“I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough”
Yeah we all heard this song before and even shook our derrieres in jest but the new wave of standing in front of a camera in barely-there underwear or shorts is utterly disgusting and demeaning. Nothing wrong with shaking what your momma gave ya but if you are doing it to generate YouTube hits or just plain ol’ attention, I have an issue with you.
So what is twerking?
Twerking is a “dance move that involves a person shaking their hips and bottom in a bouncy up and down motion, causing it to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle’.” “To twerk means to dance in a sexually suggestive twisting fashion”
As an African-American woman, I have to deal with my body being hyper-sexualized by media and men alike. My hips are wide, my bum is round and my breasts are full. Yes, these are physical traits that I inherited and should not be ashamed of, yet at times I wish that they weren’t so pronounced. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing up my shape in clothing and I work hard at trying to maintain my hourglass shape. However, my problem lies with women who bend it over and shake it in a manner that feeds into the “stereotype”.
Nothing wrong for twerking for your man…or in the privacy of your home (it definitely is a good workout) but it just bugs me that African-American woman (not all) are only showing one side to them…a very sexual side at that. When you bend over and make your butt clap, what is the message that you are sending across?? There’s one thing to see it at a strip club, but to perch your camera and dance, whine, and shake for the camera only to upload it on YouTube or see it shared on an urban blog site does exactly what to your self-esteem?
With the popularity of the twerk team, many women have been uploading videos and I see a few that make it on to my Facebook feed.
Who is twerk team?
The ‘Twerk Team’ was founded in 2005 and joined YouTube on June 5, 2009. It is composed of two African-American girls from Atlanta, Georgia. Since the foundation of the team, they have been posting videos of “them gyrating and shaking their butts, almost to a point that it’s artistic.” As of December 2012 their channel had a total of more than 74 million views and more than 250,000 subscribers.
What message are we sending to little black girls everywhere? Most are imitating what they see! My mother taught me that the way that I will garner respect is not from what is between my legs but from my character. In our society now, we have been conditioned to view these things as OK. It’s alright for a man to call you a bitch, it’s OK for him to press against you (without your consent ) and who cares if you bend over and make it clap!
With songs like French Montana’s ‘Pop That’ or Juicy J ‘Bandz Will Make Her Dance’ it’s hard not to move your body but I want us women to DO better. As India Arie said, “I am not my hair” and neither am I my butt. If you are going to use that as a qualifier for me, then you’ll be disappointed.
Take the average black man and ask him that
She gotta pack much back
So, fellas! (Yeah!) Fellas! (Yeah!)
Has your girlfriend got the butt? (Hell yeah!)
Tell ’em to shake it! (Shake it!) Shake it! (Shake it!)
Shake that healthy butt!
Baby got back!
To be quite honest, I’m tired of it. I’m not saying that black women are the ONLY women that twerk in the club, on YouTube, for their man or in the privacy of their home BUT it does not hold the same WEIGHT when it is done. Why? I have no clue…well, actually I do.
The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of black women is signified by the name Jezebel. From the early 1630s to the present, black American women of all shades have been portrayed as hypersexual “bad-black-girls.”
The belief that blacks are sexually lewd predates the institution of slavery in America. European travelers to Africa found scantily clad natives. This semi nudity was misinterpreted as lewdness. White Europeans, locked into the racial ethnocentrism of the 17th century, saw African polygamy and tribal dances as proof of the African’s uncontrolled sexual lust. Europeans were fascinated by African sexuality. William Bosman described the black women on the coast of Guinea as “fiery” and “warm” and “so much hotter than the men.”3 William Smith described African women as “hot constitution’d Ladies” who “are continually contriving stratagems how to gain a lover”(White, 1999, p. 29). The genesis of anti-black sexual archetypes emerged from the writings of these and other Europeans: the black male as brute and potential rapist; the black woman, as Jezebel whore.
During slavery times, Blacks were not even considered humans and were therefore treated in that manner. Nakedness, especially among women in the 18th and 19th centuries, implied lack of civility, morality, and sexual restraint even when the nakedness was forced. Slaves, of both sexes and all ages, often wore few clothes or clothes so ragged that their legs, thighs, and chests were exposed. Conversely, whites, especially women, wore clothing over most of their bodies. The contrast between the clothing reinforced the beliefs that white women were civilized, modest, and sexually pure, whereas black women were uncivilized, immodest, and sexually aberrant.
Black women bodies were used and abused and somehow that is still holding some truth in this day and age. When I walk down the street, it is my “brothas” who will always call me out in a sexually suggestive manner despite what I’m wearing. Whether I’m wearing a pencil skirt to work, or heading out to the bar with some friends, the level of disrespect for me and my body is at an all time high.
No, I don’t want to be groped, fondled, yanked…
No, I don’t want to be called every name but what my mother chose for me because I insulted your advances.
No, I will not be throwing it back at you, only to feel your manhood brushing up against me…
No, I will not feel bothered that you feel slighted.
I know this is a lengthy rant but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I really this ‘movement’ to cease. No more being objectified, no longer shall we feed into this fetish/stereotype…no more!
*Jewell (1993) uses “bad-black-girls” as a synonym for Black Jezebels.
*See White (1999, p. 29). White’s book is an excellent historical examination of the Jezebel portrayal, especially chapter one, “Jezebel and Mammy,” pp. 27-61.
*In British North America, what we call racism did not really flower until the 18th century. In the 17th century, attitudes toward blacks and other non-whites tended to be more run-of-the-mill xenophobia. In the 18th century, this exploitation received ideological and “scientific” basi
Amoah, J. D. (1997). Back on the auction block: A discussion of black women and pornography. National Black Law Journal. 14 (2), 204-221.
Anderson, L. M. (1997). Mammies no more: The changing image of black women on stage and screen. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.