In our society today, nudity has eaten deep into the roots of black heritage and culture. Public display of the female body parts is now applauded and accepted as a norm by society itself. The objectification and hyper sexualized images of women displayed by the entertainment media, is now a marketing strategy for driving business goals. The likes of Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian , Halle Berry, Beyoncé to mention a few have made names for themselves through talent, dedication and hard work. However, these society women embrace the demeaning act of nudity to promote their images.
This leaves me pondering with questions on why these successful, bold, beautiful and intelligent women subject themselves to sexploitation by the entertainment industry. They are already successful in their careers; they have money and fame, so why do they still display nudity to promote their images?
These questions could be answered differently from various points of views, but a well acclaimed response to my question remains that sexual images lure the public view; it increases sales and promotes the organizations interest. Now, we also have male entertainers and public figures as well, who in turn make good money from doing what they do. It is indeed very rare to come across a popular male figure who publicly displays his private parts on television or any other social outlet. Yet, we black women, the pride of Africa, feel like it is a necessity for us to expose our bodies to be recognized and heard.
In my research, I came across this interesting and unfortunate story of a South African woman called Saartjie Baartman who in her early 20’s was deceived into believing she was going to London to get fame and money. She was then sold to London by a Scottish doctor named Alexander Dunlop. Saartjie had a different body frame from the “normal” perceived Caucasian woman; she was seen as an abnormal African woman because of her protruding buttocks and labia minora. She faced racial inferiority; she was turned into a sex object as she was made to perform naked, dancing for various freak shows all over Britain. Unfortunately, in 1814, Saartjie was taken to France and turned to an object for scientific and medical research. She died the next year of an undetermined inflammatory disease. Even after her death, her body was dissected and displayed in the museum of man in Paris for public viewing.
In modern times, women have degraded themselves to sexploitation by their own will. Saartjie was forced to perform naked in freak shows in mockery to black women and their God given assets. She was ridiculed and degraded to an object of lust and fascination. It must have indeed been a very shameful and agonizing experience for her. Her death and agony should be an inspiration for us black women to say NO to the objectification of our bodies. As we understand, her body was exploited as a source of amusement to the white men, we may not be performing in freak shows but we are indirectly displaying our bodies for sexual exploitation and amusement.
I love this very talented and young lady in the entertainment industry – she is called Janelle Monae. In an interview for the 2012 Cover Girl edition she said, “I wear my uniform proudly as a cover girl, I want to be clear, young girls, I didn’t have to change to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness, embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.” She is an example of a black woman who knows her values are not reflected by wearing revealing or no clothes at all, there are other dignified women who have made names for themselves in their various careers like Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Chimamanda Adichie, Dr. Shirley Jackson, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Maya Angelou…to mention a few.
Do these women sell their images for sexual pleasures? Who says wearing little amount of clothes or none, as the case might be, is the only possible way a woman can be successful and show how sexy she is? We black women have a culture to preserve. We have dignity and pride to uphold; we cannot let ourselves be ridiculed.
I was fortunate to go for a teenage award show in Abuja sometime last year; I was shocked by what I saw. Young beautiful girls between the ages of 14-18 were so scantily dressed either wearing body hugging, exposed or ripped clothing. I began to wonder, why would any sane parent let their kid dress so poorly at a very young age?
Fortunately for me, I saw a close family friend, she wasn’t by any chance looking different from the others. I politely asked her why she was dressed in such manner, and her response left me in confusion. This 17 year old teenager said plainly to me that she heard fine and fresh boys were coming for the show, so she had to ‘murder’ and look sexy because boys are attracted by what they see.
This is the kind of orientation these young ones are having today. It is believed, even amongst the adults, that exposing the body parts attract men and compliments. Yes! This is true, but what type of men do you attract? What type of compliments do you receive?
You don’t need to impress any man by going overboard with your dressing, the right and mature man will see beyond that and look for the beauty inside of you. Do not let your way of dressing be a hindrance to that perfect dream job you desire, you may be qualified but your image may not portray how good you are. Your ideal dream man might pass you by because he’ll probably think you are cheap and indecent.
On the last note, I will say to every black woman out there “Do not sell your dignity for the price of an affirmative” you can succeed as a person without objectifying yourself as a sex object. Be unique, change your orientation! You go girl!