“A girl child ain’t safe.” The sexist scrutiny being placed on Blue Ivy

Spotted @ Funk Dineva



I should have known it was coming. It would have been too much like right for  people to allow Blue Ivy Carter to grow up without being subjected to sexist gender policing because of her hair and clothing. It seems that people are incapable of allowing children, particularly girl children, and especially Black girl children the freedom to grow up in a world where they aren’t constantly criticized. As Blue Ivy has become more visible in the media and entertainment landscape, the criticisms of her have increased substantially. If people aren’t upset over Blue Ivy’s hair not being done, they are upset over the fact that she, apparently, doesn’t look the way a little girl is supposed to look. I want to use this essay to shed light on what I feel is the underlying sexism, classism, and politics of respectability in criticisms of Blue Ivy.

Many people claim to be bothered by the fact that Beyonce and Jay-Z don’t seem to “do” Blue Ivy’s hair. We all know that people wouldn’t care if Blue Ivy was a little boy. It’s amazing how sexist expectations are thrust upon a one year old. It shouldn’t be a problem that Blue Ivy’s hair isn’t “done”. Since when is a rocking a baby fro not having your hair done, anyway? Feminist cultural critical bell hooks talks about how we often view our hair as something to dominate and control–this is especially true for Black people. Would it better if Blue Ivy’s hair was being stretched and pulled to accommodate beads and bows? Or perhaps we should throw a perm in her hair to really make matters better? There is a lot of sexism in how people are reacting to Blue Ivy’s hair. 

I have also noticed that “politics of respectability” and classism are rearing their ugly heads. The idea being that parents as wealthy and “respectable” as Beyonce and Jay-Z shouldn’t have a daughter’s whose hair isn’t “done”. I love that Beyonce and Jay-Z seem to be allowing Blue Ivy’s hair to grow freely. Kids deserve that kind of grace period, in my opinion. I love seeing little Black girls with bows and beads, twists and plaits; but it’s also fine if they rock their hair free and “wild”. A lot of Black girl children have had permanent damage done to their hair because an adult caregiver did not allow their hair to grow without being twisted and pulled to painful extremes.

The gender police (people who adhere to gender stereotypes) have also keyed in on Blue Ivy. If people are mad that Blue Ivy’s hair isn’t done, they are positively upset at the fact that she hasn’t been seen wearing “girlier” clothes. We often see Blue Ivy wearing clothes associated with boys: Timberland boots, jeans, t-shirts, and even her dad’s fitted cap. Apparently, the world is coming to an end because a little girl has on boots and a fitted. The people who think every little girl should be a princess are losing their minds over the fact that a little girl isn’t in a pink dress and a tiara. It is my belief that both boys and girls should have full access to a divers array of gender expressions. There is nothing wrong with boys liking or wearing pink and girls liking or wearing blue. There is no specific color for a specific gender, anyway. We can, and should, be able to like any color or article of clothing that we want.

It’s clear that people need to check their sexism, classism, and latent homophobia when it comes to commenting on Blue Ivy. She’s not less of a girl because her hair isn’t in beads and bows, or because she has on Timberland boots instead of pink ballet flats. She’s not going to grow up to be a lesbian because she wore her dad’s fitted cap in a picture. And even if she became a lesbian, what is it to you? Beyonce and Jay-Z are both supportive of LGBT rights.

As Sophia famously said in The Color Purple, “A girl child ain’t safe.” The sexist scrutiny being placed on Blue Ivy is a clear indicator of that.

This post is posted on Wednesday 1 May 2013.
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Tagged as: blue ivy jay-z beyonce
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