Recently, a young brother at a party informed me that “White girls are coming up in the world these days”. “You don’t say” I deadpanned, already knowing exactly what he was referring to. “Yeah, man. White girls got ass now.” I’ll table my feminist/race woman reaction to that for another time (How dare you reduce White women to that? Is a butt the only advantage Black women had over White ones in the first place? Is this all that women are to you?) and admit what upset me most about this comment: it reminded me that I am a Black woman sans ass. And it sucks.
When Erykah Badu’s video for “Window Seat” premiered, my intellectual friends were all abuzz debating whether she was courageous or disrespectful or brilliant or a combination of the three for stripping down bare at the site of JFK’s 1963 assassination. People championed her agency and her willingness to bear this body that, in many spaces, is marginalized by beauty standards. I wanted to be all smart and shit too, but all I could think of was her behind. Look. At. Her Ass. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s there.
I’m Black. I’m a woman. I have a body. Thus, it is a Black woman’s body. But I don’t have the frame that is associated with Black womanhood. But while I am aware enough of the absurdity of even our intra-culutal beauty standards, I cannot yet get past the fact that having a big butt is a ‘Black woman thing’ that I am not a part of. I feel left out and, yes, I will admit that I hate the idea that there is something that Black men have a special appreciation for and attraction to that I cannot bring to the table.
Irony: I am a vocal opponent of street harassment. I don’t mean because I write about it, I mean because on any given day you can actually hear me on the street telling some man where he can go and how he can get there. I hate the survey of my body that I am subjected to on a daily basis. But you know what else I hate? When I see a man checking me out from the front, waiting for me to pass so he can see what’s going on in the backyard. It’s like I’m failing a test I didn’t ask to take (and in many cases, would not even want to pass). How dare you make me feel inadequate when I didn’t ask for your approval in the first place?
I’m a light-complexioned woman with curly hair and, depending who you ask, either mixed looking (per my friends) or traditionally African (according to me, and yes, I mean the polyglot Kwanzaa/Swahili name/dashiki Africa we created in our heads) features. I have benefited on the side of the skewed Black beauty scale that no one wants to brag on. There’s no pride in being rewarded by the tainted- by-Europe standard, but full lips, a wide hips and a large behind? That’s Africa at work! That’s a real Black woman!
Now, I’m getting grown and I’m at the point where I realize that I’m beautiful because I’m Jamilah, not because of how close I am to looking like a model from Cosmo or King. I don’t expect anyone to cry me a river because I don’t have a huge behind, because for all the other awful metrics people use to reduce a woman’s looks, I’ve faired well enough. But as much as I can intellectualize it and say that a woman’s body doesn’t matter as much as her mind, and that Blackness is not a fuction of hair texture or hip-to-waist ratio…I just wish I had a big ole’ butt.