By ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY
Look at me! All of me: from my head to my toe; front to back.
And, don’t forget to look at my hair. And my skin tone. And the width of my nose. And …
If you look past all the surface features, you will begin to see that the best part of me/us is hidden from your view. But you may lack the imagination to anticipate it.
Look around at all the time, money and attention paid to a woman’s sexual body parts: breasts, buttocks, vaginas, hair, and sometimes other parts like feet, hands, and her face. It seems that every other commercial is focused on making us look ‘more.’
Where does all this attention to the physicality of women lead?
It is an obsessive topic of conversation; the subject of major television series (This is Us), Dove commercials; anti-body-shaming workshops, to name a few.
Now that you have looked at me, if you can only see my “twins,” or you focus on my “twat,” or that “thang” I back up, then you have not really seen me, or any other woman.
Our best part? Why, our brain, of course! Lately, more women are using their greatest asset to think more clearly and publicly call out the lowest examples of the male species.
While the current news cycle will have us believe that most men are natural sexual predators, and some (too many) women are naturally designed to succumb to all of their overtures – no matter how inappropriate, what we are continuing to learn about these publicized transgressions is that most are not about sex!
No. These revelations are mainly about men who take advantage of women they control (e.g. bosses, producers, older men, etc.) Power and control issues are not new.
Natural sexual attractions and reactions are just that – natural. People have not been redesigned, and our bodies still react the same since we evolved into humans. What has changed is the social currency exchanged when the sexes are drawn together, but the unequal economic and political environment in America has caused a deep divide in behavior patterns.
Take the Roy Moore campaign. It has been noted that his majority supporters were non-college-educated white women. Go figure. One analyst suggests that their issues (being in the home, making a less-than middle income living, conservative Christian lifestyle)
is more fraught than having to consider alleged dalliances between an older man and younger (teen) females.
But college-educated white woman are more likely to be in higher positions at work along with men and, therefore, they encounter different treatment, and more opportunities to be harassed in those places.
OK. There is some degree of plausibility here.
But what about black women? When have we not been in the work place?
Initially as chattel slaves, and then in other folks’ homes, and only slowly working our way into the corner offices, we have always been at the short end of the economic and political sticks, long-suffering at the hands of predators, abusers and rapists.
We Black women have been looking over our shoulders; running, screaming, fighting back and raising our daughters to be strong for over 400 years in America.
For centuries, Black women’s bodies, hair and skin have been objectified and contorted to conform into artificial norms and, only periodically, have we celebrated our ‘natural’ states. Today we are reveling in a renaissance of Afros and black girl magic. But how long will that last?
For black women, our hair remains at the top of the list of body parts that have never left the conversation; the size and shape of our back sides have always carried more than their weight in importance throughout our history in this country. Right now in history, a large butt is ok.
Yet, the ongoing revelations about the growing number of men who commit sexual assault against women is instructive.
Some have argued that it is #45’s boorish behavior toward women that has caused a backlash. Or that Roy Moore’s candidacy for the US Senator outraged so many. Or that the imbalance of power between men and women in the work place is no longer tolerated. Or that women are feeling more empowered because there is safety in numbers (#metoo). The list for reasons why so many men are being ‘taken down’ these days is far longer.
Quite frankly, it is just the tip of the iceberg, and just another sign of the times – times when the shallow, the trivial and twitter distractions rule the day.
We no longer have clear rules of engagement – anything goes until it goes badly – we don’t have a clear definition of the consequences for the varying degrees of incivility. And yes, I blame a lot of that on #45 and the poor example he has set for America.
How do we raise our sons? I know my granddaughters will have so much to navigate. I just hope their brothers are as prepared as they are.
Antonia Williams-Gary, Toniwg1@gmail.com