In Opinion: Hypersexulization of black bodies

Posted on Apr 11 2019 - 5:50am by Ethel Mwedziwendira

Black women’s bodies have always been a focal point of conversation among white men who have no right to discuss them. Through a historical lens, commodification of the black body allowed for black female bodies especially to be objectified. Continuing beyond the era of American slavery, white men saw that is was OK to sexually assault black women without consequences. White women’s bodies were considered superior, physically, to black women’s bodies, and that perception hasn’t considerably shifted today.

Then, there is the history of hypersexualizaton of black women, and it has nothing to do with clothing. It has to do, rather, with curvy body types being deemed inappropriate regardless of what black women wear.

Of all things scrutinized about Ed Meek’s comments — the racial tone and property values decreasing — a portion rarely mentioned is the most vile in the blunder. The night Meek hit send on that post, he didn’t take into account what the aftermath of his unwanted and unwarranted comment would be like for Mahoghany Jordan and Ki’yona Crawford — the toll it would take on their mental health, the type of discourse it would provoke or, most importantly, the backlash the two women would receive, instead of Meek.

In the comment section of the post, Jordan and Crawford were slut-shamed and called “whores,” “skimpy,” “indecent,” and representing a “decline of humanity.”

Though black women like myself have complete control over our black bodies, we are hypersexualized to the point that we have to rework the way we dress, how much skin we show, when we choose to go out — all to avoid the male gaze. It plays a major factor in how we are treated — we are unjustly policed, sexualized and objectified for our curves. These two women should not have been blamed for what they wore that night. The world feels entitled to demean black women’s bodies, and this fact carries more weight when you aren’t a size 0. That was proven more than 200 years ago when Sarah Baartman, also known as the “Hottentot Venus,” was visited, undressed and coerced to display herself to satisfy the needs of Europeans’ curiosities. The South African woman was objectified.

There is also the double standard of hypersexualization, and history is littered with it. Black women aren’t given the same freedom to express themselves as other groups of women are. This falls in the circle of anti-blackness, sexism and racism, and we see this in the fashion industry, in the entertainment industry and in our daily lives.

America has never treated black women equally in its history. That mistreatment showed in the resentment that Meek expressed toward Jordan and Crawford that day and the hate-spewing comments from his followers who over-sexualized and invalidated them.

Like Malcom X said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

Ethel Mwedziwendira is a senior journalism and political science major from McKinney, Texas.