By: Terrence A. Merkerson
I’ve never been one to attack “us” and I will not begin today.
Issues concerning identity and divisiveness have historically plagued us. Seemingly, any opportunity that presents itself is just cause for division and debate. To be clear, I am firm believer that healthy dialogue and debate are the cornerstones of any functional, communicative relationship, initiative or movement, regardless of scale. But some issues are so deeply seeded in our heritage that they often are more troublesome and problematic when they arise than others. Sometimes we can disregard many of them as surface-level disputes, but other times, all it takes is a misguided comment, a slightly insensitive quirk or even a seemly innocent tweet to open up the gates of hell.
Recently, there have been many discussions had about Ayesha Curry and her comments regarding her clothing preferences and inferring that “covering up” is more proper (less “trendy”) and pleasing for her man. On surface level, there is not much wrong with her statement, but her inferences show slight symptoms of shade towards women whose preferences juxtapose her own. This stirred up all kinds of conversations about women’s bodies and the patriarchal obsession with the preservation of the female body. What it created has women (mostly women of color) debating and defending themselves and their positions and men (also mostly men of color) adding in their two cents about “what men want their woman to dress like”. This re-spawned the “good girl vs. the not-so-good girl” debate and what women are supposed to look and dress like to be able to “qualify” as being a “good girl”. There are countless black women that are brilliant, highly educated, financially secure and are of high moral who are also proud of their bodies and have license to exhibit as much of their bodies (whether that be less or more) as they see fit. Likewise, there are countless women that may not be as privileged but are also proud of their bodies and have the same license to exhibit as much of their bodies (whether that be less or more) as they see fit as well. Privilege does not give anyone the right to judge, condescend or be wrongfully critical of anyone else, especially when it comes to attempting to regulate bodies. Did Ayesha Curry intended to impart all this with her statements? Of course not. But celebrity, popularity and privilege should not shield anyone from criticism. If you have a position and make statements publicly, be prepared to discuss and defend them. Take it as a lesson learned. Be a great wife, mother and most of all, be a great woman and be them all by your own terms. My beef is not with you or your comments. My beef is with patriarchy.
We have all seen the memes and read all the comments that inject patriarchy into the discussion about what men want women to look and dress like, the kind of woman gets “wife’d” and the what kind doesn’t, and about what #relationship goals should and should not look like. Honestly folks, most of all of that is bullshit. This patriarchal viewpoint only benefits men, not women. It serves women no purpose to subscribe to it (unless you feel obligated by some reason that you can repeat, regurgitate or recite from a religious reference, that is also likely to be highly patriarchal in context, but you cannot explain it on your own) because inherently limits women to conform to the “presumed” standards and expectations of men. A woman clothing herself in a particular fashion does not make a woman a “hoe” or a “lady”. Ladies catch bodies and hoes wear clothes too (that may have been somewhat in bad taste, but its true).
Making assumptions and generalizations based entirely on appearance is a mistake we constantly reprimand other races for… so would you not think that it’s hypocritical that we do it to our own? Welp, if I’m the first to break it to you, it is hypocritical. Sorry, not sorry. Men (and some women) have an unhealthy infatuation with the preservation of the female body. Anybody ever wonder why? I’m not one to quote the bible in these instances, but since most people have (and likely will continue to), last time I checked, Adam & Eve were both naked in Eden… God didn’t trip.. I’m pretty sure Adam didn’t either (that one was for my bible-thumpers :)). There were no issues with body image “in the beginning” UNTIL… well, you know the rest. In a history dominated by men objectifying women, it should not come as a surprise that men have always wanted to “preserve their women” and just like any woman of sound mind that would vote for Donald Trump, some women willingly (though most times unknowingly) subscribe to that stupidity as well. To be clear, this mindset is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that it mostly goes unknown, unnoticed and often unchecked. That is to the fault of no one who was raised to believe these things, but as always, I challenge everyone constantly to practice the “4-Re”: Re-evaluate, Re-educate, Re-align, & Repeat. Male privilege and patriarchy is highly selective and treacherously hypocritical. Men and our infatuation with the preservation of the female body is limited to select women, not every woman, only to the “type” we would want to marry.
“Can’t have all the women out here preserving themselves… just that one that I want to wait on me…. oh and she cannot have sex with any other men in the meanwhile… while I’m out here having sex with other women… I don’t care about those women preserving themselves tho..”
Do you see where I’m going here? This is a notion that patriarchy adheres to and both women and men see it, recognize it, accept it and subscribe to it. This is an example of one form in which men take advantage of our privilege as a males. All men participate in some form of patriarchy and because of our patriarchal society, there are many inherent benefits that we receive as a males. It is our responsibility to acknowledge them and disqualify them every time that it is within our control. Bros, this is one of those times. Let’s not contribute to the division and degradation of women, especially black women.
The problem is that we are allowing body image and the way a woman chooses to dress to lead us to make determinations about her character, who is she, what she’s done and who she cannot be. That is not fair and no one should have to conform their choices to qualify themselves for anyone. Black folk, we’ve done enough conforming. We need not do anymore. That being said, ladies wear what you want to wear (whether that be more or less) and you do not need my permission or any other man or woman’s permission to do so.
Side note::: Let me make it known that I’m not saying to walk around ass naked, man or woman. We do have laws (many of those are problematic too though…) Just don’t tell the judge that I said for you to pull an Erykah Badu “Window Seat” video shoot at the grocery store on the canned goods aisle. I want to encourage you all to find the power in your sexuality and in your womanhood, it is there and it is real. Cover or uncover at your own risk. Remember, opinions are like assholes and every asshole has one.
Terrence Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama earning a Master’s Degree in Communication.
He currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA.