With all the buzz surrounding Nicki Minaj's new video “Anaconda” I have to wonder as a Black women, is this all we want for ourselves? Is this really a representation of Black women and our sexuality? Why must we continuously be the focus of hypersexualized videos in order to be relevant? Why must we allow ourselves to continue to be exploited, i.e. Mimi Faust and her infamous sex tape? Is this five minutes of fame worth our selling our souls and destroying our people? What statement does this send to our young girls who watch videos and reality TV shows and think that this is a way of life?
While many women are empowered enough to realize that this buffoonery is a form of “entertainment,” many women are not able to make that connection. Unfortunately as a result, many women and young girls end up modeling their lives after these reckless, negligent and thoughtless images. These images do not represent nor promote sex positivity nor do they denote owning and embracing one’s sexuality. In fact, it is just the opposite. These images actually represent a conflict of values, morals, and a lack of self-esteem and self-efficacy that contributes to putting oneself at risks for mental health issues, interpersonal violence, substance abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, etc.
Black women’s sexuality is already stereotyped, stigmatized, taboo and bogged down by layers of negative intergenerational patterns and ideologies that have been passed down from slavery. These ideologies were used to validate the inhumane sexual treatment of enslaved women. They were also used to imply that Black women were despicable and inferior. Unfortunately, these ideologies are still present. Today, the media uses these ideologies in music videos, movies, television shows, and other forms of entertainment to continue to brainwash people into believing the negative stereotypes of Black women.
The prevailing images of Black women in the media include: ex’s, jezebel, baby-mama, video vixen, chicken-head, gold digger, angry Black woman, and hoe. These images and ideologies, with their highly sexual undertones, helps to influence the way in which Black women view themselves. The more Black women see images of themselves getting famous for fitting into one of the aforementioned categories, the more likely they feel inclined to model what they see. In addition, these images helps to influence the way others value and interact with Black women.
While rappers, actors, entertainers and “reality” TV stars may not have signed up to become role models, they are! Once they step into the spotlight, they become a model for what is considered to be trendy and acceptable. These “celebrities” in many ways, good or bad, set the standard. But what standard are they setting and at what cost to Black women?
Unfortunately, Black women have become desensitized to seeing themselves being portrayed negatively. While there aren’t any signs of these unhealthy images disappearing any time soon, there is definitely a need to counteract them in the media. We are in need of a cultural shift in sexuality, one that restores the dignity of Black women. It is time for Black women to reclaim our sexual images in society. We must ask ourselves the following questions: 1)Do we care about the type of women our girls grow up to become, 2) Is their public image worth defending, and 3) Is their sexual integrity worth protecting?
No longer can we sit in silence or stand idly on the sidelines while the images of Black women continue to be destroyed in the media. However, in order to change the trajectory, we need to begin with restoring Black women’s sense of value, worth and sexuality. We need to transform from the “ex’s,” “jezebel,” “angry Black woman,” “video vixen,” “gold digger,” “baby mama," "chicken heads," and "'hoes" to self-respecting women, wives, mothers and leaders in our community. Once we do, we will be able to see a shift in our society that will begin to embrace and celebrate the true authentic essence of Black women’s sexuality.
Finally I leave you with this thought. Every time we watch, post, share, tag, etc. one of these reality TV shows or videos, are we becoming a part of the problem by promoting and in many ways condoning these unhealthy images of Black women and sexuality? What do you think?