Tallahassee, FL — For centuries, Black women have endlessly battled with society's critiques of how they should "showcase" their bodies, as if it's something to put on display.
Young Black girls are emerging into a society where they are oversexualized if they show the smallest bit of skin. Forbidden if they do, Black girls will be deemed ungodly, attention-seeking or derogatory terms by the nation and, unfortunately, even their own community.
This infringement causes Black women to be taught early on how they must dress, act and speak to please society's stereotypical standards of their community. In turn, this has driven many Black women, primarily young adults, to censor how they embrace and show their bodies on social media.
O'kayhvia Ferguson is one of the thousands of young Black women who feel oppressed about confidently showing their bodies due to modern society's judgments.
"I don't think I can embrace my body fully on social media because I'm a young Black woman with big dreams," said the 19-year-old from Margate, Florida. "I've seen the repercussions Black women have faced for expressing themselves on social media, so I have always felt that I've needed to be extra conscious about my social media content. If you view my account, it's pretty modest in my opinion and nothing a future employer can bring up in an interview. I just fear the potential repercussion that may occur if I decide to express myself like that."
Rachel Walker, a 20-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, also stresses how Black women's bodies are unwantedly subdued to society and aren't always welcomed.
"I realized that being a Black woman, you are only celebrated when you're doing what society deems as acceptable. So stepping into your sexuality and gaining confidence in that tends to get negative responses," said Walker. "I believe that society believes they have access to speak on Black women's everything without our permission. They are too comfortable disturbing us while we are simply being black and being a woman. I think this stems from the blatant disregard they have for our boundaries. Also, when they see Black men disrespect us, they see that even our own men can, so why can't they do it?"
Social media has increasingly encouraged people to negatively comment on one's appearance without face-to-face interaction, making many Black women afraid to embrace their imperfections boldly and pridefully. Some even go to extreme measures of physically altering their appearance to satisfy others rather than accepting themselves.
21-year-old Erin Griggs agrees that Black women usually battle with loving their appearance due to social media’s antics.
"Oftentimes, some women struggle to gain that confidence to love themselves due to society's opinion of a perfect body. I feel like some women shy away from it because men tend to sexualize them or always have a comment … and social media plays a major role," said the Atlanta native. "We have Instagram models/celebs that these young girls look up to them and start early to try and gain that body for validation and lose sight of their self-worth."
No matter the size, shape or outfit, young Black women should have the ability to not only be fully confident in their own skin but also be allowed to do as they please without cruel commentary from society.
Micah Barkley, an 18-year-old from Southfield, Michigan, said people should think before speaking about another's physical appearance.
"I think people can honestly either send uplifting comments and opinions or not say anything at all. At the end of the day, everyone is their own individual person and should be treated as such," said Barkley. "If people scrolled past something they disagree with that a Black woman has posted, whether it be her body or her opinion, then hate comments would not be a thing, and Black women can continue to be the queens that they are."