Catcalling maintains an interesting correspondence to the female experience. While not incurred by all women, catcalling is an envied form of misogyny often falsely attributed to a woman’s attractiveness. Whether declaring a woman’s beauty to insulting her, catcalling is merely a means to get a woman’s attention– behavior consistent with much of popular culture.
Discussions regarding black female beauty in particular remain at the forefront of contemporary conversation. Within the last month R&B singer- turned- actor Tyrese Gibson and Kendrick Lamar made very public statements about black women, statements made with the obvious intention to garner black female attention, yet were not well received.
Gibson was quoted as saying the following:
Sitting across from you and you couldn’t even HIDE your weave tracks?? Come on…. I’M NOT trying to be mean I’m just sending a message that US REAL MEN SEE THE BULLSHIT and IF He decide to rock with you it’s just cause they wanna get one off no one will EVER take you serious like that or really make the move……..Cause you look like a manufactured clown- Some of you have convinced yourself that it’s OK cause of how many dudes be trying to get at you…Please let me explain…You got your temp fix and you will continue “attract” men who ONLY want a temporary fix
Similarly, Kenderick Lamar comments on natural women in recent single “Humble.”
I’m so f–n’ sick and tired of the Photoshop Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor Show me somethin’ natural like a$$ with some stretch marks
Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ayy
This shit way too crazy, ayy, you do not amaze me, ayy
These comments sparked outrage from many black females who find these comments objectifying and disrespectful. Others find the comments rooted in mysogyny and perceive Lamar and Gibson as misusing their platforms. While opinions vary, these comments proved a gateway to a much needed discussion regarding race and objectification.
Let me say that my reaction is an ambivalent one. I despise weaves, false eyelashes, caked- up makeup or any other purchased beauty attribute that dilutes the beauty of the black female body. To be honest, I find what many consider beauty enhancers as an obliteration to black female beauty that ironically masculinizes natural black beauty. The black woman in her natural state, be it fair or sun-kissed, thin or curvy, is the epitome of beauty. So, I agree with the surface of these black men’s comments that call for women in their natural state.
This brings me to my next point. The comments appear overtly constructive, but they are in fact offensive. The offense becomes obvious in unveiling the detailed attributes as smokescreens for larger issues in our Diaspora. However, many of those who find offense in these comments, are offended for all the wrong reasons.
Tyrese, a black male entertainer who recently went public with his marriage to a racially ambiguous woman, has no right to criticize a demographic he sought to distance himself from in his spousal selection. His selection seemingly functions to dilute his richly melanated state to produce children who do not possess his most hated features. For it is the woman who looks like Tyrese that Gibson seems to target, as his current spouse, and those who mirror her aesthetics, may don the very enhancements he spoke out against, as all black women, regardless of their placement on the color spectrum are placed on a path to covet European standards of beauty. Yet, it is the black women who does not possess any form of racial ambiguity via facial features, loose curls, skin color or body type that never seems to escape criticism. However, the black women who does the same things as the non racial ambiguous black female is overlooked as an offender. Gibson performs in this pattern and his comments function as a means to covertly validate his spousal selection, comments that unveil a deep seeded self-hatred, that deems him an adversary not advisor in the plight to appreciate natural black beauty.
Similarly, Lamar also has a racially ambiguous significant other who identifies as black but possesses features that appease western standards. Lamar could have fallen in love with the person she is, but it is unlikely that his selection, which mirrors the look of many girlfriends and wives of black male athletes, rappers, doctors and lawyers, is merely a coincidence. Men and women are nurtured to find women with fair skin and long hair attractive, thus this selection often takes place subconsciously and prompts the positive perception that fuels romantic feelings and relations.
However, it is important to note that it is not just the black man who is nurtured to find the fair-skinned and long- haired woman attractive. Those of the black collective covet this image through seeking a means to make their hair longer, skin lighter and body more svelte (waist trainers). This strive for beauty appears a common quest for “women,” but to reiterate a phrase from countless of my previous essays–to the western world the black woman is not a woman. Thus, this beautification quickly becomes objectification. Moreover, many of the black females who feel objectified by these comments are objectified in other areas in their lives that western world nurtures them to overlook.
A bare derriere in lace garments personifies overt objectification. But finding offense in these images while you sit with an Indian or Malaysian woman’s hair on your head, is a false dichotomy that illustrates the depth of black female oppression. Whether twerking in a music video, engaging in adulterous relations with married men on prime time television, or the token black female body at a university, company or social gathering, the black female body faces constant objectification.
It is frightening how quick many are to condemn the image in the Lamar video but remain oblivious to the black women strategically placed in Republican photo ops. Mary Elizabeth Taylor went viral two weeks ago as the attractive black female face in the background of Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorusch’s confirmation. Overtly, Taylor’s presence dominated the hearing. Covertly, Mary Elizabeth Taylor, a strategically placed black female body, served as a deflection from the event taking place, to instead focus on the presumed inclusivity of the Republican Party. This is of course contradicted by the fact that she was the sole black body in plain view, a fact that made her presence virtually impossible to miss. Her viral status made it so that few actually know anything about Gorusch, an individual who will have a hand in enforcing the laws that consistently villianize and divide our communities.
Similarly, in wearing weaves and false eyelashes the black female body becomes a tool in enforcing western conception of black female aesthetic deficiencies. Thus, the western world need not overtly state that black women are ugly. Rather, the glamourous black female who is the antithesis of her natural state becomes the goal and preoccupation of countless black female bodies cast throughout the diaspora leaving her open for exploitation and objectification.
Furthermore, the backlash cast upon Lamar and Tyrese, depicts the black female as blissfully ignorant to the depths of her objectification. This nurtured ignorance prompts the black female to castigate video dancing but sign a contract for a reality series where she is fully clothed and draped in expensive clothes, jewelry, fake hair and lashes yet objectified. It is this misunderstanding that removes oppressed black female bodies from one plantation to the next, with her thinking she is simply exploring the western terrain.
Furthermore, the shallow demands of Lamar and Gibson illustrate a contemporary contradictory–a catcall for an unprocessed appearance by processed minds.