By DaiJhah Owens
There’s this idea out there in society that if womxn, black womxn to be exact, look and act a certain way, it will keep them from physical and emotional danger. It is ingrained in us at an early age that we would be safe if we just behave, dress, look, and achieve in the acceptable way deemed by society. Safe from judgment, safe from criticism, from sexual assault, from any form of abuse, from shame. We were taught as long as we do not step outside of the boundaries placed around us, we would be protected. It is only when we cross the line, do our troubles begin!
So what did we do? We internalized that sh*t, we took it to heart, and made it our collective mission to not only be the overseers of our bodies. But of all Black girls and womxn around us. I can hear the old church mothers now, sipping their sweet tea while also spilling it. Going on about how another churchgoer was dressed, criticizing the weight gain of their daughters, and rolling their eyes at the young girl with the too short, shorts on at the church picnic, wondering where her mother was.
We have this deep-seated, generational belief in the community of Black womxn that if we work hard enough to blend into society, go as unnoticeable as possible, and don’t make any waves, We will inherit the safety that society promised us. If we don’t dress our daughters too “grown,” men won’t be attracted to them. If we teach our daughters not to act “fast,” then they will be protected from the sexual gaze of older men. That if we maintain a socially acceptable weight and body shape, we will be saved from vultures. If we don’t wear specific clothing in public, we will be taken more seriously.
I wish, wish, wish, with all my heart, that it was this simple, that it was up to us. That we truly had the power to dictate how safe we would be. But as most Black womxn, and sadly young girls come to know, even if we do all that is expected of us, it still doesn’t keep us safe. I’m sorry we were all conditioned with this lie.
Some may disagree with this, and that’s okay. Some may genuinely believe that if we succeed at doing all these things, we will be treated with the humanity we deserve. Our collective behavior can somehow change how society views us, and I can understand and empathize with that sentiment.
But the hard truth is, society has already made up its mind about Black womxn and girls. No amount of body policing will change that. So instead of changing how “they” see us, the best thing we can do is live our lives for ourselves. Learn our true selves and create new standards for us by us, not ones shoved down our throats. After all, true freedom is sticking your middle finger up at societal expectations anyway.
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!