Act like a lady
Much reaction to Willow Smith also confirms the way women are expected to perform femininity. One person live tweeting the BET Awards offered that Willow Smith was “turning into a little lesbian,” and that wasn’t the only message speculating on the 11-year-old’s sexuality or questioning her gender. Another tweeter snarked that rapper Tyga and Willow are one in the same.
There would be nothing wrong If Willow were to identify as a lesbian or a boy, but what narrow parameters are we placing on girls and women if simply wearing our hair short, sporting a button down over skinny jeans, and daring to mount a skateboard dictates all anyone needs to know about who we are and who we love? (I could write a whole ’nother post on the idea that black, natural hair is masculine and not “pretty.” Black folks need to check their self-hatred on that one. *cough* Wendy Williams)
It seems quirky is only cute if it is Denise Huxtable/Zooey Deschanel-style, sufficiently girly wackiness. Perhaps Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and Willow Smith can start a club for celebrity daughters who get grief for not wearing pink, tulle, and sparkles, and wanting to be pirates and punks rather than princesses.
I’m with my smart co-contributor Britni Danielle: We need to interrogate what gets everyone so het up over Willow Smith and how she rolls. The girl isn’t falling out of night clubs or taking bath salts. Considering her dad was a smart kid who attended a pre-engineering program at MIT, I’m thinking education is a big deal in the Pinkett-Smith household and that Willow must be hitting the books in addition to making music. She is unfailingly charming and well spoken (if maybe a little grown) in interviews. She seems to have a strong and loving relationship with her family. She marches to the beat of her own drummer. She seems to have avoided being sucked into princess mania. And if her new song is any indication, as @abelleinbk tweeted, that Willow has been digging into her mama’s Alanis, Fiona, and Jewel albums, then she’s got good taste in music, to boot.
What’s the problem? If I had a little girl, I would be excited as all get out if she were like Willow Smith. I wish I had been more like Willow at 11. (But then, I don’t have multimillionaire parents, which makes some difference, yes?)
We lament the presence of strong role models for our children. They could certainly do a lot worse than idolizing a seemingly smart, engaging, self-assured, quirky black girl. That so many of us don’t recognize that says a lot about our society — none of it good.