The Image of Black Women as Whores

As I prepare for an upcoming trip to celebrate turning 50 this year, I reflect on my 50 years as a Black woman growing up in a racialized US. I had also been working on a blog that talks about the image promoted in the US and that is agreed upon around the world of Black women as whores or loose women. I just realized that the two (my history and Black women as whores) are intimately intertwined since I am a Black woman. I asked myself some questions and then proceeded to answer them from what I know and understand. I share this with you.

We’ve all heard various comments about the portrayal of Black women as whores or as being ‘whorish.’ Where does this come from? Why is it so pervasive? What can we do about it? Have Black women had to act ‘whorish’ in order to survive?

I immediately go back to slave times, the time this image was birthed. Yes, I realize I used the term birthed as Black women, over the years, have given birth to a multitude of things. I’ll let you reflect on that one on your own. The white master would force himself upon the poor, defenseless black slave women and in some instances; actually prefer them over their wives. The wives blamed it on the slave women rather than putting the blame on their husbands. They blamed it on the dress, the ‘sexualness’ of their walk, the looks, etc. of the black slave women even though they didn’t have control over anything; their own bodies, the clothes provided by the master, the raising of their own children, the right to have a husband, etc.

Thus, an image was born. Black women just want to have sex all the time. Black women dress sexually in order to entice men, especially white men. Black women want to try and control white men by having sex with them. I could go on and on with the stereotypes. All the while this image is being congealed; the image of white women is that of a princess or angel. They are to be protected and cared for, loved and impregnated with future heirs but never sexualized or treated as Black women are treated. I don’t by any means imply that some white women are not sexualized but that they are not done so systematically and as an entire group. The dichotomy of these two groups of women in our society has, however, proved detrimental for all women.

This image has remained and even been transformed as our society has progressed. In present day, black women continue to bear this image but at a more sophisticated level. Even with the new show ‘Scandal’, Kerry Washington plays a black woman at the higher levels of power and yet she has the image of a whore. Sleeping with President but not being his wife, sleeping with the secret service man (also a white man). The one Black man she sleeps with wants to marry her but she declines. But if you think about it, many black women who have become elevated have had to be ‘whorish’ in order to rise. I’m not necessarily referring to physical ‘whorishness’ but the mental kind that also permeates our existence. The unnecessary and over the top things we have to put up with, the excessive hoops we have to jump through, the multitude of people we have to put up with, just to get ahead. No, I’m not referring to the level of put up withs, hoops and people that whites and some black men have to go through to get ahead but the excessive levels that even surpass what white women have to endure.

Changing this image involves our identity and perspective. Yes, there is still quite a bit in the movies, media, news, etc. to portray Black women in this negative light. However, there is also, in more recent times, quite a bit to counteract this image but it certainly isn’t enough. Many Black women feel that we have to pimp ourselves out to bosses, careers, housing, men, family, children, etc. We feel the pressure of being considered ‘whorish’ and less than. Our toils have led to numerous early losses, tragedies, and even deaths.

How can we continue to progress and change this image to the rightful ones of Black women as mothers, queens, nurturers, etc., who need to be loved and respected and also protected and cared for? First, Black women can begin to recognize and realize their value and worth to this world. It is our strength and beauty that has been instrumental in the changes thus far and we need to continue in advancing this rightful image by fully embracing who we are and what we have to contribute. Second, the more I engage others who are different from me, the more I stretch and grow as a person, as a Black woman, and as a Christian. This engaging and interactive lifestyle further solidifies my identity for me. As we become more secure in our identity, we become more secure in all areas of our lives. We become better. Third, in our seeking out others, we should, as Black women, seek to form connections and alliances with women from all cultures, races and ethnicities and social strata. Women all over the world are being subjected to varying degrees of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, etc. It will be with our collective effort that we can truly make progress in ridding the world of these atrocities. Finally, if you are not a Black woman but want to do something, engage those Black women around you. Learn from their perspective, their actions and reactions in the world. Build relationships with us, encourage us, stand in solidarity with us, and advocate for us.

Our world is interconnected, whether we want to realize it or not. So, it will be through our collective efforts that we will be able to change the images of women in general and of Black women in particular to a more positive and affirming image. Let’s all do our part.