by Gabrielle Thomas
Edited by Lia James
Growing up in Jamaica as a dark skin woman, initially, I did not get too much attention. However, when my biochemical jackpot hit–my curves, ass, and tits–men started to look. Men with wives, girlfriends, and significant others started to look. Men who had previously been available to others but not to me started to look. At first, I was elated. I finally felt seen and adored. Most of all, I felt wanted. I started to go out more and, of course, to get involved in relations with boys.
However, whenever I asked for more or wanted better, they said, “you are too dark.” If they did not have the decency to say it to my face, I would see them the next week with a smaller, lighter, less-Black girl. Still, I wanted to be wanted. My mom told me these Black men would never respect me. I did not listen. I found myself in demeaning situations. I allowed men to disrespect me. I allowed men to use me. I thought this was the life of someone not-beautiful. When disrespect evolved into assault, I had to leave.
Not much changed when I went to boarding school in New Jersey. They respected me more but here, Black women as a whole were unwanted. Instead of lighter skin, they looked for white women. The men who found me attractive wanted to have relations in the dark, where nobody could see. They saw me as a sex object. Somebody who they could harass for nudes, sex, or a hook up. However, to be fair, there were some men who wanted to be publicly seen with a Black woman. They wanted the Michelle to their Barack Obama. Still, they ended up with that smaller, less-Black girl. My Blackness was neither respectable nor wifeable.
So, I became a hoe. I gave up on being loved and started to fill myself up with so many affirmations of myself – I am dark, I am beautiful, I am powerful, I am deserving, I am all I need to be right now – that I did not need their admiration. I would look in the mirror and see so much beauty. My dark mother, grandma, and sister were beautiful to me. I could not understand why no one else could see it. If they were going to use me, I was going to use them, too.
But the funny thing was that my promiscuity made everyone uncomfortable. I lost friends. I lost the respect of women. I lost the respect of my family. Yet, it was society that had made me this way. Men literally called me a “Jezebel” to my face, groped me without permission, sexually harassed and assaulted me, and were uncomfortable that I was a hoe.
What I realized eventually is that they were not uncomfortable with me being a hoe. They were uncomfortable with my pride. They were uncomfortable with my dignity. They were uncomfortable with my strength. Most of all, they were uncomfortable that I made the choice.
However, it was not just the men. It was the women too. They were adamantly against my actions. They were more disgusted with me than with the men who degraded me. They declared me “not a wife but a matey (Jamaican slang for a side piece and mistress) for life.” They told me if I ever wanted someone to romantically love me, I could not be a hoe.
And they were light-skinned. They do not understand the gradient of attractability for Black women. They do not want to understand that the men they love simply prefer the ambiguous ones. When they cannot get that, they go for the biracial ones. When that fails they will attempt to snag a generational light skin. Then, brown-skins, dark-skins with “lighter-features” and finally dark skins with darker features. We, the dark skin women, are automatically put in the pool of unwifeable. Often, we do not get to control the manner in which we are seen and treated. We are raised to be promiscuous just as lighter women are raised to be wifed. Therefore, saying someone would never love me if I am a hoe is saying that someone would never love me as my exoticized dark skin was deemed ‘loose’ before there were choices to be made.
Although it is dismal for dark women, there are people who love and adore us. There are people who treat us with dignity. There are people who will love and want us the way that we want to be loved. Transphobia, Fatphobia, and Colorism are ways in which white supremacist ideals dominate attraction politics. I have learnt to see the beauty in people who do not fit the mold, and not only does it give me more options, but it has taught me to love myself even more. I see people for who they actually are and I love and want them accordingly. This is the way I took control over my body and who I am. I do what makes me happy and I simply love being a hoe. This was the way I liberated myself. I give affection profusely and bountifully. I am the controller of the affection I receive and the affection I give. Yet, I do not belong to anyone. Nobody belongs to me. I am free until someone can be more for me.
My prayer is that dark girls growing up know their worth. We may not get the choice of how society sees us, but we get the choice of how we will love and how we will see others. We get to choose the kind of love we accept. The kind of love we deserve.