Black womanists/feminists have a lot to be mad about. Whenever black women are celebrated, it is a product of the hypersexual male gaze. When black feminists call it out, they are met with division. For example, when a male popular artist decides to celebrate a woman’s body, hair or opinions, the response is "shut up and take the praise" or that women are buying into their own oppression by listening to artists like Kendrick Lamar.
After Lamar’s single, “Humble” dropped, you would think that the imagery in the music video or possible shots fired at other MCs would be the topic of discussion. Nope. A few bars have basically taken over the discussion about “Humble.”
I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretch marks
Still will take you down right on your mama's couch in Polo socks
Twitter has a very interesting way of conveniently making the issue black and white, but choosing a side also seems to ignore the core issue. For any woke man or woman, hip-hop is, in fact, op-ed fodder. It can be problematic and misogynistic — and aggravatingly so. But you knew that already, especially if you’re a black female fan.
So does Kendrick Lamar deserve a good ol' fashioned Twitter drag? Yes, and for different reasons depending on who you talk to. Some are simply over the fact that the woman in his video was fairer skinned with curly hair. Some are completely outraged that his wife could be described with the same adjectives, and that somehow undermines his love for black women. But some are just stating the obvious reasons we need black feminism: black women don’t just deserve to be celebrated for the sexualization of their bodies.
But what makes K. Dot any different from any other hip-hop artist who only wants to give the shoutout when it suits their sex drive? He’s being critiqued for his comments (rightfully so) about women in their "natural" state, whereas rappers like Drake get by unscathed. Drake is the same rapper who gave us “sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on,” and in his opinion, is when a woman is prettiest. The list could go on, which also includes our obsession with the “bad and boujee” and the “independent” woman. In all of those instances, black women are celebrated, sexualized and held to unbearably high standards.
Does that mean you delete those same men from your iPod? Probably not. The short answer is that it’s complicated being female, black and a fan of hip-hop. However, calling out the misogynoir doesn’t mean we can’t give our favorite song a good twerk. As black women have continued to say forever, why can’t we do both?! If you love hip-hop or trap music, why does critiquing it mean we forfeit being a fan? Again, it shouldn’t.
While we are on the subject, Lamar may actually have made a point (and not the one we all thought he did). We start hashtags like #flexinginmycomplexion or #LoveYourLines because the awful truth is that the preference for lighter skin, looser coils/curls and photoshopped curves are still a thing. So does agreeing with those sentiments in any way forfeit your wokeness? No. And yes, you can still (and should) sit with us black feminists.
You see, I too want to see more black booty with stretch marks, because in a world that often pressures black women to have it all, do it all and not complain, embracing who you are is hard work. That also doesn’t mean I’m deliberately shaming women who don't mind a filter or two. The same goes for women who wear weaves. If I praise natural beauty, this doesn't mean I don't have love for black girls who love their perm. Affirming Kendrick's statement shouldn't deny women ownership of their bodies in whatever form. There's always space to affirm different women.
Again, Kendrick deserves every bit of the critique he inspires, and Jasmyn Lawson summed it up perfectly when she tweeted this:
In the end, this isn't just about Kendrick. Kendrick is an example of why the black feminists are always “looking for something to be mad about.” Some man is yet again, mansplaining women's empowerment and passing it off as just “women's empowerment.”