By: Zach Fulwood
Seemingly since the beginning of time, women have never had it easy. Biblically speaking, Eve was to blame for Adam choosing to get himself a bite of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden which subsequently forced us all to be born in sin. Women have also been subject to a now dated school of thought that believed they were only good for being homemakers and childbearing. But one issue that has always seemed to plague women in general has been the sexualization of them. Especially when it comes to Black women.
Now, women have always been lauded for their looks and have consistently been viewed through the lens of the ‘male gaze’. In some ways I can understand this because to me, women are the most beautifully made creation on this earth. However, they’ve also been used and exploited for financial gain for decades. While women in general have had a pretty tough time separating themselves from the appearance of their bodies, it’s hard to argue that Black women haven’t had it much worse.
Often times, it seems that Black women are only given credit and recognition for their accomplishments when they are putting their bodies on full display. Look no further than 2002 when Halle Berry became the first and only Black female to ever win the Best Actress award at the Oscars for her leading role in Monster’s Ball, and she basically had to engage in a short porno to get it. Maybe it’s possible that Halle Berry’s acting was just that superb in Monster’s Ball but it’s hard to think that the Angela Bassett’s and the Viola Davis’ of the world have yet to see an Oscar win despite showing considerably less skin. When Black women are not receiving accolades for their nudity, they are being gawked at for their curves.
Although we love Beyonce for her singing talents and appreciate her for her political standing, society is mesmerized by her figure. Her figure arguably stands out as her most profitable asset and that’s the unfortunate part. It’s not hard to spin the use of her oversexualized image as a way of taking ownership of her body and choosing to empower herself by way of her image. I guess it’s possible but who are we kidding? How empowering is it to have a bunch of men staring at you and fantasizing about the things they would do to you if you were theirs? Maybe theoretically, you would then be able to have men waiting on you hand and foot because they’re willing to do anything to get with you but that’s a bit of stretch.
In many ways the Black female body has been fetishized over since the days of slavery when slave owners would justify the raping of their female slaves because of the supposed erotically appealing and seductive nature of the Black female. Let’s not forget that these were the same Black females that weren’t even considered human beings during this time but was human enough to rape and conceive a biracial child being with.
To this day as shown by the Beyonce’s, the Rihanna’s, and the Nicki Minaj’s of the world, Black women are still being sexually exploited and used as sex symbols to make money off of despite having obvious talent that justifies not needing to do so. Sure, they get their fair share of the profits as well but are the consequences worth it? When we look at society today, many of the features of Black women that were criticized in public but celebrated in private by their slave owners are now being celebrated and mimicked by many races worldwide. From butt enhancements to lip injections, it’s become in vogue to look Black and as a result, more fuel is being added to the fire that is the sexualization of Black women and thus stripping them of any sense of individuality .
Yes, sex sells and almost everybody in the entertainment business will fall victim to this concept at some point in their careers but it’s hard to ignore that sex is being sold at the expense of Black women.