During episode 13, Having & Holding: Balancing Celibacy or Pleasure, I had the pleasure (no pun intended) of briefly discussing black girl body shapes with our guest, Jovan. She brought up the idea of Black girls being more shapely in early adolescence, sometime pre-puberty.
I’ve thought about this topic since.
We both agreed that we grew up with mature shapes at early ages. However, it’s the commentary that is associated with the shape of a young Black girl that sticks like glue. We refer to Black girls as fast or have been called this, most times in response to how they look instead of how they conduct themselves. Or, it is encouraged not to be "fast".
I remember beginning to transition into more of an adult shape as early as 5th or 6th grade. I vividly remember the first time I was called "fast". I was in 6th or 7th grade. It was by a male teacher. He had close relationships with most, if not all of his students and therefore, told it like it was. Fast forward to the same day if not shortly after, I also recall this same teacher playing R. Kelly's Chocolate Factory CD in class during our “Teen Summit”. This was a segment of our learning where we discussed teen issues openly and candidly. In hindsight, all of this was gross and disturbing. Such conflicting messages here. As a male teacher, you encourage a student not to be fast and then play R. Kelly who preys on young girls, in an educational setting at that. Make it make sense.
This teacher wasn’t the only person I recall hearing comments such as “fast” from. I also heard it from family. It was only a matter of time before I began to hear comments about my shape from strangers, men. What were once derogatory comments from those close to me became reinforced by strangers. I then began to understand what they meant by “fast” from these experiences and context clues. It wasn’t that I was necessarily acting "fast", but my body shape insinuated that I would act in such a way. This sends a mixed message of I care for you and am concerned about you, but I'm going to say everything but what I really mean to communicate this.
Why couldn’t they just say that? Why don’t we say this to young girls?
I get it. They were concerned about the attention I would attract because of my mature figure. However, when we don’t say what we mean, it can be to someone’s detriment. And, it did become detrimental to me in some ways. For example, as an adult I still hear comments about my “big legs” or being “bottom heavy”. As if I’m not aware. Here’s how it became detrimental: As a grown woman, I’m hella conscious about these things. Not self-conscious, but aware.
Telling young Black girls that they are “fast” or other negative comments is all wrong. Most times these comments are in response to body shape and not behavior. That's it. What messages are we sending young girls about how to love and respect their bodies and how others should treat them? Even if we feel they are being “fast” have a conversation instead of name calling. Explain your concerns and consequences. Listen to their perspective so you can become informed about how to best support them. The connotation behind such language is always negative. It teaches them about sexuality, their evolving body, and victim blaming with the absence of the actual teaching component.
Then we wonder why Black girls become Black women with the idea of sex sells and then choose partners that "love" them by sending mixed messages about how they love them, but I digress.