Some Inspired Thoughts on What it Means to be ‘Black’ and ‘Female’

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As a soul inhabiting a body marked ‘Black’ and ‘female,’ I occupy a liminal space. I am never simply human. I must be magical. I must be hyper-sexual. I must be different. My body is the terrain of power’s exercise, like an intimate embrace that shapes me without my consent.

Phallocentrism pervades our society indeed, but in the context of compulsory heterosexism, it is often the flip-side of a preoccupation with the pussies and wombs of brown-skinned women (though it would be a mistake to assume that all women have those parts). The desire for the Other is also a fear of the Other’s possible progeny. Re/production is that messy, entangling process, which threatens unity and disequilibrium in an utterance. The threat is even worse if the same act is not procreative.

To be Black and female is to be invisible and hypervisible at once. It is to be the nature in the nature-culture dyad. Brown-skin and curved body like the earth. To be a Black woman is to embody fecundity and transgressive desire which must be enacted (Sapphire, Jezebel) or vanquished (Mammy- who is presumed to have once been fecund).

To be Black and female is to wonder if white men see me, and not just this body that society tells them is a space of conquest and domination. It is to wonder whether that eye contact was intentional or whether it was aimed too high. To be Black and female is to be implicated in any sexual violence that is wrought against me, on the basis of my inherent promiscuity. My body’s imputed voice “asked for it.” It wasn’t me. I fought back. It was my body- or rather, the construction of the Black female body imposed upon me.

To be Black and female is to startle others with my self-possession and confidence. This body was never meant to be possessed by the one who inhabited it. It was intended to be possessed by others- never mind their skin color. Black men lay claim to me, just as white men do. Like I said, this body is a space of conquest and dominion.

It is also a space of agency. My “no” is a form of self-care. My “yes” is enthusiastic and sincere. My voice is loud. My body is vigorous and robust. I command the room when I walk in with my golden glow and big hair.

To be Black and female is to be lovely, brilliant potentiality and futurity. Haven’t you heard? #BlackGirlsAreFromTheFuture

Caveat (as always): I only speak for myself. This may not be anything new to some readers. It may be completely foreign to others. But I only speak from my specific subject position.

2 Comments

  1. “To be Black and female is to startle others with my self-possession and confidence.” I really like this statement and I can relate to it. Sometimes I feel one of the most revolutionary things I can do as a black woman is to believe in my own worthiness. I think sometimes people are surprised (and upset) to see black women that are confident and self-assured. That makes it all the more important.

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