I’ve been trying to get my mind around this idea for a series of posts for a while now. It’s difficult to find words to express what troubles my heart. So let me begin with some simple statements of fact and then work out from there.

First, women are beautiful creatures. All women. Including black women. Women are masterpieces formed by the Creator’s creative hands, gifted with incredible intelligence—intellectual and emotional. They’re called into a glorious purpose—to subdue the earth and fill it with God’s glory. The beauty of women reaches far deeper than their bodies, faces and what they do with their hair.

Yet, second, many women wrestle most of their adult lives with constant comparisons, sizing up, ranking, insecurity and angst. All types of women have this struggle — including black women. Black women feel the ache of comparison in some unique ways. The “nude” make-up doesn’t match their natural skin tone. The blue jeans aren’t cut for their hips. The magazine or the film doesn’t often feature those eyes, lips and nose. Black women live out their beauty in a world that has historically denied them that claim. It’s been a long and protracted war, first for full humanity against white forces that reduced them to work horse or illicit sex object status, then for full appreciation against black forces that denied equal worth and protection inside the community. Black women have claimed their own beauty and dignity in a world of relentless assault and denial.

And in many respects, they’ve won. But what do you do when you’ve succeeded in redefining black womanhood in terms that are every bit as wide-ranging, regal and full of potential and accomplishment as womanhood in any other ethnic terms?

Do you use this newfound, hard-earned status to reinforce images and tropes that long held you down? Do you do that as a demonstration of “autonomy” and “empowerment”?

Or, do you weaponize black femininity? Do you turn beauty and body into an “asset” used to exploit the beauty and body itself along with the many watchers and consumers of your beauty?

I want to affirm the beauty of my mothers, sisters and daughters in its full array and diversity. I want to stand with them, behind them and sometimes in front of them in order to support and champion the quest for an uncompromised appreciation of their humanity and dignity. I want to be there when their contribution to the beauty of womanhood is embraced and when it’s challenged.

Yet, it seems to me we also have to ask ourselves “What image of black women are we being sold?” and “What image are we either happily or ignorantly consuming?” Particularly as Christians, we need to give renewed thought to the varieties of black female images and the message we’re sending to our mothers, sisters and daughters.

To think about this some more, join us on the porch as we think about Biblical womanhood and the image of African-American women in popular media. Tomorrow, the sistas Jamie, Kristie and Trillia Newbell take the porch to talk about Biblical womanhood. Wednesday, we’ll think about Kerry Washington’s portrayal of African-American womanhood through the character “Olivia Pope” in the popular television show “Scandal.” Then, Lord willing, we’ll take a look at “Queen B,” Beyonce and the questions she raises about womanhood in her last release. Oh, and I think somewhere along the way Tony, Lou and I talk about expositional preaching. We are preachers after all. Gotta get that in.

This is the first post in a series on Biblical Womanhood. Photograph taken by Le To via flickr Creative Commons. 

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7 Comments

  • Avatar george canady says:

    This is probably a topic that some men, at least men like me, should learn about and hold comment until much hearing, thought and prayer. It is my hope that my wife join the discussion as we both will benefit greatly by information gleaned from a candid discussion. To that end we are in school.

  • Avatar rstarke says:

    This sister from the paler nation will definitely be listening in. 🙂 When I was little, one of my best friends was an African-American girl named Sandrina Singleton. She wore her hair in four swirly rope braids (is that what they’re called?). I thought it was the most beautiful hair in the world, and at night I would kneel by my bed and ask God to make me black so I could have hair like hers. Years later, I had an African American roommate and she used to use this antique torture device to heat straighten her hair; it left a blanket of fried hair on the white tile floor. This brunette was not quite as enthralled that time around! 🙂

    On a more serious note, I remember my elementary school days of coloring with crayons and not thinking twice that the one called “flesh tone” was a pinkish peach.

  • Avatar CJ Leonard says:

    Amen! I praise God for you bringing up the following topic. Although i have grown up and currently live in a multiethnic environment, it has been a struggle to find acceptance of the beauty that God has given me as a young woman of African heritage. Having rested my identity in Christ, I hope to encourage other young woman of color about who they are as God’s unique image bearers. Therefore I am very excited to hear from Jamie, Kristie, and Trillia Newbell. I pray that the Lord uses these sistas to build up the body and to speak the truth in love about who we are as woman created in the image of God. May the Lord use them powerfully.
    Grace and peace,

    CJ

  • Avatar Thabiti Anyabwile says:

    Amen!

  • Avatar Thabiti Anyabwile says:

    Great comments Rachael. Looking forward to having you join the conversation!

    My wife says to tell you, “For some of us that ‘antique torture device’ is essential” :-).

    Grace and peace,
    T-

  • Avatar Jen Strachan says:

    Great topic and discussion. Glad this discussion is taking place from a biblical perspective. Looking forward to hopefully seeing the Porch.

  • Thank you for this post! Looking forward to the upcoming posts in this ‘series’. I appreciate the view of this subject from a Biblical perspective, especially being a Black woman myself. In the media, a lot of the portrayals of Black women are not positive. You have women like Beyonce who portrays herself as a sex object, and although I have never watched the show, I have friends who watch Scandal, and so I am familiar with the basic storyline – A black woman who is an adulteress. So thankful for your approach!

    Grace & peace,
    Jenn

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