A friend of mine showed me an article through my email, that intrigued me. This particular article was about a fourth grade teacher in Atlanta, who received criticism for wearing a dress that many felt was too provocative. She was called ‘TeacherBae’ on Instagram due to the fact that she was seen as a ”hot” teacher for how she looked and dressed. Though I believe that she has full autonomy on how she chooses to dress and present herself, I believe that the backlash and criticism she received comes from racialized sexism and societal policing of Black women’s bodies.
Patrice Brown, known as TeacherBae caused controversy over her pictures on Instagram due to the fact that her clothing showed off her voluptuous figure. Many people deemed her attire inappropriate and unfitting for a teacher to wear in the classroom of fourth graders that she teaches. Others didn’t see anything wrong with her attire and felt that she was being shamed due to her curvy figure. While others believed that her race also played a role in how people reacted to the attire she wore because Black women’s bodies are always sexualized and debased.
Here are pictures of ‘TeacherBae’ :
As I read the comments under the Huffington Post article about this whole situation, the majority of the commenters(White people) believed that her attire was too tight and not appropriate for her profession. There were a few commenters who believed that there wasn’t anything wrong with her outfits. Though I do believe that the dress in the second picture is pushing it, I believe that the responses to this situation would have been much different if she were a thin White woman.
Personally, my figure is much closer to the thin woman on the left than the curvy woman on the right. Thinner women are much less likely to be shamed and sexualized for their body than curvier women. Despite the advent of the popularity of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez’s curvy figures in mainstream media, thinner bodies are still seen as the ideal of a woman’s body in society. Add White skin to a thin frame on a woman and you have the quintessential ideal of beauty in the Western world. In general, curvier women tend to face more people sexualizing and fetishizing their body than slimmer women. Curvy women’s body tend to arouse a man’s attention more due to the shape of the woman’s buttocks, breasts, hips, waist and thighs. Even if a curvy woman wears a dress or shorts, people assume that she is showing off her figure and sexualize her as a whore. Add Black skin to a curvaceous body and you have the most defiled and disrespected female form in the Western world.
How are Black women’s bodies policed and shamed?
The debasement of Black women’s bodies has been going on for centuries. It started in Africa where men would perform genital mutilations on young women’s vaginas, put ironing cads on women’s breasts to prevent them from growing and marrying them off to older tribesmen, who used their bodies to procreate offspring to carry on their bloodlines. There was even incidents where African kings and royalty will sell Black women and girls into sexual slavery to Arabs merchants and tradesmen for gold and other materials that they needed. Though not every ancient African society operated like this, much of these societies did to the point that it pretty much paved a way for European imperialists to come to the continent and rape and pillage various African countries of it’s resources while exploiting and taking advantage of Black women’s bodies.
Black slave traders also sold Black women to the Europeans for gold, silver, rum and other things they traded for. These Black women were then put on slave ships to the Americas, where they picked cotton in the fields, worked in the master’s house and dealt with sexual abuse from their slave masters. Black women’s bodies were used to birth more slaves to perform more manual labor and keep the slave population intact. Many slave masters has sexual liasons with their ”property” ie Black slave women. One incident of such an occurrence was Sarah Baartman.
Sarah Baartman was an African woman that was from the tribe of Khoikhoi, which is in South Africa. Her mother died when she was two due to illness. Her father died when she was a teenager. She got married and had a baby before they died so she went into domestic service to take care of herself. It was then that Dutch colonists discovered her and promised her that she will live a better live in a European country as opposed to living in Africa. Instead of being afforded a better life, she was put on display as a ”freak” in European cities like London and Paris. She was played in a cage like an animal and treated like one. She was nicknamed the ”Hottenot Venus” due to her large posterior and large breasts. In many ways, she was debased, humiliated and treated as less than human because of her race, gender and body proportions. Unfortunately, she sold her body for money(prostitution) to survive once the novelty wore off and died at age 26 from a “inflammatory and eruptive disease”, which was probably a result from Syphillis or Pneumonia. Her genitals, brain and skeleton was put on display in a British museum until 1974 and her remains were shipped back to her South African homeland in 2002. Sarah Baartman’s story is a heartbreaking example of the exploitation of Black women’s bodies in the Western world.
Here is an image of Sarah Baartman being looked up by Europeans for her large posterior.
The exploitation of Black women’s bodies still continues to this very day. Look at the Hip Hop videos that show scantily clad women dancing around these misogynistic rappers’ lyrics. Look at how Black women are shamed for expressing their sexuality in their own communities. A Black woman is seen as a fast tail girl if she finds herself in a situation where she was raped, sexually assaulted and molested by a Black male in her circles. Look at how many Black mothers(including my own mother) try to repress the sexuality and femininity of their daughters and other Black women around them. The reason why Black women’s bodies is so heavily policed by other Black people is due to the Jezebel stereotype that many Black women, who freely express their sexuality, face. Black women are labeled whores just for existing but many Black women try to adhere to respectability politics to avoid the whore and Jezebel label. Even in outer society, Black women’s bodies are seen as dirty and somewhat immoral due to the Blackness that comes in the female form. Black women’s bodies are hardly respected and seen as worthy of love, respect and protection.
Though I believe that adhering to specific dress code is important, ‘TeacherBae’ was heavily shamed for wearing attire that isn’t necessarily sexual. But her curvy figure on a Black female body always initiates those who sexualize and fetishize the Black woman’s body. Since Black women aren’t protected by either Black males nor other races of men, Black women are open season to be attacked by just about everyone. The policing and repressing of Black female sexuality will always be an issue to be discussed unless something is done about it.