About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Black Girls: Still Big Booties and Pu**y? (That's not putty...)

OK, WTH?! This was my immediate reaction upon coming across the Google search results for “black girls” that are displayed in this image (right). (Note the sponsored links, too.) Mind you, I was searching for an organization, Black Girls Rock, Inc., that I had come across months ago and wanted to revisit. I couldn’t quite remember the name but knew that black girls was part of it.

Now, I really don’t want to get into a ramble about historical depictions of black women as lusty, animalistic, lewd sex-toys—trust me, I could go there—but the irony of this situation is troubling in itself. For the last few years, I’ve been mulling over the idea of a non-profit organization designed to help young black women combat the afore-mentioned negative images, particularly as cultivated in various aspects of hip-hop culture, music videos, films, and print media. Black Girls Rock, Inc. is an organization that does such work, and I wanted to peruse it for inspiration. (Adding inc. to my search got me to the right site, by the way.)

But alas, of the first seven entries that appear in these Google search results, only one of them does not relate to black women as purely sexual objects. And these are the top results of 276 million. What causes this particular content to appear first in a search for “black girls”? Well, I had to do a little research.

Determining search results and ranking them are complicated processes that involve some pretty fancy computing (all kinds of algorithms and such that I know nothing about), but the quality of web pages is an important consideration in ranking search results. In a newsletter called Librarian Central, Google gives librarians various teaching tips, one of which deals with search engines. In an issue titled “How Does Google Collect and Rank Results?” Google offers this information after having provided material on data collection:

Now we have the set of pages that contain the user's query somewhere, and it's time to rank them in terms of relevance. Google uses many factors in ranking. Of these, the PageRank algorithm might be the best known. PageRank evaluates two things: how many links there are to a web page from other pages, and the quality of the linking sites. With PageRank, five or six high-quality links from websites such as www.cnn.com and www.nytimes.com would be valued much more highly than twice as many links from less reputable or established sites.
This is interesting information. According to Google, it prizes foremost the number of sites that link to pages containing the items in the query (in my case, the number of sites linking to sugaryblackpu**y.com and the like) and then the credibility of those sites. This leads me to wonder, Where are the “quality” portals of information that positively discuss black girls? That’s not to say they don’t appear somewhere in those 276 million results, but they’re clearly not as prominent as those sites linking to pages that perpetuate an idea of lewd black female sexuality.

Apart from the numbers and quality of web pages that link to the words in a searcher’s query, Google states that relevance is a key determiner in ranking results:

As a rule, Google tries to find pages that are both reputable and relevant. If two pages appear to have roughly the same amount of information matching a given query, we'll usually try to pick the page that more trusted websites have chosen to link to. Still, we'll often elevate a page with fewer links or lower PageRank if other signals suggest that the page is more relevant. For example, a web page dedicated entirely to the civil war is often more useful than an article that mentions the civil war in passing, even if the article is part of a reputable site such as Time.com.
Because the sites that link black girls with hot sex are so much more abundant than those that don’t, the relevance factor appears to be more important than the reputability factor here. What’s relevant regarding black girls appears to be those who are involved in porn. Hmmm…

I’m not out to attack Google, though. The company is only collecting and sorting data. My concern is that, in 2010, so many users of the World Wide Web are more interested in black girls for their big booties and pu**ies than, say, for their creativity, beauty, or anything not related to their anatomy.

It’s not like black girls are unaware of this interest. Any given day, you can see young black females in skin-tight, low-rise, hip-hugging jeans or shorts that look like underwear with their booty cheeks all out (check out Jill Scott's "The Thickness"!). Why? Is it because such looks are trendy, attractive to males, or plastered all over videos and magazines? It’s likely that all these possibilities hit the nail on the head, but the important thing is that so many of our girls want to emphasize their sexuality when they walk out of the door. The curves are given top priority, and this valuing of the body isn’t spawned in a vacuum. It’s cultivated by so many forces in the world we live in.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with females embracing their sexuality. In fact, the ability to do so is one of the triumphs of feminism and other movements that now allow females the freedom to express themselves. However, when that freedom privileges sexuality, then we have children growing up placing their self-worth in their curves and in attracting interest in those curves. Where’s the true self-love in that, the value of a woman’s essence that doesn’t reside in her anatomy?

That’s also not to say that young black females are the only ones who wear revealing clothing. Of course, women of all shades, sizes and ages dress this way. But I’m focusing on this style of dress in conjunction with the historical images of black women (that have not died) and the clearly continued fascination with black women’s supposedly animalistic lust, as evidenced by the associations that web users make between black females and their sexuality.

It’s clear that if we parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, preachers, and friends don’t educate black girls about their inherent value, apart from their bodies, then there’s a whole world, a whole culture out there willing to educate them instead. Maybe my now-foggy ideas about an NPO will eventually become a real entity that counteracts these views of black females. Thank goodness for programs like Black Girls, Inc. and Hot Girls, Inc. that are undertaking this work now. But the truth is this: we have to do this work for the good of our daughters and their progeny, or else we’ll never see the end of centuries-old ideas that encourage black women to love their big booties and their pu**ies while truly hating themselves.


  1. I had a very interesting conversation with a good friend many years ago about how different cultures relate to their women. My friend made the comment that males from certain cultures have historically protected their women from real or perceived threats (from outsiders, not themselves unfortunately). They would use any means necessary from litigation to lynch mobs. Where have all the of the male protectors for this culture gone??

  2. I wondered if the search was skewed by the use of the word "girls"; if you search just "girls" on Google most of the references are also to "hot girls" and "Girls Gone Wild" and "sexy girls." So there seems to be a problem with the connotations that have been associated with the very word, not just as it relates to black girls, but as it relates to all girls.

    To test my theory, however, I also searched "black women," and while the results were not nearly as lewd or gratuitous as those you found for "black girls," the results were still disheartening and reveal that, if black girls cannot escape being viewed as sexual commodities, black women cannot escape the "angry, single, and desperate" stereotype.

    (Interestingly, in my "white women" search five of the top ten results were about white women dating black men!)

  3. Very interesting, good read. Its all part of the bigger society issue that addressed. One of the problems is women (NOT ALL) have been conditioned to believe if they don't have a man, something is wrong with them. And when they see desirable men with women portraying the images you wrote about, some feel like they have to appeal to the lowest common denominator so they can have someone as well. Again, not talking about all women because there are no absolutes (I don't want 15 comments killing for my opinions)

    We live in a society that has become hypersexualized to a point and its gonna take a societal effort to raise the bar and demand more.

    I commend you on your wanting to improve things.
    SN: If I remember from my Internet Law class, there may be other factors that affect search results that may skew those rankings.

  4. Very well written! As mentioned women of all shapes and sizes take appreciation of their curves. However, black women take pride in being hypersexualized (i.e. the videos, movies, and watching them at the clubs or mall.)

    I think there are tons of non profits that are already in existence being underutilized. I think that if all would help just one we could stop this continuous debate of black girls/women and make it a myth instead of a certified stereotype.

  5. Thanks for the comments, all! Nektia and Daniel in particular seem to point back to the idea of self-esteem (Daniel, I think you're right! Lol). If women (I would assume from any culture) think T&A will result in relationships with men, they'll probably give it to them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of women out there who think they're worthless without a man. Where does that come from? I would argue there's a breakdown in self-esteem somewhere in the equation.

    Lacy, AUBigCat and I did similar searches to test it out and found the same interesting results! (Apparently, a lot of people out there are trying to figure out why white women date black men...Lol. Another topic for another day.) There's definitely something to be said for the disturbing connotations associated with the word girl. I'm having Lolita flashbacks...

  6. AUBigCat raises an interesting question: is there a lack of protection from black males in this situation?

  7. I love this, Monita!!

    I was just re-reading _Race Matters_ by Dr. Cornel West and thinking about his ideas on black identity. Though he of course is discussing black America across the board, I do believe and agree with his ideas of rooting black identity in self-respect and self-regard. Many times in portions of black America we can observe what Dr. West calls the "uncritical acceptance of self-degrading ideals." Well, you know he's saying all of this back in like 1993, but I still think it is relevant.

    I've tried to think of the question about lack of protection, and I believe for some black females that may be true. If you have never had someone stand up for your honor or expect the best of you, how would one know their worth? Unfortunately, my lived experience is full of "brothers" (both blood and in Christ) who find joy in protecting me!

  8. Unfortunately, I've only read a little bit of _Race Matters_! I really need to read the whole thing, but the "uncritical acceptance of self-degrading ideals": wow. I believe that's true for so many people in various aspects of our society. People in general don't question enough the ideas that are presented to them, whether those ideas (and ideals) are self-degrading or not. *Sigh*

  9. Whoa! That final thought was a beast! You really touched on something there when you brought up the self-hatred aspect. Other people are always going to talk about you: outsiders, people you don't know or care about...but what is the conversation at home, church, from friends, in your community, etc? That is powerful. Makes me want to rear my future children in a bubble (not really). Good job starting this conversation, Mo. Makes me think of a quote I read on Facebook, which I will paraphrase: If you dangle a bone in front of a dog, it's coming for the bone, not for you.

  10. Sometimes I think about raising my future children in a bubble too! The influences of the world are powerful, even with steadfast parents who tell the truth and encourage communication. All we can do is plant seeds and trust that when our children are old they "won't depart from [the way we've led them]." That's a great maxim about the bone! Too many people have to find that out the hard way, and many times it's innocent girls trying to portray what they see on TV, in movies and videos, etc.

  11. To comment on AUBigCat's question, I believe there is a large lack of support. What immediately comes to mind are rap videos with half-naked girls shaking their booties and pu**ies in front of the camera. The message there seems to be that that's what black girls are good for.

    Another thought is something I heard about recently: a somewhat famous groupie/blogger named Kat Stacks was slapped in the face in a public place by a man who was upset that she called rapper Bow Wow out on some things they had allegedly done together. As this man slapped her twice, another man was recording it...regardless of her lifestyle and choices, did she deserve to be assaulted? Where was her protection? It was hard to watch the video.

  12. Hesitant though I was, I just looked up this video footage, and it's horrifying! Not only is the second guy recording, but he's chiming in on the apology demands!

    It reminds me of the scene in _Sweet Home Alabama_ when Jake calls the cops to remove Melanie from his house. When the sheriff, one of Jake and Melanie's friends, shows up, he asks if Jake hit her and says, "We take that kinda thing serious nowadays." It's supposed to be a joke, especially at the expense of Alabamians, but there's still this idea out there that it's OK to hit a woman.

    If anybody's interested, here's one link of the footage: http://bossip.com/251866/video-of-kat-stacks-getting-slapped-and-talked-to-like-prostitute-video/ Sadly, on several sites that feature this video, people "like" it and indicate that she deserved it. Yeah. Real manly.

  13. Mo, this is quite thought provoking. I have never conducted such a search before, and the results are indeed appalling. The media representations of black women are truly disturbing. I have more to say but meanwhile check out this website. I think you will appreciate this: www.sunkissedgirlz.com

  14. TLee, thank you so much for providing this URL--I love it! It's exactly what I'm talking about: positive spaces encouraging black girls to love who they are. Beautiful! I read the "About Us" section and look forward to perusing the site in more depth. Thanks again, hun!

  15. Mo! I'm so sorry I'm so very late to your blog, but I wanted to start at the beginning. After reading your excellent commentary and the expansive comments, I will just echo that you have created a really well-written and thought-provoking piece that is also well-worth discussing. Self-esteem, self-loathing...these are definitely issues that girls and women of all stripes can understand, but I love your focus on black girls - and I have no doubt that you will slowly work your way toward creating an NPO that does what you want it to do. Keep exploring these ideas! You're such a good writer. :) - AMo

  16. AMo, thank you so much! That really means a lot, coming from you. You're my role model. ;-)