It is no secret when I was a tomboy growing up. I was a tomboy that had a Daddy who wanted his daughter to still wear skirts, Easter frocks and Mary Janes. But, my family being the matriarchal tour de force that it was (before the death of my grandmother in 2013) the girls always had to look ‘presentable.’
Presentable was your body being clean, hair combed and clothes ironed. In being presentable, once my body started to change is when I noticed how her response to me getting dressed changed. With her, my aunts and my mother.
I was a tall girl, long since birth and a tomboy it seemed soon after. I remember the first time my Aunt Linda told me that a skirt was too short and it didn’t cover my butt. I remember her telling me to be careful about little boys that might look up my skirt or try to touch me. I wasn’t even 10 when all this information was given to me at the speed of an open fire hydrant!
I remember hearing the word fast in casual conversation with my mother’s sisters, and it not being explained. But the thing about that is, I was one of the fastest girls in my elementary school! So to be fast, was a good thing. But just by the hushed tones, rolled eyes and venom when the word was said, let me know that kind of fast I never wanted to be associated with.
It wasn’t until I was in about middle school when the phrase fast-tail girl became heard regularly.
“Whatchu got on? You look like one of dem ole fast-tail girls!”
“Why you got your hair like that? You look like you been walking the street all night!”
“Oh, you know only fast girls wear colors/clothes like that!”
In breaking this down, this phrase. I know now, in the light of adulthood, these women were calling me a whore, or having whorish behavior.
A fast girl, a fast tail girl, is a whore! A girl that is seen or seems to have a preoccupation with sex or as the appearance she is interested in sex before an appropriate age. A fast girl is a girl that is womanish, but not quite; i.e. she is developed like a woman but in theory may be a young girl.
The length of a skirt. How to wear my hair. Nail polish colors. Body shaming. All this normal because the world outside your house wants you to hate everything we as Black girls see in the mirror. It has been this evil forcefield that encapsulates Black girls, to make them think if they look a certain way nothing will happen to them. On the flipside of this is we never talk enough to young men to value women, or appreciate them outside of ‘how bad they are’.
Hypersexualizing Black girls is detrimental to their self-esteem. It robs them of the joy their bodies and their ownership of them. This label reduces them to vessels and not people. It reduces them to what they can present, not who they will become. Telling a Black girl what she is not, without affirming all she is, sends her into the world with a deficit–that the world and it’s lies will try to deepen with more lies of what she is not. Or fill what will never satisfy her.
From the crown of her head, to whatever curves she would have, to the soles of her feet, Black girls are just that. Little girls. Let them be that. Protect them without shame. Affirm them without slight or backhand compliment. Value them beyond appearance, and speak to the deep places in her life which need them.
Black girls need to be able to be girls. They have their entire lives to be grown.