Updated: Oct 1, 2021

In the past few years, we have seen the emergence of black women musicians in an industry that has previously only opened the floor for a few black women to “dominate” at a time. For many years, mainstream music and media have been saturated by the sounds of Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj alongside their peers, white women who were also megastars such as Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, and more. At this time, there was definitely more than just those three black women making quality and influential music but they were the black women chosen by mainstream media to be pushed and celebrated. This feature has often brought up discussions centering on colorism in the music industry and what black women's representation looks like.

In the more recent years, the industry has reflected more attentiveness to inclusion and shaping means of black representation that has included talents of different aesthetics and artistic ability. The industry has produced black songstresses and rappers such as Normani, Megan the Stallion, H.E.R, Ari Lennox, Doja Cat, Chloe, and Halle Bailey, Summer Walker, SZA, and Ella Mai to name a few. All of which who have managed to bring their own unique styles to the industry resulting in various levels of success. However, as a fan and consumer, I have observed that as these women experiment and incorporate their sensuality into their art, they are faced with ridicule and slander that often is held with the intent of disregarding their natural talent and diminishing their art.

That observation became more apparent to me after the release of Chloe Bailey’s first solo release, “Have Mercy”. Earlier this year, Chloe and her sister Halle separated amicably as a musical duo to pursue their solo careers. From the time of the announcement of their separation to the release of the video for “Have Mercy”, Chloe has faced public ridicule and cyber-bullying for merely displaying self-love. The conversations regarding Chloe shifted from discussions about her underrated talents to how much “sex she was selling” and how much male attention she was “seeking”. Pushing the false narrative, that as women embrace their sensuality, it is only being done for the male gaze. Similar comments began to pour in after the visual for “Have Mercy” was released and I couldn’t resist pondering whether or not the issue lies in genuine concern about children’s exposure to adult related content or if the issue lies in a need to police and demean black women for exuding confidence.

For many generations, black women have been deprived of their ability to unapologetically display self-love. We have been faced with cycles of abuse for simply existing. Cycles of abuse that condemn our natural features and strip away our femininity. We live in a society that attacks us for learning how to move past the trauma and find peace in whom we are and where we come from.

Artists like Chloe Bailey and Normani, represent the black women who have been coached to “tone it down” and “keep it cute”. The black women who are pigeonholed to fit society’s mold and standards of what it means to be a black woman. Who is made to feel that they are only allowed to exist and be exalted under the circumstances of responsibility politics. When black women begin to find their inner strength and confidence, they are then made to feel inadequate because of it. Our confidence begins to be weaponized and used against us as means to further control and belittle us. As this relates to Chloe Bailey and her peers, their talent tends to only be criticized and questioned once they begin to proudly and openly embrace all aspects of their womanhood. There is such a desire to make black women feel “small” and keep them boxed it. A desire that also intrusively aims to gain full autonomy over our bodies and how to we choose to express ourselves. Rooted in anti-blackness and misogynoir, the way that black women are perceived by and accepted by the public always feels conditional. The message rings loud and clear that we can only stand authentically and be celebrated genuinely when we conform to align with society’s roles for us.

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