A disturbing comment made by Billboard surfaced after North West, the daughter of Kanye and Kim Kardashian West, was seen with a lollipop in her mouth. At just two years old, North West has already been sexualized by the media because her mother is known for having an adult tape. There was also a picture of North in a bathing suit, on which someone had commented that she “has a nice little body”. This overt and disgusting sexualization of a little Brown girl is disturbing on so many moral levels but sadly not uncommon.
Growing up in a largely White neighborhood, I didn’t really know anyone that looked like me. Because of this, I started hating my skin and my last name. This self-hate surfaced in a lot of small ways, like during roll call, when my last name was mispronounced because it did not sound like “Smith” or “Brown”. Then I started noticing that I filled out clothes differently than the other girls. My jeans were always tighter around my butt, and my breasts were more prominent in the Justice clothing I begged my mom to buy me. I will never forget walking down the hallway in second grade when a group of girls behind me started yelling, “Why does your butt shake when you walk? It’s so funny!” I would like to think that I told that group of blondes that I did not care what they thought. Instead, that night in my mirror, I practiced how to walk without my butt shaking. For my thirteenth birthday, my mom bought me a book of Maya Angelou poems. Instead of soaking up the knowledge and power that was presented to me, I tossed the book aside and opted for a Sarah Dessen novel. I think about how “Phenomenal Woman” represented me more than any of those young adult novels where the main character is a skinny, White girl whose life I can and will never relate to. Their sexualities were fragile while mine has always been volatile.
I have come to the conclusion that Brown women are a walking dichotomy. We are sexualized, while somehow still seeming to be invisible. Our bodies are put up for sale to buyers who want to take a test ride, but never pay in full. Our mothers taught us to never be ashamed of the curves we carry, but the world constantly tries to teach us otherwise. Our naked bodies don’t appear in TV, magazines and movies, so we start to believe that we are unappealing simply because we are not here to be seen. Brown women are told that we are too sexual, but the only time we are seen on any screen is in sexual contexts. Yet, we aren’t seen as desirable when compared to our white counterparts. Women of color are so often sexualized that we become desensitized to the lewd comments about our breasts and asses from men and women we don’t even know. We don’t invite these comments, but when we don’t hear them, we think something is wrong with us.
But Brown bodies are not here to please men. Our Brown bodies are more than the skin that stretches over our bones. My body was not formed to fit in any boxes that were predestined for me, and people misread my pride in my body as an invitation to touch or sully. They want to own what they don’t understand, but my body does not need to be defined. Sometimes, we take others’ intrigue as a sign of acceptance; like we should be honored they are taking any interest in us at all. Our sexualities are inked on the roundness of our breasts and the curve of our asses. My sexuality was branded on me even before I knew what sexuality was or how it could be used against me. I am tired of thinking that my body has failed me. I am tired of looking for acceptance of my thick thighs and rounder arms through other people’s stares and touches. My body is my own map that I am still gridding and I don’t want anyone’s input. I will no longer let anyone smudge the sketch I am so carefully drawing.
I was nervous about writing this article because for so long, I have kept my mouth shut about experiences that have bothered me. I never spoke up when people would tell me I have a big ass and breasts and would touch them unwarranted. I never spoke up when white girls would tell me “I wish I had tan skin like you” when, for years, all I wanted was to look like them. I am not staying quiet anymore. Janet Mock says, “My body, my clothes, and my makeup are on purpose, just as I am on purpose.” No more will I let people disrespect what my ancestors have so carefully carved out and perfected. No more will I practice in the mirror to change how I walk. My strides are purposeful, no longer rehearsed or afraid of judgement. No more will I think that I take up to much space. I am here and I am not leaving. I will take up all the space I want in this world, because I deserve to. Just like every Brown girl deserves to.
Allie Martinez is a sophomore Political Communications major from New Jersey. This is her first semester contributing to Flawless Writes. Some of her interests include traveling, Beyoncé, and writing.