J. Lo’s Ass Is Nothing New: Why I Decided to Write The War on Black Women’s Bodies

The Prologue to The War on Black Women’s Bodies: Redefining Ourselves, Our Spirits and Our Silhouettes

This year I realized I was a black woman.

I know. Mind-boggling, right? Nearly 25 years and I finally learned just what I’m working with.

It’s not as though I haven’t seen what reflected back in the mirror every day I stood in front of it throughout my entire life. But, some times you see, and other times you see. This year I gained a visceral, unshakable, as-I-live-and-breathe awareness of what it means to be a black woman making my way through the world. The pits. The triumphs. The jigsaw pieces that only we understand. I started to watch black women come under siege more than I ever realized–on social media, in print media and everywhere else in between. At the same time, I was finally coming into my own as a black woman and that consciousness influenced every identity I have–daughter, sister, friend, woman, and, most notably, writer.

I remember jotting down “blog post” in my journal of scribbles many weeks ago when Vogue’s Associate Culture editor Patricia Garcia wrote an article titled, “The Dawn of the Butt: Big Booty In Popular Culture Throughout The Years.” I was going to call the blog post “The War on Black Women’s Bodies” and dissect Garcia’s incredibly flawed argument that “As we await the premiere of Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azaleas new music video, it would appear that the big booty has officially become ubiquitous. In music videos, in Instagram photos, and on today’s most popular celebrities, the measure of sex appeal is inextricably linked to the prominence of a woman’s behind.” But, when I started to jot down ideas for that blog post, the list grew longer. And longer. And much longer.

I knew I had to go beyond just writing one blog post. While quick-hit blog post are now second nature to me, I knew it was time to challenge myself more as a writer. I didn’t want to wait for a coveted spot at a major news outlet to prove to myself that I can produce the kind of journalism I longed to write before I dropped out of j-school during my first semester. I also knew that I wanted to combine different forms of storytelling–visuals, essays, feature stories, whatever–to capture this narrative of how black women are taking back what some toxic combination of society, men, the black community and the Devil himself have stolen from them.

However, I didn’t want this series to be a bunch of whining and crying and restating issues that have plagued us for decades. I wanted this series to be about ownership. I wanted to showcase how black women are owning their shit. Owning themselves. Owning their sexuality, their spirituality, their bodies, their pasts, presents and futures. We may be under siege, but we are commanding ownership of our place in the world in ways that continue to amaze and captivate me.

Let me also say I know I did not and will not capture everything in the series. I don’t want to. I know that “The War on Black Women’s Bodies” could a whole damn anthology if I truly dissected it. But, I’m using my platform for the first time ever to dig into the intricacies, the pain and the perfect storm of black womanhood. I am tackling this exhilarating combination of race and feminism. I am looking at myself and looking at the world around me, pulsing other women and picking their brains, sifting through resources, digging through articles, advancing and advocating for a community of women I love and adore. It’s not just blogging for me anymore.

As I’ve said before, sometimes when you realize you have a platform and a captive audience, you have to move beyond the bullshit and do the revolutionary work. I believe The War on Black Women’s Bodies is revolutionary work. I believe in this project from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes, and back to the edges of my skull. Perhaps I believe in this project more than I believed in anything else I have done or written this entire year. I believe in this project because I believe in the indomitable and earth-shattering power of black women.

Tomorrow the series will launch with “The Battle for Representation: Media and Popular Culture” and continue for five weeks after. There are essays. There are videos. There is a guest post. There will be another insane and frenzied Twitter chat. There is poetry. There are quotes and photos. But, above all else, there are many beautiful back women behind this project. Women I’ve already interviewed. Women I will interview. Women who will contribute their art, wisdom, talent, stories, power and insight to making this project a success.

I hope you will join me on this crazy ass journey for the next six weeks. I hope you will drop by and stay awhile. I hope that you’ll read, share, comment and bear witness to me stretching and changing as a woman and writer.