Turning to the Dark Side: Bad Girls are My New Role Models (pt. 2)

20 May


After my last post, “Bad Girls are My New Role Models,” I’ve got some explaining to do. A few folks felt that my views had changed tremendously, and they were right.

I used to hate super sexy artists like Nicki Minaj. A few years ago, she was the enemy: she was a living, breathing black feminist’s worst night mare (so I thought at first)—the devil, reincarnated to set women back 300 years with her silicone body, overtly sexual lyrics, and constant references to Barbie.

Now, contrary to what I previously believed, she is not the problem. Though Nicki has had many flaws (I’ll never be down for her “nappy headed hoes” comment or that abomination of a song “Cuchi Shop”), I’ve relinquished my disdain for super-sexual artists who get a bad rep like Nicki. Actually— after lots more research, I’m beginning to like her.

Yes, I know the history of the dehumanization of black women’s bodies. I know the current “deviant” hypersexual stigma we’ve carried on our backs since white men first stepped foot on African soil. Previously, I blamed these artists as part of the reason black women haven’t been able to transgress that stigma. However, I’ve recently undergone a Black Feminist make-over, which included a bit of intellectual plastic surgery—and I’m ready for my big reveal:

I’m giving up on Respectability Politics, which is the system of beliefs that decide which black women are “respectable,” based on whether or not she fits a certain wholesome, classy, not-too-sexy mold. Respectability politics is the reason we often embrace Janelle Monae’s work as artistic expression, while we view Rihanna’s as a cry for help. It is reason we love to hate overtly sexy artists like Nicki Minaj believing that these women make it harder for black women shed the hypersexual stereotype.

Yet, these sexy pop stars aren’t the problem; we are.

Our views on these artists are the problem. We may argue endlessly that these artists uphold “imperialist white supremacist patriarchy,” as scholar bell hooks loves to say. Yet, in judging them, we are doing the exact same thing.

Writer Tamara Winfrey Harris explains in Bitch Magazine’s No Disrespect,” that we expect black women, especially those in the public eye, to uphold the same standards of “good womanhood” expected of white women in the 20th Century. You know: women must be noble, submissive, and chaste (Chaste being the most important: some of y’all get all up in arms when married women sing about sex…Let me hear you say “Hey Mrs. Carter”). So in making these demands for black artists, we align ourselves with the same white patriarchal ideas that we so passionately fight against.

If it were up to the devout believers in respectability politics, black women would never sing about sex and never celebrate our bodies. As Writer Cate explains over at one of my favorite blogs BattyMamzelle respectability politics suggest that black women should render ourselves asexual in order to combat white supremacist ideology about black women’s bodies.

Explain this to me: White men, white women, and black men can be sexual, but black women need to keep it on lock? Hmmm, sounds like another double-standard.

We shouldn’t have to deny our sexuality in order to please people who are uncomfortable due to historical stigma about black women’s bodies. This sexuality policing approach denies part of what makes many of us human, as sex is natural for most people.

As Cate says, “While combating the sexual stereotypes of black women is important, I think that it’s essential that we find ways to do it that don’t necessitate denying ourselves access to our own sexuality.”

Ok, I going to stop here cuz I know attention spans tend to lapse after about 600 words (mine included). But I have so much more to say on this subject, so check back for part 3,

 Read Part 3: 4 Reasons Respectability Politics Has No Place in Black Feminism


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And if you’re not feeling what I’m saying, let me know. Your counter arguments help me grow (when they’re informed, that is). Thanks!

8 Responses to “Turning to the Dark Side: Bad Girls are My New Role Models (pt. 2)”

  1. Whitney July 11, 2022 at 7:23 AM #

    Helloo mate nice post


  2. Antoinette Hines August 22, 2018 at 4:35 PM #

    Urm, that “nappy headed hos” comment? That was Don Imus. He was talking about Rutgers U’s women’s basketball team, which has 8 black players and 2 white players.


  3. Girlfriend Goddess July 2, 2015 at 1:28 AM #

    Yes, Yes, Yes! Wow, you and T.W. Harris are so right. Thank you, now I don’t feel so guilty banging my Bey or Bad Gal music in the car, lol! For real, this is a great read, it made me think of the Tignon Laws and how black women were forced to cover up our hair, because of it’s attention/appeal/beauty. Why? To make other women feel comfortable and sexy? It’s not our fault we woke up like this! Wow, forgive me if this reply is silly, but you put me in a place of relief, anger and joy all at the same time. how did you do that?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. diaryofagentlewoman May 20, 2014 at 2:00 PM #

    I do agree that there is a double standard and that respectability politics essentially perpetuates the double standard. How do we hold Nicki, Beyonce, and Rihanna to a standard that we do not hold to Lady Gaga. We are quick to call them THOTS (a word I abhore) and call Gaga art. However, I believe the standard has very little to do with gender and everything to do with social construct.

    The African-American community as a whole is viewed as an episode of Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta: pure bafoonery. The white population has the luxury of having a Miley Cyrus or Justin Beiber and brushing them off to the side; effectively labeling them as entertainers and entertainers only. They are not a representative of their communities or a product of their societies. They exist to make money. Our entertainers are viewed drastically different. They are us. 2 chainz is my brother. Rihanna is me. The correlation is: ALL OF US act this way. Is it fair? ABSOULTELY NOT! Ideally, we should have the ability to express our sexuality as we see fit. That is not how the world works.

    We do not have the luxury of separating our entertainers with our everyday men, women, and children. All black men do not cheat on their wives; however, Kirk from LAHHATL represents otherwise. All black women are not THOTs; however, our TV shows, movies, and music say otherwise. We are all not drug dealers, strippers, big booty hoes, bitter, unintelligent, belligerent, ignorant, etc. Anyone could be any of those things. Black people are labeled this way. Why? That is all people see in our popular entertainment channels. A statistic was just released that African-American women are ranked the most educated group by race and gender in the US. And yet, we are all still assimilated as hoes.
    These personas, music videos, and even twitter hastags (#feministbooty) seek to obtain a right to be who we want to be in the wrong way. It is entertainment and not thought out. We already are viewed as clowns in a circus and this is just another one of our acts. We lack a face of intellect and we seemingly lack substance. We have degrees; we do great things, and they are all overlooked; not only by society, but by our own community. A Facebook like or retweet on Twitter only goes so far.

    I am guilty of adhering to respectability politics. But I also have to fight every single day to prove I am just more than just what people see on TV, watched in a Tyler Perry movie, or hear on the radio. Respectability politics does not guarantee respect. However, twerking never got me a job and a bejeweled bra will never get anyone to take me seriously. I know I am harboring on the idea of “entertainment” and it is to drive a point. These women are entertainers. They are not role models. Several of them have said that they do not want to be role models. They are just good at what they do: singing, dancing, wearing costumes and make-up. I believe they should do whatever they want to make their money. However, they should not be the representatives of our community. We should be: Mothers, Fathers, Business Men & Women, Graduates, Sisters, Brothers, You (the esteemed writer which I thoroughly enjoy), and Me.


    • awomynsworth May 20, 2014 at 8:47 PM #

      I saw that stat about black women graduating from college at higher rates than everyone else–and I’m not surprised by it. I’m also not surprised by the negative representations of black women on TV that counter it. 5 (or 6) corporations control the media and none of them are owned/ran by black women. Of course I do wish that there was better representation of all the awesome black women graduating from school and doing big things. But we don’t control the narrative–and I dont think that if everyone in the media started acting like Claire Huxtable, the narrative will change (though I’m not opposed to canceling a few of those housewife shows). Until people stop viewing black women as a monolith, I don’t think the narrative will change.

      And hypothetically if every black reality tv star, singer, and celebrity did start acting like a variation of Claire Huxtable or Michelle Obama, it still wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of black womanhood. There are tons of ways to be a black woman in the world.

      Anyways I’ll talk more about this topic in the next post when I’ve processed all of our ideas.
      Thanks Christina



  1. Sorority Girls Must Twerk | A Womyn's Worth - January 30, 2015

    […] Turning to the Dark Side: Bad Girls are My New Role Models (pt. 2) […]


  2. How Dare Black Women Love Their Bodies | A Womyn's Worth - June 17, 2014

    […] There is nothing we can learn from the Queens of THOTs. They’re indiscretions and claiming that their bodies are their own is not to be […]


  3. 4 Reasons Respectability Politics Has No Place in Black Feminism | A Womyn's Worth - May 27, 2014

    […] Part 2, “Turning to the Dark Side,” I renounced respectability politics, a system of beliefs that expect black women to always be […]


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