For as long as I can remember, my body has been policed.
From how I wore my hair, to how short a skirt I could wear. My aunt even told me this golden quote:
“Jenn, all you had all your life was legs and ass!”
True story. But I digress.
But, I remember the first time I was called ‘fast’ or that I was ‘trying to be fast’. I had no idea what that meant as an 8-year-old girl. I knew that when I started to get taller, my mother and father got worried about how they could keep me looking like a little girl. I remember the vinegar my grandmother had her in mouth when she even said that word ‘fast.’ I remember my Aunt Linda said I was ‘switching’ and did I think I was fast?
I had no concept of that.
Later on I found out that I have a slight curvature to my back, and that causes me to ‘switch.’ It wasn’t anything I could control. I remember feeling bad about my body and wishing to change it. I didn’t want to have long legs. I didn’t want the butt I had. I just wanted to change!
I remember I was in third grade when the first boy touched my butt. I was told this was normal and ‘some boys just do that.’ I remember in third grade when a boy told me to open my legs and let him touch me. I remember I pushed him away, hit him and cried. I remember telling my teacher what happened and us both being sent to the principal’s office.
BOTH. OF. US.
I didn’t tell my mother, or aunts, or grandmother what happened. There was no note sent home, and he stayed in my third grade class. For me? The worst thing was to be considered ‘fast.’ Especially when I had no concept of what it really was to be it; or what it meant to be called it.
Girls, now women, of a certain age know what it’s like to have that look on older women’s faces when they call you this name. This look of disgust, horror and anger. I remember I couldn’t have red nail polish. I couldn’t wear my hair certain ways. And I always had to have a slip when I wore skirts so ‘no boy would look up my dress.’ In the reflection of my womanhood, I know that a ‘fast girl’, to be labeled a ‘fast girl’ is to be called a slut or a whore. It’s a sweeter way to tell a girl, especially a little Black girl, that her body is a temptation to men, even as young as seven or eight.
Being called fast is supposed to be some type of deterrent. A way to warn you to control yourself before the outside world pounces on you. It puts the onus of all sexual interaction or interest on a girl.
A little girl.
And the word is so ingrained among the African-American community that is hard to stop using it–even in casual conversation! But let us examine this further. We tell little Black girls how precious they are, how pretty, and then tell them they have to be cognizant of how they sit. The nail polish they wear. How they wear their hair. We police everything about them.
The world outside our doors never sees them as girls. We know there is research that exists that think Black girls as young as five are sexualized. Being fast is another way of asserting that same control the world has a little Black girl, until she falls in line. Until she sees her body as weapon and temptation. Until she cannot celebrate her full lips, curves or plump rear end.
Now this is not a deterrent to decorum. I believe little girls should be able to be little girls, for as long as possible. But there are other ways to affirm this other than policing what they can’t control.
Little Black girls deserve to be protected and loved too. The world already seeks to devour them. Let’s not serve the world’s lion the meat of their flesh before they are able to identify them. And run from them.