While mindlessly procrastinating on Facebook the other day, I found this repulsive image:
For me, it was a huge slap in face. Yet the meme trended on Instagram and Facebook and had over 3,000 shares.
People praised its “truthfulness” and talked about how young Black women need to take a lesson from women of the past. While I don’t disagree that we should know our history, the execution of this message was poor. The meme makes four ridiculously flawed assumptions about today’s Black women.
Assumption #1: Twerking is the evilest thing in the world*
The discussion on twerking is an interesting one and I’m on the fence. But for now I’ll say this: there’s nothing inherently wrong with twerking. It’s a dance that requires skill and technique.
Yes, it’s sexual—so is tango, which has origins related to prostitution. So was the Can-can when it first came out. Even the belly dance and African dance classes I took as a child can be viewed as sexual when taken out of context. In the past, these dances were frowned upon because they originated from marginalized groups. The views of dances like tango and twerking are often directly related to the privileged classes’ views of the working class and/or ethnic groups.
Also, we should watch the way we police women’s creative expression—it’s not a crime to be sexual.
On the other hand, the train may not have been the best place to initiate a twerking session—though it wasn’t harming anyone on the train (except maybe the other black women who were worried about being lumped into one massive stereotype, which happens whether people twerk on trains or not).
Assumption #2: Black women are the same
I think it’s safe to assume that not all Black women twerk on trains. I know I’m not that bold. Not all Black women even know how to twerk (sorry to burst your bubble).
Yet, the way Black women are portrayed in media is the way people, including other Black people, view us as a whole. And the fact that this meme got praise from tons of Black folks shows the media’s negative effect on our own views of our culture.
Quit buying into the nonsense that all black women act a certain way and start looking into media that celebrates the successful ventures of Black women today. Try Clutch Magazine to begin with. They have a whole section called “She’s So Ambitious,” which highlights successes of Black woman entrepreneurs.
Assumption #3: Black women are no longer fighting for equality
There’s a reason you haven’t heard much about the ambitious Black women of 2013. Women like Mikki Kendall, Moya Bailey, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Corvida Raven, Leana Cabral, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Sil Lai Abrams, aren’t trending on reality TV, Vine, Worldstar, and Youtube because they don’t fit certain stereotypes. Kanye isn’t going to feature those women in his music videos and Tyler Perry will write them in his script as heartless bitches simply because they are powerful.
The meme completely invalidates the work of the many women I mentioned above, and all the others who like them. Most of those women are fighting for the similar cause of equality that the women in the 1960’s did.
Assumption 4: Black women are one-dimensional
As I discussed in a recent post, women can twerk, get advanced degrees, and have successful careers all at the same time. We are more complex than the Ratchet Hoe vs. Educated Sister dichotomy people seem to have engrained in their minds.
I love the philosophy of one of my cousins and her friends, who refer to themselves as “Sophistiratch” because they have a lot of fun and do things that people may deem “ratchet,” while at the same time, they all have degrees and are pursuing careers.
All in all, viewing this meme’s portrayal of Black women as authentic makes you no better than Lily Allen—who views us as twerking objects to be smacked on the butt, mocked for our bodies, and then shamed for our behavior (yet, never applauded for our accomplishments).
When I tried to find memes for this post, I couldn’t find any “Educated Black Woman” or “Successful Black Woman” memes. Of course, “Ghetto Black Girl” and “Stereotypical Black Girl” were readily available. So here’s one I created:
Feel free to share it. In the future I hope there are more positive memes for Black women and that these horrific ones cease to spread.
What do you all think of the 2 memes?
*Yes, my views on twerking have changed since I’ve done more research on respectability politics as it relates to race. While I stand by my argument in Sorority Girls must Twerk, people shouldn’t assume that women twerk because of the oppressive demands of us to embody sexual objects. People twerk because they are having a good time or celebrating, among other reasons.