About Young BW Determined to Live Well

After being a faithful reader of various blogs dedicated to positively influencing black women, I recognized quite a few young black women in their teens, 20's, and 30's who were touched by the message as much as myself. This blog is my attempt to reach out and connect with young black women on issues we may be facing at a very transitional time in our lives. I encourage all, irrespective of age, class, origin, etc. to participate in the discussions and brainstorming sessions we have. I look forward to the potential of this blog and hope to hear from Young Black Women Determined to Live Well like myself!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Images of Black Women in the 50's

While viewing the blog Beautiful Black Women: Thoughts of a White B'woy, I came upon these images. I believe Andreas displayed them as a way of admiring black women as he always does, but the images compelled me to dig deeper and analyze.

Take a look at these pictures of Magazine covers in the 1950s. click on image for full view.

After viewing these pictures I can say quite a few things:

1) Black women were absolutely beautiful back then, and whoever is swallowing the hogwash that says black women are just naturally inclined to be big or overweight or “thick” is wrong. The women in the 50’s did not look like what I see everywhere I go including on the television these days. Here is a tip, work out and get healthy ladies. No if, ands, or buts. Where there is a will, there is always a way. In addition, it says that black women and the lives they are leading need to seriously be further examined. A lot must not be right for an entire group of women to physically morph into double of what used to be their norm, in a span of just 50 years.

2) Black women being shut out from glamorization in Hollywood, usually given to white women, is not a new thing at all. In my opinion, some progress has been made, but I say we (black women) stop trying to get the full recognition and glamour that we deserve all together and create our own avenues of media distribution and films. Either do that, or try to market ourselves in a way that appeals to all markets! Not just black.

3) Black women were sexualized and fetishized in the 50’s much like they are today. Just look at the face of the women on the cover of Say magazine. She has a very sultry look on her face. And then look at how each one of them are exposing their cleavage in revealing suits. I certainly don’t see much emphasis being placed on the bottom like the smut magazines of today, but I do think these magazines were printed with the black male gaze in mind and zero recognition of the black female gaze. So it makes me think? Were these women the predecessors of the Raunch Culture we view today? I suppose we perpetuate it, but were they (both the black women and the black men in the 50’s who subscribed to these magazines) aware of the consequences of what they mass produced? Did they not realize the inherent difference in choosing to market the women in these ways after the long history black women have in the U.S. regarding sexual exploitation? Or was this considered tastefully done? I am not sure but intend to do some research.

4) This makes me think about famous Blues singers of the 1920s like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox and the like. They were known for their talented voices, but also for the sexually suggestive (or as sexually suggestive as you could get away with in the 50’s) lyrics of their songs. I wonder what, if anything, this did to harm the image of black women back then and today? I am not placing immense blame on them because in some ways I feel they were not aware that black women could occupy a respectable and admirable realm that did not limit her to just the Hattie McDaniel mammy-figure. After all, they were singing for crowds of the black working class. Black women in the upper echelons of black American society did not like the songs they chose to sing.

How do you as a young black woman feel about these images?


  1. Great work Meena.

    BW must get herself together, get her hair healthy, lose the weight,and gain some confidence. Do what it takes to improve self...even if you don't have a degree. Looking at those pictures, I must say that the women looking very nice, and not raunchy...and you are right, the smut of today emphasizes the animalistic check me out in the butt as if some water buffalo were sending out pheromone signals ready to mate. Catch me?

    This on the other hand is more facial and has more human communication.

    #2 is in the works, it is slow and in the early stages but nevertheless moving.

  2. BW have NEVER had control of our femininity. NOT EVER. And BW are unique women. We have a set of issues and life challenges that make us unique. Black women need to first define what sexuality is TO US. Define femininity on our own terms and live up to it, practice it, promote it. Since we got off the slaveships, we were given our titles on what a woman and BLACK WOMAN is and is supposed to be. Then we moved from slavery to a sexist Black community where that tradition keeps going. If you look at the movies and all of the entertainment outlets and how BW are portayed there are Black men, White men and White women defining us. When do we simply say ENOUGH and start speaking with our wallets and resources?

    I just feel Black women are at the do or die stage. We HAVE to do something. We are at a crossroads. What are we going to do? We are being kicked while down by society by every gender and race with eyeballs.

    If we don't QUICKLY start coming together as a collective group, creating our own media outlets, news stations (to report our own missing persons), movies, Tv shows, beauty mags, i feel things are going to get worse before they get better.

    Black women have spent thier entire existence fighting the Black mans battles. Where has that gotten us? Who is fighting ours in the sexist and racist world? We have to do it ourselves. And if we don't, this what we see today and the attack on our womanhood will continue. We simply do not have protection like all other races of women. We just don't and I honestly don't think at this stage in the game we ever will - unless its us protecting each other.

    i almost feel at times (and I hate to sound extreme) but i almost feel that there is a strong effort by society to get rid of the Black woman by unnatural selection. meaning the more undesirable and unfeminine they make us, the harder it will be to find quality partners and create families.

    i don't know. I am just so hurt, confused and fed up as to why the world feels BW need to be thier punching bag. But I am moving to a place of action b/c feeling bad about it doesn't change it. So i am working on that....

    1. True, the media treats us unfairly, singles us out, lies, distorts, and reports in ways that twist the truth or make it appear stigmatizing to us. But life has never been fair. You are right in that the battle is ours to fight by ourselves. However, a step in the right direction is proving society and statistics wrong and being better women all around. We have to develop our sense of completeness and learn to fight in a dignified manner without any whining or complaining. Things won't be a level playing field but learn how to circumvent obstacles intelligently. This separates winners from losers.

  3. BW of the 1950s were beautiful & flawless. When you look at covers of certain Black magazines out today, with BW you see the same thing but more skin, thickness & all of that, its sad. As if the only thing we are good for is just to be looked at, on display for the world. It upsets me. Meena your post is well written & well said. Neecy I totally agree with your response. We do, have to do it ourselves. We always have. Being a BW in this world is a constant fight. Nobody can fight it but us.

  4. Thank you for your comment Daughter of the First. I agree with you that black women should bring their A-game.

  5. Hi Neecy, thank you for your comment.

    You said:
    "Black women need to first define what sexuality is TO US. Define femininity on our own terms and live up to it, practice it, promote it."

    I could not agree with you more!

    I also believe moving to a place of action is the best thing to do. It really does not serve each of us well to complain about our circumstances if we are not going to do something about it. I believe we have the capacity to change things for the better. Though we may not be completely unified as a collective, each young woman can do her part to elevate themselves.

  6. Thank you for your comment Olivia.

    You stated:
    "Being a BW in this world is a constant fight."

    It had me thinking, what ways does being a BW seem advantageous. I know that our social position within society may not be the most coveted, but imagine the ways we hold value as a group? Perhaps that is a step toward shaping things for the better.

  7. I like the fact that the women also have noticeable, beautiful "black" features which hi-lights our ability to be beautiful while having those features. It's refreshing... unlike the spray-painted white women that seem to dominate the media.

  8. I agree with all the comments of black women defining what it means to be a black woman by our own standards. I have a dream of owning my own network where black people are justified. I am tired of racist ass commercials portray my people as ignorant. And I am passed tired of women showing too much skin to make money. I understand you have to do what you have to but at what cost? Seriously if you guys are game for creating our own outlet so am I. I love all the positiveness. If your serious Im serious. If you guys want to do a mag I can write the articles. If your serious about the shows I will write the scripts.

  9. Yeah, it's about time that bw stop begging and complaining for inclusion, acceptance, recognition etc. and just join the game. One thing about those actions is that in order for them to have value, they are given voluntarily by others. You shouldn't have to ask, demand, shout, beg, etc. for admiration and respect. One thing too, I wish more bw learned how to gracefully win and gracefully lose in life. There is an art to this and it really shows the measure of a woman.

    I do think that bw in the past look very nice as though they cared about looking respectable and classy. This itself makes them attractive. Granted, some people will always have phenotypical preferences when it comes to women, and that's there right. But they way bw looked back then was natural, poised and well beautified in accordance with standards of that day. They appeared to be legitimate contenders and not outliers. Also, women back then knew something about dignity. Perhaps this was taught by mothers more in the home but they hardly came off as desperate for a man or attention. They seemed to know they had a lot to offer and most of the times they did. They cooked well, had real hair, kept house, dress tastefully, had hobbies, and beautiful figures. These things can make a women feel confident and respectable..worthy of an esteemed role.