Women have continuously had to battle the problematic dichotomy of the whore and the virgin, a concept within which women can only exist at polar ends of the spectrum. That is, a woman who is openly sexual cannot be seen as intelligent as well, while women who are intelligent aren’t always seen as sexual being. There isn’t really room for women to exist as layered beings whose overt sexuality doesn’t somehow siphon out their intelligence; we have to be one or the other, existing at the margins, never nuanced, never complex, never layered. It’s very important to note that this dichotomy of virgin and whore, is all about outward performance. That is, how a woman is viewed in society. It’s the reason why the term “lady in the street but freak in the bed”, exists, or fantasies like the naughty librarian and catholic school girl. Because of course a woman should be sexual but only behind closed doors where nobody suspects it, while to the rest of the world she maintains the facade of innocence.
This polarity in social expectations of women is why we always have the comparison of Adele and Beyonce, where you’ve probably heard (or have been the one to say), “Look at Adele, she not like Beyonce or Nicki Minaj who have to take their clothes off to be successful”. This reflects our inability to view overtly sexual women as capable of intelligence or even deserving of respect. Adele on the other hand, doesn’t present herself as a sexual woman so we can give her what the other women can’t possibly have: intelligence, strength, eloquence, ability to be role models, or self-respect.
This is a subject that Jill Scott takes on in her song “Womanifesto”, which she begins with
“Clearly I am not a fat ass, I am active brain”
This song begins as something a woman would say when she is being catcalled, when she is at her most objectified. When she is walking down the street and you see her hips sway in the wind, at that woman she is at the whore end of the spectrum. That is, she can’t be anything more than the sexual desires you have towards her, but she turns around and says,
Clearly I am not a fat ass
I am active brain
And lip smacking peach deep
Sometimes too aggressive in its honesty
And heart sweet
That loves wholly and completely
Whom it may choose
Whom ever it may choose
I am not gonna lie and pacify
Jill Scott’s words are a reminder that yes a woman can have an unavoidable sensuality, but you’re gonna have to acknowledge her complexity as well. That you might be desiring her body, but she is also incredibly intelligent with a heart that may or may not choose you. It’s important to note this, because another issue for women tend to display their sexuality more than others, is that they somehow don’t have the right to choose the person they want. This is evident when men often get angry when they see a woman in the club with a short skirt, and they try to flirt with her but she turns them down. The idea is that the shorter your skirt, the lower standards you have, so you haven’t the right to say no to anyone. But Jill Scott is here to remind you that yes you can desire a woman’s curves, but her heart “loves wholly, and completely, whomever it may choose“. You might not like her outspoken personality, but she is “not gonna lie and pacify you”.
This spoken word track is an ode to all strong women from all walks of life,
Strong legs that stroll off the 33 bus
Or out of a money green Phantom comfortably
Knees that bend to pray
Clean from Ajax washings
From the roads of Botswana from 23rd Street
All of these women from all walks of life, whether they take the bus, drive a phantom, are deeply religious, work as maids, live in Botswana or New York, They all want you to know that,
Clearly, I am not JUST a fat ass
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.