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How Megan Thee Stallion represents African American women

How Megan Thee Stallion represents African American women

How Megan Thee Stallion represents African American women
November 01
14:00 2020

Since Megan Thee Stallion impacted the music industry in 2018 with her critically acclaimed EP, “Tina Snow,”  I have admired her confidence and body positivity. I am always going to give props to a fellow Black woman doing great things, but I never expected her to give a voice to me and millions of women of color. Megan is the embodiment of what it is like to be a multifaceted Black woman in a society that has outdated preconceptions of our demographic.

On Oct. 13, the New York Times published an opinion piece Megan wrote, asserting the importance of protecting Black women. The article gracefully shatters villainous stereotypes society has set for African American women. We are more likely to be perceived as defiant, deceitful and immoral. Eventually, those beliefs led to Black women being deemed as undeserving of protection. 

Black women also receive harsher criticism in the workforce. In a professional environment, hair discrimination runs rampant. Black women in the entertainment and sports industry are hypersexualized and only seen as each other’s competition. Across all industries, Black women are expected to dress differently, tone down their personality and culture in order to succeed.

Megan’s opinion article comes months after fellow entertainer Tory Lanez shot her – an incident in which she was victim-blamed. Many people were skeptical, doubting Megan when she named Lanez as her assailant. The speculation and doubt surrounding Megan’s assault, despite all the evidence in her favor, is also seen in Breonna Taylor’s case. 

On March 13, police shot and killed Taylor while she was asleep. Taylor had no criminal record and was not the subject of the police’s no-knock search warrant. Yet, many people still justify the police officer’s actions, reinforcing the narrative of Black women not deserving protection, which traces back to colonial slavery.

Slave owners associated feminity, morality, grace and other traits of womanhood with white women. As history progressed, Black women accepted the world’s reluctance to defend them and began to stand up for themselves, only to be villainized with the labels “angry” and “aggressive.” 

The conditioning to fit the conventional image of Black feminity begins when young Black girls are subjected to adultification bias, according to a 2017 study by Georgetown Law. Adultification bias is a form of prejudice that holds minority children, Black girls in this case, to a higher standard of behavior. Black girls more likely to experience this form of bias and racism. Society assumes and expects them to be more mature than the average child their age. This results in Black girls missing out on the positive reinforcement and nurturing essential to their development.

When African American girls are held to a higher standard than their peers, it can have dire consequences. It can lead to harsher punishments in school, sexualization and mental illness. The bias typically starts with teachers and caregivers, but peers quickly catch on and reinforce its harmful ramifications. These projections can affect Black girls for the rest of their lives, causing them to grow into insecure women who water themselves down to survive. 

Black women are also associated with strength and resilience. Vocalizing our hurt does not exactly match society’s expectations of us. Megan’s opinion piece gave validation to the silent struggle Black women have endured for centuries. I experienced adultification bias in my childhood years but I never had anyone to talk to about it. My mother, grandmothers, aunts and older sisters experienced it, so we learned to accept it as the norm.

The public’s reaction of doubt and curiosity regarding Megan’s role was in the shooting instead of coming to her defense is indicative of a systemic issue. Black women are perceived as aggressive or salacious when we stand up for ourselves, and yet we are still not allowed to be vulnerable. 

Megan is putting in the work to normalize defying societal expectations. Fearlessly multifaceted, she refuses to mold into the world’s ideal version of herself. In her music, she owns her sexuality, independence and tenacity. Some weaponize her lyrical content, claiming she is not a good role model for young girls. They fail to recognize her philanthropy and overlook her determination as she pursues a degree from Texas Southern University.

The reality society has created for Black women is we cannot be successful without being asked to conform to the world’s perception of us. Megan Thee Stallion is flawlessly ushering an era where Black women can be seen as both strong and vulnerable while receiving the protection we deserve.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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