By: Cindy Anneh-Bu
Now I am sure you have all heard or are familiar with the phrases, ‘She doesn’t have a body like a normal black girl’, ‘why don’t you have a big bum?’ or even, ‘where is your bum?!’ These are just a few examples of Typical everyday comments and questions that are casually thrown into the mix when addressing and policing what is perceived to be the average body of a black woman.
Now before I begin, I am in no way discrediting any one type of body, and this entire article hopes to shed light on the fact that the way we look does not articulate who we are in any way, shape or form.There is a common association with what I like to coin, ‘the African physique’, and the way many view that black women’s bodies should be built.
Way before the Kim Kardashians of our era, and even further back before the Jlo’s, African women were known to be carrying a certain extra oomf! Oomf, that is, what we in popular culture refer to as, ‘junk in the trunk’, or more commonly and simply, ‘a big bum’. This model African physique was usually embodied or depicted, (though not always) with large, round hips, a thin waist and large breasts.
Like many things of African origin, favorable parts of this physique have been borrowed and merged into popular Western culture for the purposes of exploitation and reinvention, or as I like to call (appropriation). But before I draw off track, allow me to elaborate on what this has to do with the way that we police black women’s bodies.
The historical context of a woman possessing this physique, as it seems can be traced back to biology. As the African woman was the original first womb and creator, she had to own a body perfectly crafted to inhabit human life, and therefore extra meat around the hips, thighs and buttocks was highly necessary!And let’s not forget evolution purposes! The necessity of pro-creation made it so men would find these very features almost irresistible, and thus, man king would expand and evolve.
Forward, now several millennia later, the allure of having such attributes has remained and been further ingrained heavily into the black community – ancestral connections and inheritance refusing to be diminished no doubt!
However now, with the integration of hip hop culture into popular culture, all of a sudden we are seeing the African physique along with its appraisal being thrust into the lime light, and hurled into our faces, and on to our screens at a thousand miles per hour! Whoa! Cue, Kim Kardashian, cue Khloe Kardashian, cue Iggy Azalea, cue Nicki Minaj! And the whole world has once again gone absolutely mad for women with large derrieres!
Now where does this leave my argument? Well being constantly bombarded with images in the media of what a certain type of black woman looks like, only propels the notion that there this is a standardized look that all black women should aspire to measure up to.If we are viewing this from a purely biological standpoint, the African physique no longer encapsulates the frame of black women on a larger scale.
Considering the variation of the Diaspora, centuries of multi-culturalism, migration, slavery and colonization, the genetic make-up of black women’s bodies has changed. In other terms, the women that we perceive to be black women, are not necessarily restricted to women of African origin alone.
This does not mean that every woman of African origin automatically inherits this physique, but you can imagine how the scale of inheritance is ever fluctuating and complex. There has existed a long standing stereotype and association among the way that society views black women and the certain behavioral, or physical attributes that they should posses.
The same applied to any other group of women would of course be ludicrous because surely in this day in humanity we recognize that all ethnic and racial groups are immensely vast and diverse. There is no one way that a black woman should look, nor behave and it is time to stop policing an image that we have constructed as a society about them.
A black woman is not any less black because she does not have what society conceives to be a typical black woman’s body. A black woman’s frame is not an indication of how connected to her race or her culture she is. Nor is her hair, choice of clothes or beliefs. Contrary to popular belief, not all black women adhere to the sassy, loud-mouthed, aggressive stereotypes portrayed on TV! And no, we do not all look like the air brushed models featured in Chris Brown and T.I videos. And no, we are not obliged to neither in order to fit into society’s stereotypes of an excitable, or suitable black woman.