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Let's Get Cheeky

Musings

Let’s Get Cheeky (Part 1)

I’ve recently been inspired to talk about these bodies of ours… these beautiful, sacred, wise and sexy bodies of ours! So in the coming days and weeks, I’d like to share some of my thoughts. This feature could come in two, three, or three hundred installments! I don’t know, I’d just like to see where this dialogue takes us. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, just a woman sharing her experience, and my hope is that you’re inspired to share yours with me.

So to begin, I will admit that I have a tenuous, almost antagonistic, relationship with my body. It’s tough for me to say that. I want to say that I love my body, that I love it without exception. But the truth is that since I can remember, there has been lots of taunting, rude self-talk,the occasional bout of starvation, constant exercise, and a few spells of adoration sprinkled in. I’m always aiming towards loving myself, but the internal journey; the daily reality of what that journey looks like is not always pretty. I am not obsessed with my weight, but as I write this I am aware that it has always been up there on my list. How I feel about my body is inextricably tied to how desirable and “kick ass” I feel. On a good day, my kick-ass-ness is determined by:

1.) My spiritual connection (which covers a lot of ground: my connection to others and nature, esteem-able acts, service, willingness, openness, laughter, my ability to show up and participate in my life, wonderful food, self-care)
2.) My clothing (my armor and protection)
3.) My body
4.) My hair (I have pretty much mastered my hair at this point, lol)

However, depending on which mirror I happen to walk past, and the lighting it’s accompanied by (and I love to walk by a mirror) how I feel about my body can trump even God if I am not mindful.

That being said, I think it’s impossible to talk about our bodies, without considering its placement in a larger, societal context. For as long as I have been on my journey to celebrating my body, I have thought about how culture and history have played into my perception of what is “ideal”.  Especially since so much of my frustration with my body has been about, well, my ass.

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Comments

  • TheBantuGirl

    This is very beautifully stated. What I am learning is it all begins internally – a yoga teacher told me once, you are already that which you seek. It lives inside you already, and you just have to realize it eternally. {I’m not sure if that makes sense, but you have given me much to think about.} Thank you for sharing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mstimil Timil-Rayven Ejirika

    Great post Tracee…I think its all about balance. Beyonce received so much criticism for being “slutty” on the super bowl stage, when in my observation she simply OWNED the stage and her womanhood, all the while personifying womanhood, motherhood, performer and wife. Anyone who placed her in a “whore” box her has fallen into the lame Virgin/Whore dichotomy as you state.The first part to this series seems like a great place to start this national dialogue.

  • Michelle J

    I truly enjoyed this read. I have come to the conclusion, after many years, that we should take a moment to appreciate our bodies for what they are. We constantly spend time judging and comparing ourselves to others based on what society says is the “in thing” at the moment. Instead of beating ourselves up for what we are not, I pray to be able to thank my body for what it is and has done. True, I could stand to lose a few pounds and often lose the battle in the kitchen, but that has been my way of coping with lifes stressors. I am learning how not to use food, but some times you use what you know so that you can keep in the game of life and deal! So I look at my legs that some may say need to lose some fat and gain some muscle and say “Thank you! Thank you for carrying me and my family for all these years. Thank you for getting up and helping me to do what I needed to do each day”. I look at my arms that some would say need to be toned and a bit smaller and I say “Thank you! Thank you for being there to hug my children and husband. Thank you for helping me to do the things I need to do!”. And lastly, I look at my belly which isn’t as flat as it use to be because of a little too much eats and I say “Thank you! Thank you for carrying three amazing boys and giving my husband a wonderful spot to lay his head while we cuddle and watch tv”. To my whole self I say “Thank you!” I may not have given you everything you needed to be healthy and fit, but I plan to try everyday to do just that, but I thank you for being there everyday! :-)

  • Kayla

    This was a great read! And a well needed read at this point in my life! Thanks Tracee! :)

  • Sharie

    Beautifully written Tracee. I’m a black woman, shaped much like Sarah Baartman and can identify with the contant objectification, shame and vulgar praise that comes with having my hip to waist ratio. I can identify with the struggle between celebrating my body, my beauty, my sexy and covering myself for fear of what others might think, say or do to me for daring to just BE. I’d like to see us talk about this more. I think it’s time for a “town hall” surrounding discussions on the preservation, protection and honor of black womanhood in black culture and beyond. I think that would be awesome.

  • syndi7

    I didn’t realize this was a excerpt of a very long book…no time to read this all now, maybe later? Not seeing me in this article unfortunately I AM part of the flat butty crew …

  • http://twitter.com/Sownbrooklyn Sownbrooklyn

    I first learned about Sara Baartman nearly 13 years ago, as part of my studies while in Senegal on a 30 study abroad trip. I was newly, and deeply, into learning about black history and was absolutely shocked at the story of her life. I have my own body/looks issues, but they are not normally centered around my ass. Until some well meaning family member comments on its size relative to the last time they saw me….this is not pleasant, but I realize it pales in comparison to what some women face.

    I grew up in NY so street harassment, and body issues are relates to it, have unfortunately always been a part of my life. But, as a mother of two girls, one on the cusp of that age when men stop seeing you as a child and start hurling suggestive comments at you, I am terrified of what they will experience. I want them to have pride in their looks, their bodies included. It’s wonderful to be female and enjoy fashion and style. I know that this can be done while maintaining dignity and class.

    I really love reading your reflections. Thanks for using your platform to start a dialogue on this issue.

  • Kwnn

    Beautiful! I love that you have started this dialogue….it definitely needs some caressing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MSQT2K Leeandra Carroll

    This was inspiring and imformative. We all struggle to be that it girl. Let’s learn to love what makes us what we are. I loved it.

  • Freddie

    Tracee, I mean, WOW! A lot to deal with here. Very well put together and informative. Read a brief story on Sara Baartman on-line and it was heart breaking. The horror she went through being on display as a thing, not even as a real human, let alone a real woman. Then to read of the “Breast Ironing” that is going on in Camaroon now!!! Women are still so in danger in societies all over the world. As far as the beauty and sexy part, I grew up as the fat girl I don’t want to take up too much space, so I’ll stop here and thanks for the topic. Can’t wait for part 2!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvin.grimes Alvin Grimes

    Great post Tracee and I just want to say that in addition to being a fine actress, you can string a sentence or two together as well. Having been in love with the black woman’s body even before I knew what it was that I loved, I have often witnessed what women go thru when they have one of “Those.” I’ve concluded that a lot of times it must be more trouble than its worth to be built like you, but then I notice what the women of other races are doing to look like you. Its amazing, all the excercising( “brazilian butt lift)”, implants, etc. just to have what black women were born with. As a people we are constantly in search of our lost collective sense of balance. Unlike anyone else we may meet or who may come to this country, we’re the only one’s who have this problem and as a result we can go a long way to the other side(fads, conduct, etc.) before we recover ourselves. I can’t remember a time when black women have been as ubiquitous as they are right now and I think we might need some time to get used to it. When it goes out of style, and it will, I hope that this time will have restored much of the black woman’s confidence in her beauty ( which has been sorely attacked throughout history) and her ability to become a mover and a shaker in this world. Regardless, I will and always will be a champion and big time fan of the black woman. “God made ya’ll fine comin and goin.”

  • luvlyles

    Excellent commentary Tracee! I’ve often posed similar questions to women I know, specifically in reference to how we teach & empower our young girls and women about their own sexuality. Often I have received a blank stare in response as some have admitted they havent ever really thought about that issue before. I would add that as women aren’t aware of our own selves at times to be able to share what our sexuality means confidently. There are so many stipulations for us exploring and identifying what it means to be a woman that yes, we continue to be relegated to breast, hips, butt, and the “please dont say it……vagina”, and then as if it stopped with fragmenting, but then onto rating, categorizing. This objectification that we are discussing is sad and overwhelming, but we must explore, identify and embody our own sexuality, each one of us personally, teach, challenge, influence positively and then live and love & celebrate it collectively.

  • http://twitter.com/bsaunders Barbara R Saunders

    Great post, Tracee. It reminded me of another moving post I read recently. A transgender, male-to-female, wrote that she told a woman friend that she couldn’t wait to look in the mirror and see a pretty girl. The woman friend told her, “Do you know most women never feel that? That we look in the mirror and see ‘too fat,’ ‘too skinny,’ etc.” I thought that was deep, and very sad.

  • Guest

    #CompleteWoman

  • elijames

    First I’d like to say, I love how many different facets you have. Your not just an actress. I love that! Personally, I feel like I have been trying to loose weight my whole life to evolve into a figure like yours. My mother is black, white, Indian and German; my father is is black. As a black woman I am constantly reminded of the fact that I am lacking in the booty department. My mother refers to it as a “put-put” (combined with the motion of her cupping her hand and flicking her fingers up). All this to suggest that I have not enough to grab but just enough to tap. My Mother, my sister, hello even my brother have significantly more ads then me, and it was and still is sometimes a real self concious issue for me. Thank God for hips! So as a black woman, I believe that being womanly; plays figure , to your sexuality; it seems strength only becomes pleasantly acknowledged when you have both. From experience. I digress, In this season I am working on a better healthier me, and yes that doesinclude my sexy. I believe that is what makes woman, well; woman; we embody so many things at one time.
    Feels sort of like a rant but, i had fun doing it.
    Ps. You should get tumblr if you don’t already.

  • FauxBLAsian

    Hi Tracee:
    I actually read a book about Sarah Baartman last year, “Hottentot Venus” by Barbara Chase-Riboud. It’s fictionalized but based on actual accounts of Sarah’s life. Her story really is tragic and I myself made the comparison between her story and the representation of Black women and our bodies in popular culture. I look forward to reading your future posts on this topic. And P.S., I watch “Girlfriends” on YouTube constantly, It’s still my favorite T.V. show!

  • Guest

    Touch’n you, making sure everything is functional.

  • http://twitter.com/HamdenPlains Tyrone L. Harris

    Touching you, making sure everything is functional.

  • Stefany

    Whew. A lot to think about here. Thank you for that. I’m definitely going to think about this some more, but just wanted to put in my thoughts just off the top of my head. Being a part of the queer community, with its supposed radical politics, I would like to think we have gotten better about being inclusive of all bodies and not privileging the quintessential willowy thin white androgynous body, but we can do better. Some (all?) of my issues with self-image are surely things I’ve internalized as a woman of color, and quite frankly sometimes I feel stupid for still letting them bother me. Like, shouldn’t I be all empowered and able to let that sh*t roll off my back?

  • Herman Patton

    Okay – we all know you got butt and when I actual spoke to you at Common’s release party (2005) you never seemed like the person who would put pictures up of little kids even if its you as a youngster. There are a lot of pervs out here and I know that you are grown today – but pervs are international and ageless. You have no idea – of what I think of you – and I think you are the dream woman – I actual spoke to you but I’m sure you cant remember because I’m a normal guy lkI guess as it is. Nevertheless, you are the business – and I will probably never see you again because I’m no longer apart of that world – but Tracee please – I have a daughter and we men know its all bad out here. Real men protect their daughters, women, and anything feminine that they consider a part of their world. Your body is dreamy – but I spoke to you years ago and your mind is much more then what anyone could ever imagine because your very smart, kind, and beautiful ….(very beautiful) mentally and physically! I’m a guy that was a part of the music industry but I left it to protect my new born at that time and now she’s turning 9 as she was 1 year old at the time..TRACEE aka TER (Tracee Ellis Ross) please be that true roll-model I know that you truly are – beautiful (mentally!!!).

  • Andrew

    Intellectually stimulating to say the least. Very empowering for all women who seek balance and harmony in living and men who are really interested in them. I have to read this again when I am feeling refreshed. Tracee you shine bright like a diamond.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1600641745 L Blake Brown

      Exactly why I decided to follow her blogs. Ever since the tv show; it appears there is more to this woman than we really know. Strong, sensual and passionate to name a few or her traits.

  • AlwaysBlossom

    I’m not biracial, but I think your experience is common with
    White culture, in that there is this idea that a flat buttock is ideal.
    However, the antithesis is present in Black culture, having a non-flat butt is
    deemed better than having a flat butt and when a Black woman doesn’t have this,
    some can have the same self-esteem/body image issues as those in the White
    community or those who may have grown up in a predominantly White community.

    However, overall I do believe most Black women have a more healthy perception of their
    bodies. Nonetheless, I’d like to address quite a few things you’ve mentioned in
    your post that I think are really great comments and questions.

    I can only imagine how difficult it probably is for someone
    that is biracial; it’s not easy navigating your way through two different
    cultures, one is either more accepting or not and at times (probably not very
    often) both can be accepting and yes the “standards” of which I like to call “collective
    perceptions” certainly do differ and can be an arduous undertaking to sift
    through to figure out just where you fit I suppose, ultimately, I think you
    will have to learn to love your ass lol whichever the way the wind blows, but I
    do know that a larger or non-flat butt is commonly favored in the Black
    community.

    I knew about Sara, in fact, her body type is quite ancient;
    there are figurines of Sara’s native African body type found all over the globe
    dating back quite a bit, anyway, the objectification of women I think is a reciprocal
    or bi-directional relationship that I think mirrors deeper issues within Black
    communities, much deeper. I think the acceptance and the willingness of it by both
    Black males and females is the manifestation of a myriad of deeper issues that
    I won’t get into, suffice to say, history is repeating itself and it will
    continue to repeat itself until we straighten out the things that need to be straightened.

    The Harriet Tubman quote, a favorite of mine actually. If
    only Blacks understood that many of us are still slaves. We have a lot of
    psychological damage that was passed down intergenerationally and it’s become
    so embedded, so unconscious that we manifest these behaviors and cognitive
    patterns without even realizing it and it continues to get reinforced and the
    causes are many.

    To illustrate it beautifully:

    “I wonder how many of us are aware of why certain things
    feel uncomfortable, why certain images kick up such a deep response. I wonder sometimes
    if some of us have forgotten what it took as black people and women in this
    country to have the freedoms and rights we have today.”

    Tobe honest, I don’t even think they know; they are not taught in these public
    schools because the public schools are there to reinforce and I
    hate to say it, but the teachings are there to reinforce a European perspective
    on history, as such, you will not get much about yourself beyond 1-2 pages.

    Let’s address a few of the comments and questions you’ve
    mentioned:

    “I do, however, wonder if we women as a collective have lost
    a connection to our womanhood.”

    I agree here and I think that many women haven’t defined
    what exactly womanhood is for them! I think what is womanhood for someone else
    may differ from yours, but I think there is a solid core that every woman
    probably should draw from:

    Dignity (many people don’t know what this is unfortunately)

    Respect for yourself/others

    Kindness/Caring

    Faith (if you have one)

    Confident and Comfortable in your own capabilities/skin

    Good Health/Eating Habits

    Service/Help to others

    Femininity (A lot don’t know what this is at all)

    I think these are core elements that every woman should pull
    from, other things will vary obviously, but these core elements I believe are
    your being and make up a woman of quality and equally a man of quality(sans the
    femininity lol), but since we’re talking about women, we’ll limit these characteristics
    to us for now. I always look at that Proverbs verse 31 as an example; it’s a
    good one and I think many people have a tendency to misinterpret it.

    This is a good interpretation of it:

    http://www.gci.org/bible/poetry/prov31

    Quote 2:

    “My dear friend, Sarah, reminded me that, culturally, we
    seem to categorize sexuality as a moral issue;…”

    I think that sexuality is a social and biological issue, BUT can get tied into morality if
    you have a religious background (I don’t believe that good/bad morals evolve
    without some sort of ancestral religious base, whether the religion is currently
    practiced or not, the seed is there), so in that sense it is both I suppose.
    However, that doesn’t negate your friend’s position, she is correct in that I
    think we as a society tend to categorize sexuality as a moral issue, but it can
    stand alone as a social & biological one. But I think sexuality has to do
    with sexual orientation/preference, rather than the behavior itself.

    I believe that sexual behavior is probably more tied to
    morality

    Quote 3:

    “What are we celebrating? And why?… I mean really, WHY? Is
    that sexy?” Perhaps it’s the “fuck it-ness” of it, the “you don’t own me”. But,
    it doesn’t always give me that message. I get concerned about how we
    internalize this. I know it affects me. I’ll see images that make me sad and
    feel like I want to stand on a soap box in protest, and then I will see another
    image of a sexy, half-naked woman that feels empowering and HOT as F*#$!
    So what is the difference?”

    We’re celebrating their fragile self-esteem; many of these women’s actions are indeed
    an attempt to conceal their low self-esteem and the more attention and rewards
    they get for using their bodies in a way that pleases others and disservices
    them, serves as a padding agent where substance is missing; it’s not their
    faults, they someday need to learn that their bodies are not the only thing
    that makes them attractive, a woman and special. Unfortunately, everyone hasn’t
    received the love and support of a father or a mother or both.

    It’s not that they view it as sexy (even though they lie to
    themselves and say so), it’s just they need it to keep their false sense of
    self afloat. Case in point, and I won’t mention any names, but on a popular
    awards show that you and your family attended late 90s to early 2000s or so, a popular female
    entertainer had her full breast exposed with only a nipple covering; she was
    spoken to later about having enough respect for herself to not expose herself
    like this, later it was revealed that this female entertainer never did it
    again; she’s never been taught this, never shown this, never saw this sort of
    guidance or support in her life. Her only sense of value she thought she had to
    offer was her body because that’s what was supported and accepted as worth to
    her, and as such her self-worth and self-esteem was tethered to the
    fascinations of wayward men who had their own self-esteem/worth issues.

    Like I mentioned this is a bi-directional relationship; this cuts both ways, with both sexes reinforcing these patterns.
    The unfortunate thing though Tracee, is that they do own them.

    I believe the difference is that one exudes confidence,
    class, a sense of dignity and your own complete womanhood, whereas the other depicts
    the sexual fantasies of others, with no dignity, class or the idea of a
    complete woman. When I look at videos like Timothy Bloom & V. Bozeman or an
    old Bilal video “soul sista” I see dignity, class and a complete version of a
    woman; I see art really, that’s what I see. I see a “complete” woman or the
    idea of a “complete” woman as opposed to a hypersexualized version. I hope this
    makes sense. I believe there is nothing wrong with celebrating your body, but it must be done with taste and with a
    true sense of who you are and what you’re worth and you can tell the difference.

    Quote 4:

    I want to feel sexy and desirable, but how do I embody my
    sexiness in a way that empowers me?

    Hmmm, I suppose you have to work
    out the insecurities that make you feel non-empowered. Pick apart the areas that make you feel this
    way and then ask yourself WHY they make you feel the way they do, chances are
    there is some sort of negative experience attached. No one is 100% insecure
    free, but I think having an overall healthy disposition of yourself and knowing
    what your womanhood is, certainly helps when those insecure moments surface,
    but if you have constant battles with feeling sexy and desirable, there’s more
    to it than that occasional insecurity that pop ups and you need to figure them
    out.

    Quote 5:

    I am a sexual woman who enjoys sex and feeling sexy, but how
    do I honor my body outside of the cultural conditioning that tells me that my
    sexuality is something to trade on?

    Good question,
    I’m sort of surprised you’d actually reveal this as a question of your own (in
    public), any of these questions really, because they leave you quite vulnerable,
    unless these are just general questions you’ve thrown out there? I believe that the way you can honor your
    body without it being traded upon is by defining what “trading” is. If trade is marriage or a committed
    relationship, then I think that’s not too bad of a trade. If you understand that your body is sacred you
    will not “trade” it for anything less. On a personal note, I would suggest if you
    don’t all ready, is to make him wait until you’re AT LEAST in a committed
    relationship before you give of yourself to him sexually and even then make him
    wait a bit; I think that’s the best way to honor your body; honor your spirit
    and mind first, everything else falls into place, when you do these two things
    first, you will automatically honor your body because your spirit and mind
    control your behavior.

    There’s nothing wrong with being sexual and there’s nothing
    wrong with you liking/enjoying sex; it’s natural and God gave us humans this
    propensity for a reason lol, but I think that using it as a first means of
    connection is a mistake too many women make, as such it has consequences. Too
    quick, too soon = disaster and in my opinion, not honoring your body in a way
    that is best beneficial for you and the relationship in the long-term; this is
    just a general comment, not directly towards you.

    Quote 6:

    How do I discover the wisdom of my own sexuality? I want my
    sexiness to start with how I feel about myself. I don’t want to find it only
    outside of myself. I think you can see and feel when a woman knows and loves
    herself. That freedom and authenticity is powerful.

    Tracee, you have some really great questions, like I said, I’m quite surprised at how
    revealing you are being if these are your own questions you have of yourself. I
    think wisdom comes with experience and not necessarily age (but it can).

    I truly do think that our experiences shape our wisdom. I mean I often wonder if people truly understand what it means to be wise. I sometimes laugh when people say that wisdom exclusively comes with age and perhaps that’s
    the way it used to be! Not ruling out age though because I guess maybe it takes some people longer to
    learn some things. Wisdom is really about being able to carefully discern things, being able to look at a situation in its entirety and to carefully judge what is the right or wrong decision and to make the decision about whether you should act upon your discernment and for it to be the right choice. So, I suppose when it comes to sexuality and wisdom, a person has to first define what sexuality is for them (like I previously mentioned, I think sexuality is orientation/preference), but anyway, first define that and then contemplate upon what are the things that make your sexuality sexy! It’s the little things about you. I tend to think that femininity in women is very powerful and that if used correctly is dangerous lmao.

    Many women tend to equate femininity with passivity or deference, that’s not what it is. Your mom (sorry, she’s the only one that really comes to mind at the moment), back in the day and still today is a superb example (the image at least), another person would be Phylicia Rashad, femininity (image at least). Not to suggest that the image isn’t the person, but so often I hear celebrities also say it’s just an “image,” so I tend to go with what they say, but on some level, I really do believe these two ladies are their image they put forth in the public,not perfect obviously, no one is, but overall it’s their makeup, I believe.

    After you’ve figured out what makes your sexuality sexy,
    then determine the type of sexual behavior you’ll want to associate yourself
    with, here is where the wisdom comes in, here is where your core being as a
    woman comes in, here is where your complete womanhood comes in. Your decisions
    about your sexual behaviors in my opinion shape your wisdom in this area. Like
    I said, sexuality is different from sexual behaviors, so I think the wisdom in
    this. When I reference sexual behaviors, I’m not restricting it to
    penal/vaginal/oral sex. I am also referring to other manifestations, perhaps
    indirectly, your own set of behavioral conduct codes associated with sex (certain roles,
    music, pictures etc… that you choose to engage in).

    Yes, I agree that it is very powerful when you can see a
    woman with that much confidence about her sexiness. I agree that your sexiness
    starts with how you view yourself; I think it’s an added bonus when others can
    say the same thing about you or reinforce it more when they speak on it.

    It’s not easy navigating insecurity, find the things that
    make you feel insecure and figure out why, I believe that’s where you/ a person
    need (s) to begin, if you /they haven’t all ready.

    I’m so sorry this is soooo long! But it was a really great topic! Thanks for sharing!

    I copied and pasted from MSWORD and didn’t fix the alignment, so sorry if it looks a little weird. I think a great poem you should take a look at (If you haven’t all ready) is Jill Scott’s poem. I thought it was pretty great when she read it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=K7OwBQPZYh8

  • AlwaysBlossom

    I believe I read something about Beyonce in one of the comments. Too often I see/hear people label this woman as slutty (not the commentator I referenced here), but in fact when I see her, I see someone with class, dignity and a woman that is secure in her sexuality and womanhood. It’s something you can pick up on and her behaviors (in all that I’m aware of) indicate as such. The music, her dance moves etc all point to femininity and class, just my two cents on that.

  • http://twitter.com/HamdenPlains Tyrone L. Harris

    GREATER THAN THE SUM OF HER CURVES

    This is dynamic. Full of your thoughts,feelings,apprehensions, this expression of self in a beautifully written form is one depiction of your sexuality. Never should a woman’s physical appearance be taken as the “completeness” of that woman. I remember BBD had the song “Poison”, singing “Never trust a big butt and a smile.” I used to think, so if she has a nice booty and she’s smiling, she’s no good? However, I have recently acknowledged a different understanding of these words: Do not define a woman by her physical appearance. What really defines a woman is an amalgamation of qualities with much more significance than any waistline measurement or “lady lump”. Two examples of the many defining qualities of a woman are her presence (how does she carry herself?), as well as her strength in her womanhood, meaning she’s not trying to “be a man” or “be like a man”, however she commands respect as a lady. Women are an integral part of our overall survival and appreciation as human beings. We need the ways of the woman, caring, protecting, honoring. At the same time, if men aren’t going to be men, how are women to be women? A man must have some restrictions, some convictions. A man must stand for something. Sexism is like racism, as it’s a method to reduce competition. In some traditionally male institutions (the workplace, sports, etc) women have displayed proficiency, so as a means to reduce the numbers of women that continue to enter these institutions, society attempts to reduce them to physically-based, sexual entities. Your words in this piece ( I call it a piece as it is art, intellectual artwork), the fact that you, as a woman, are willing and more than capable of opening discussions about an aspect of our “social dyseducation” like this, signifies that a woman is NEVER, EVER just a big booty and a smile. peace #Loveyourbodymind&soul #Loveyourself

  • http://twitter.com/HtownMarcusB Marcus

    Hello, I came across your blog via Twitter. Though this article is of course geared towards women, I did open-mindedly read it entirely and was enlightened.

    I do believe the underlying issue more or less for women of any race when it comes to using their bodies in a subjective manor for “entertainment” purposes is because of one of three reasons: 1) She believes her body will indeed give her the quick success that she craves. 2) She loves the attention for a number of different reasons. 3) She feels little self worth.

    As you know there is a certain level of professionalism that plays a much larger role on how a woman is perceived when it comes to how she chooses to or is chosen to display herself. So one photo could be seen as “rachet” and another as “hot”. This is actually true for ALL things.

    Most importantly, I also believe that the way to change many of the problems plaguing blacks in general which includes the perception of black women is for black people to get rid of the focus on what I call “surface level issues”.

    Anyway, great article….hope I stayed on point :/ lol

  • neverwilforget

    I don’t value the exploitation of the ass. I feel and once heard that it’s indicative of anal sex and men that love butts well they love any butt. Either way, I want to feel sexy like you without having to feel like looking at me is exciting sexual fantasies. I want to be sexy for my eyes, for my walk, my shoulders ( I love my shoulders), my smile but most importantly for my wisdom. I never desired any man that looked at me in a sexual manner prior to knowing who I am spiritually. That always led me to believe, any new ass that passes by will be attractive. Let’s be real ladies, we are all just an ass away and there is nothing better then not just a BIG one, but a NEW one. You can’t compete no matter how fat and juicy it may be. Anyway, I love this article. It’s thought provoking and a conversation long overdue.

  • Tiffany

    I absolutely love your post! For a couple of weeks this very top has been weighing heavy on my mind. I thought too many women have forgotten about their worth and what our ancestors had to go through in order to gain the respect and free we have to day. I almost felt as though our society knows it wrong, but chooses to ignore the blatant disrespect woman display day to day. I just wish we as woman can stick together and uplift each other. I’m all about love and support. I have faith that our society will get it together.

  • Tori

    Love lets get cheeky! My husband said you a have a lot of future behind you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brejette.gipson Brejette Gipson

    When I experienced a sudden and dramatic weight loss, my life became VERY public. I had always struggled with questions about beauty and femininity. I was (am) dark, a lesbian, and 305 pounds with dreadlocks. Was I feminine enough? Was I attractive? Was my desirability based on dark skin and natural hair being a novelty? With 150 pounds and the Locs gone I was a stranger to the people who knew me. I looked better. I was fit yet still curvy, but was I pretty? Others said yes, but I said no. I haaaated my “new” body! It was a stranger to me too! Over time I have had to learn how to define “beauty” differently. How is THIS me beautiful? I still struggle with the question, but I am in a better place…and I can look in a mirror without tearing up. What I appreciate about your piece (and candor) is that it reminds me we ALL struggle with how to define and celebrate ourselves. I look forward to the next installment!

  • Taj Bruno

    You are such a beautiful woman. I love the message of this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sela.lewis Sela Lewis

    This is a wonderful and inspiring post Tracee. Thank you.

    As much as we should learn to appreciate our bodies through self-discovery and self-acceptance, we are still objects to be controlled by society. I have learned to love what my body can do. Meaning, it can run for miles, and still make it home in time for dinner. It can travel half-way around the world and back, but it can rock a Herve Leger like nobody’s business. But when I leave the house, I still get lears, look backs at my ass, honking, howling and cat-calling. To society, I am still an object.

    Men are just as much victims in the objectification of women as women are. So I would suggest we bring men into the conversation as well. Again, as you said, without blaming, bashing, or pointing fingers, men have just as much stake in our happiness if society is to thrive. Therefore, they should learn about our internal lives as well. As Gloria Steinem once said, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but unlearn.”

    So it starts by telling our friends, brothers, and lovers that society has led you to believe that you (men) own our (women) bodies. This is a myth. Once that’s been unlearned, we should all learn that men are not less-valuable or ineffectual simply because they refuse to control a woman’s body. In fact, you become stronger by allowing us to be ourselves. Here’s a short list of suggestions:

    We ask that you protect our physical beings as you would your own by investigating and seriously prosecuting rape cases and domestic violence disputes, because the overwhelming victims in these cases are women. The Enliven Project well-illustrates how few rape cases every go to trial or get convictions. You can read the debate about it here: http://www.ibtimes.com/rape-infographic-stirs-debate-over-false-accusations-myth-1000846

    When left to her own devices, a woman can be a productive member of society, yet she is still paid less than a man for the same work; still less if she comes right out of school with the same post-secondary degree as a man. Pay her the same rate, expect the same standards, treat her like a colleague; not your daughter, or your date.

    If others are taking part in the act of slut-shaming (the act of making a woman feel ashamed for taking part in a sexual act, being sexually aggressive, or dressing in what is perceived as a sexually-seductive manner)–and women do this too–encourage them to look beyond appearances or behavior, and encourage them to think about that person differently. For example, it’s common practice to ridicule and objectify a woman for wearing shorts on a hot summer day. But think for a moment the weather conditions and whether it’s appropriate to ridicule someone who is trying to be comfortable. It’s much harder to shame someone in cut-offs if it’s 110 degrees outside.

    And finally, be our advocates. Guys in bars and barbershops talk very differently when we’re not around. If you know better, speak up. ‘Cause it just can’t be up to the victims to change the behavior.

  • Andrew

    Spititual Connection . The road less traveled. Education and willingness to learn can be empowering and help us find balance in this crazy mixed up world. I will be spending some time reflecting on spiritual connection as you described it and think that is a great place to start. Don’t get me wrong I love alot about the material world but play with caution. I love you Tracee. Will you be my friend?

  • JCF

    I am a black woman and many years ago I visited a very elderly white man on a weekly basis because he was alone and had no family. One day for some reason I opened up to him about my issues with relationships and not feeling sexy because I was seen by men as too nice and therefore boring. I will never forget what he said. He said men are always attracted to sexy and sexual women but the women that linger in their hearts and minds are sensual. He said that sexy is of the focus on the body and sensual is on the heart and spirit of loving. He said that a truly sensual woman will never be short on relationships.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1600641745 L Blake Brown

      JCF… That man was speaking more wisdom than he ever realized.

  • Lanette Reese

    Your blog spoke directly to me today. I am going through such a transition with my style and personal growth as a woman. My style is totally dictated by my emotions or the expected social norms. I struggle with finding the confidence to move beyond my usual (jeans, polo, button down). All of this is connected to my early experiences as a teenager. When ever I wore a skirt, dress or anything girly the attention I received was overwhelming and often uncomfortable. Like you I have hips, ass, and a small waist so there were always comments directed to those areas. As a result I started wearing baggy clothes. Not to mention being an athlete made it super easy to hide behind sweats. Unfortunately, hiding my body for so long is coming back to haunt me. Yesterday, I purchased my first pair of heels in 4 yrs (black peep toe). I was so nervous and vulnerable. However once I put the entire look together including mascara and lip glass I felt super sexy.
    So late last night when I read your blog i was filled with so many emotions. Your words rang so true for me. I will continue to go back to this post to remind me of the beauty within and the freedom to express it.

  • Jeremy

    LOVED IT!! LOVE YOU!!! was hoping to hear more about you BOOTIE and how you feel about it/./ .. what men have said.. what attention it gets places.. how you style it…. what clothes you noticed brings out your BOOTIE..and what exercises or foods enhance or help your BOOTIE be beautiful like it is! Thanks.. im pretty sure these answers will be in following post! OK LOVE YOU… P.S. Girlfriends movie? Hello Mara HELLO!! xoxo – Jeremy

  • Patrice

    As a college student, struggling with body images and body changes is an everyday battle. Reading your posts only make the struggle so much easier and more managable. Thanks for being such an inspiration to me and a big help on diminishing these struggles. Love you Tracee!

  • http://www.facebook.com/serenity.love.127 Serenity Love

    Hi Tracee! This article has put a lot of things on my mind in a great perspective because it’s really difficult for me, as a young black woman, to find a comfortable, respectable line between sexy woman and “bad bitches.” I also love sex, and feeling sexy, and having that kind of freedom with my body and mind, my ideas and craft (as a singer, song-writer and young actress). I’m so glad you posted this because it’s all too refreshing to hear from other black woman who aren’t busy trying to dominate pop culture, all the while confusing the meanings behind being black woman and the weight that it carries in our culture. I’m 23, and still learning to love myself, and learning how to help other women my age and younger to do the same. Thank you, Tracee for sharing. We need more woman like you to be open and honest, real and compassionate. It means more than you know. AND check out my music if you EVER get a chance, http://www.reverbnation.com/karimascott <3 <3 <3

  • safia

    thank you for this post. i can identify so much. i am reminded of this poem by suheir hammad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xarc5PFknfw

  • Nova Phoenix

    As long as the people who create the images and drive the message about women being objects, the condition will remain the same. You can do 3 things…

    1. Have more women within leadership roles. Although, there are plenty of women in leadership roles today that carry on the objectication.

    2. A total societal rework on women. It’s going to require education and treatment starting in our school system, local communities.

    3. Seeing images of women more in leadership, quality, commanding, diversified roles for people to see. I do think that’s making headway but it’s like taking 1 step forward and 3 steps back at times.

    All of these require courage, vision, dedication and sincerity in making a change. I say continue to express your sexiness but just give yourself time to express other parts of you for people to see. Be that example of what a woman should be. You’re doing it now and doing a great job at it, I must say. Experience and action is the best teacher. Keep workin’ it, sis…

  • Sherita V.R.

    Hello there! I’m sure that was an awkward way begin this post but I don’t know the proper blog response protocol It quite unusual for me to comment on things I see on the internet; I like to tell myself that I engage through observation. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important for me to leave a little comment, even if no one else reads besides myself.

    I truly respect Ms. Tracee Ellis Ross as a woman, who uses her influence to encourage, inform, and uplift. I am a graduate student and my research deals a lot with race and identity in relation to institutions. However, it was not until a few weeks ago that I briefly learned about Saarijte “Sara” Baartman. It was not until I happen to check the updates to the website (I rarely have free time so I have not visited for a while) and I read “Let’s Get Cheeky” that I decided to become proactive, taking the baton to educate myself.

    Well, I have said all this to say that I have been inspired to do an extensive search project for my History course that focuses on Sara Baartman and the representation of the Black, female body in the 19th century. I want to apply Michel Focault’s definition of power from Discipline and Punish shows that Baartman’s struggle has transcended to the performance of today’s Black, female body and mind — on and off the stage.

    So thank you for the inspiration for my project and as I work through the struggle in my own life. Although I am 22, I do not plan to sit on this…I will share what I know, as you have done. I encourage that we all work to share what we know. It is time to stop perpetuating ideas that we do not know enough to be an informant, but perhaps you will unknowingly be a gift in someone’s time of need. Thank you for the thought and time you put into this blog post, Ms. Tracee Ellis Ross! And thank you for the insightful comments that were posted before me.

  • UnabashedKandi

    I can identify with many of your thoughts and questions. I come from a mixed race back ground which definitely caused some identity issues and cultural confusion. My mother black and white with a body aligning with white aesthetics. Where I am of fairer skin with a body full of curves and that ass. The confusion is caused by and cured by the women in your life. I collected the way I perceived my body from my Mother,Grandmother,Great-Grandmother and peers. One would say that girl is big boned which sounded like a medical condition to me. Then my Mother would say I’m beautiful and wooh! child if I had a body like yours what I would do. Great grandma exclaiming she can see her hips. Friends with our daily comparisons and self conscious efforts to find our place in society. We aren’t born conscious of the differences between us we learn to observe others and notice subtle differences to file them in our minds. As an art teacher I see that change in a student around age five they become self conscious about how their peers are creating. They lose that free oblivious to the world pure creativity for their heart alone. Next time you meet a very young child start a conversation and envy how free their thoughts are.
    I was blessed with women that gave me a strong sense of pride and self worth . So that as I developed my idea of a female aesthetic I felt beautiful and sexy. I am not saying I don’t critique my own figure I’m just acknowledging that a strong matriarch can turn a mountain into a grain of salt. Your venture into social media has made you a matriarch and mentor bringing out topics that women need to discuss and share.

  • Flowers

    Great post Ms. Tracee! You address some valid points and concerns. I must say that I watch your show “Girlfriends ” everyday on centric(BET). I am an addict to that show. While all the women are beautiful, I watch the show because of you. I love your style as well as your figure. As an African American woman I appreciate another woman who has a figure that is compatible to mine. You have class, and grace. I don’t think we should downplay our rounded butts(not implying that you are) because our big butts are apart of who we are. It is the way that we expose our behinds that make it trashy and ratchet! Your booty is fabulous and thank you for this awesome website!

  • ladyfresh

    hello! do you follow Shadow and Act? Well they report on alot of movies and festivals thats are of interest. They put me on to the movie about Sara, Black Venus, that came out in 2010. http://www.shadowandact.com/?p=31075

  • http://www.facebook.com/NaturalLoveAffair ANatural LoveAffair

    Thank you! Your thoughts in this piece came at such an appropriate time in my life…a time where I’ve been questioning a lot about who I am and the Woman I desire to be. I took your advice and researched Sara Baartman…..again Thank You as i was unaware of her existence and the impact her life has on my womanhood journey. I struggle w/ my body a times as sometimes I feel I need to loose a few pounds, tone up, or just be a different size and then I have to remind myself I’m never going to please everyone and that’s okay as long as I’m pleased. Now to get to a point where I’m pleased is my goal :). I think the day I decided to wear my hair in its natural state is the day I started appreciating all parts that make me who I am :) Thanks for reminding and teaching….looking forward to what’s next.

  • Twelve Inches

    I wanna hit it from the back

  • http://www.facebook.com/keith.b.kelson Keith Bryan Kelson

    It’s kind of depressing to read that a smart, funny, drop-dead gorgeous woman like Tracee has body image issues. All I’ve ever seen when I see her photos is perfection.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1600641745 L Blake Brown

    Wow…. well said, written and thought out. Putting an educated and experienced spin on what some women feel as being a ” BAD BITCH”. The “Trade Off” you speak of has been a negative fixture of all societies and cultures. I cannot apologize for the way I viewed women in the past. I actually look at it as a result of my surroundings from childhood to young adult. How have I changed and established a better view and sincere idolizing for the black female? Experience, mistakes, good times/bad times, easy times/hard times; recognizing what a real woman was. Having my heart ripped to shreds early on gave a bad perspective on life, relationships and love however, I still conquered women because as I too suffered from low self esteem; I met many many women who were easy prey. To state these things and have a positive outlook in dealing with women in a personal manner has come quite easy these days. Maybe because of age or heartaches or a combination of both; I feel that although just like you Ms. Ross, i’m no doctor or scholar or psychiatrist but experience of life, love, happiness, sadness, loneliness and all in between has given me a clear view of myself and the women I allow into my circle. As the celebrity panel that included Steve Harvey stated; It’s really up to the individual to accept or reject the other person, bullshit and annoying details. In short women have all the power and just need to know how to use it. When used as the “Trade Off” you get used in the end. When used in self-awareness, educated humility and love you won’t be the last resort but the first meaningful thought in the man’s mind and heart.
    I definitely look forward to reading more from you…..

  • Hiram Kemp Jr

    I think you have an absolutely lovely ass

  • http://www.facebook.com/stateway Smitty D. Smith

    Nice ass Tracee. It looks very smackable :)

  • Venae2000

    Looking at your photos above I think, her body is gorgeous!! Then I realized wait a minute, that body looks like mine! When I was a child my mother put me in baggy clothes and sizes way too big to, I guess.. keep me looking like a child? Hide my assets? (No pun intended.) She meant no harm but somewhere along the way I developed a lack of self admiration of my physical body… I didn’t think much of it and when I did it was more critical than good. Being the type of person I am I hate to admit I fell for the “media beauty image” that included long skinny legs and a small little butt, lol. When I was a teenager and college student I hated my thick legs, even more so because I knew it was part of my permanent makeup and wasn’t going anywhere, no matter how often I exercised. I always felt like my butt sticks out too much (that wasn’t going anywhere either). I hated that I got all kinds of attention because of it. Stares use to make me uncomfortable. I would be admired for it, and hated for it it. And I never cared much for any spot light so hence the dilemma. But at the same time I have kept a small fascination over my body type… petite up top, thick at the bottom, I a mean what the heck is that?! Over the past year (I am 30) I realized that the awkwardness I felt over my body type and any attention it gets is unwarranted. I realized that I should be living in my beauty and physical uniqueness instead of living outside of it, and that it is okay to embrace it with everything else inside of me that makes me especially different… in other words, I accepted myself as one beautiful package.

  • D. Elaine Fields

    As everyone else had said, a very thoughtful and nice post. Recently (as in yesterday) I’ve reached my limit with the Black woman’s sanctioning of the of objectification and fetishizing of our bodies. It is one thing for an immature adolescent (a.k.a. “rapper”) to objectify us in a song or video and another thing entirely for us to adopt to practice ourselves, turning our backsides to every lens as if flesh is all we have to offer. I think that the answer that you’re looking for is that we should celebrate our “womaness” more than our sexuality. After all, all animals have sex. And while sexuality is a part of womanhood it’s about so much more than that. Though society seems to want to limit the expression both of womanhood (and manhood) I challenge us all to see it for what it is. Womanhood is like a crystal with innumerable facets. If you gazed into it forever you’d never see every angle and the reflection and magnification of light would be blinding. Womanhood is complicated and intricate, when you consider that in most cases it’s a male mind that decides what to broadcast is it any wonder that womanhood must be simplified? All the many facets of the crystal are cut down to one base/primal understanding of female – sex. Huge tits. A big ol’ booty. I think it’s okay for us to understand this but it’s not okay for us to internalize it. You should love your body, it’s your vessel. You should celebrate your body, it’s a temple to the Lord. You should reject anything that clouds your understanding of those FACTS. And your presentation of womanhood should include ALL the wonderful parts of you – body mind and spirit -magnificent ass or no.
    D. Elaine Fields
    Author

  • Tonye Fohsta-Lynch

    Okay I first want to say that I adore you Tracee. I am a 20 year old African American young woman and I find myself asking these same questions. I think some of the issues you’ve touched upon stem from not being exposed to our true womanhood and what true sexuality really means at a young age. It’s been so stigmatized to represent being promiscuous that girls become afraid of their bodies or as you mentioned can’t find the pleasure in themselves without pleasing another. Race also plays a role in the stereotyping of women. Its important for women to be conscious of themselves as a whole rather than just a body and I think that’s a journey most women find themselves on because they try to navigate between personal and societal expectations. I think this post is amazing and I look forward to the future discussions.

  • Alisha

    There does seem to be a dichotomy in this “sexy” thing as it relates to our bodies. I do agree that we must find that sexiness in ourselves first. No one else will believe it if we don’t. I’m trying to embrace mine more though it’s hard sometimes. Others, it’s an automatic thing.

  • Orangebliss

    This was fantastic.

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