How? 

pygmes-42_article_column

This is a family of the Twa peoples of Africa. This is no painting from a history book. It’s real, modern life. The Twa are a group of the Pygmy* peoples whose history dates back several centuries. Hundreds of years before the existence of “African-Americans.” Before many Africans were uprooted. See that woman and two lovely children? Now show me the white man forcing them to dress like this. You can’t. But the worst thing is, is that there is an effect from racism on these people. But you cannot see it here. They’ve experienced genocidal violence, cannibalism, eviction from their land, and more. And for what? So that they will dress modestly and settle into society as accountants or electricians or whatever other fantasy that the surrounding areas want. This is not who they are, it is not who they have been and it is not what they want. They would prefer to continue their proudly indigenous lifestyle (that, yes, includes being topless *gasp*) that to be robbed of their cultural identity just because some white cultures across the seas find them offensive.

“A ‘Pygmy’ loves the forest as she loves her own body” -MBENDJELE SAYING 

himbadancer

Guess who else never left Africa, and whose traditions predate much of foreign slave-trade history? These proud Himba women. Still modern. Still not forced to be this way. And still enjoying their rich African heritage. That is of course, when white tourists aren’t stopping by and looking at them like they’ve arrived at a freak show. Or when all the men and boys are being forced to live to go to the cities to try in vain for jobs that they wouldn’t need, if they were just left alone. Or when foreign people aren’t introducing drugs, alcohol, and junk food.

Shakaland-Tour

As you can see, indigenous Africa isn’t all just white little churches and dresses from 1950’s America. If you are a black women, you most definitely had ancestors at some point in history who exposed their bodies long before white man even knew what Africa was. And why? Because their cultures, yes…plural, don’t always perfectly mirror the standards of Western civilization. And they don’t need to. The African peoples who cover themselves head to toe are just as African as any of the people listed here. You cannot just generalize all black women outside of Africa and say with certainty that no ones ancestors happened to be like these people. And if they did, all the more power to them!

So what about historical Africa then? The great civilizations? Well surely there was no way a woman ever exposed her skin! Wrong. 

“…some of the archaeologists who unraveled the story of the Sun Pharaoh had difficulty accepting what they found and became highly critical of Akhen-Aton and Nefertiti. “‘Brought up in an environment of Victorian and puritanical notions, they condemned these entrancing figures of Egyptian history because they discovered that not only the Pharaoh and his wife but also their children and officials went around with too few clothes (transparent at that!) or no clothes at all, that they practiced nudity in the royal palace, in the royal gardens and swimming pool, that they loved physical beauty, valued good food and wine, and led a frankly joyful existence’.”

What was that about skin exposure not existing before the slave ships arrived? Hm…

African history is full of women who dressed in a variety of less-than-your-idea-of-modest ways. This wasn’t the result of white people (ha, like they could be responsible for that much diversity in cultures). It’s purely African, purely human. To look at this history and all these variety of people with shame or disgust is to be ridiculously shallow and indicated nothing more than your lack of true values. Not theirs. 

But anyway, does it really matter if white people actually were responsible for this alleged epidemic of black slutiness? Well, let’s think about it. Things white people definitely aren’t responsible for: Nudity. Things white people definitely are responsible for: Crusading around the globe to erase indigenous culture and force people to convert to Christianity (often at gun point and/or threat or rape). Hmmm. Yet there appears to be an issue many people have here with nudity, because of their Christian values. Interesting. Patricia claims white people want black women to be overly sexualized, but white people have most certainly instilled the idea into everyone’s heads that there is only one good way to be: Capitalist (contrary to the vast majority of indigenous cultures), monogamous (still contradictory to many indigenous cultures), Christian (contradictory to virtually every indigenous population), and the list goes on and on. Let us also not forget the plethora of other indigenous POC currently facing hardships due to racism who also still have and have had nudity or skin exposure in their cultures as well. May as well say white people created the moon, if they are responsible for that much of human global culture and all of human history. 

Have you ever asked: “Are my values really mine, or were they too enforced upon my ancestors?”

But to conclude, the REAL reason anyone is any amount of “slutty” is because this is the United States** (or other area) where we have the freedom to be. Confidence. The primal beauty of courting. Self-love. Enjoyment of what it means to truly embrace humanity. The way YOU respect YOURSELF doesn’t have to align with every other woman in existence. Because just like Africa, women too are diverse with a variety of different beliefs, values, and traditions. 

*”Pygmy” was once a derogatory term but is now preferred by many of these tribe members.

**Not everyone is here  in the US, obviously. But many of the black women I knew personally were. If she wants to refer specifically to her own black ethnic group or nationality, that is fine (albeit still inaccurate). Yet now many black American women feel their self-love is a shameful result of dark American history, and that isn’t okay.

***Yes, not everything white people do is bad, not all of white history is bad, POC history has faults too, etc. This all is beside the point, and everyone is aware of this already.

Advertisements