The Respectability Politricks of Ayesha Curry

The Respectability Politricks of Ayesha Curry

[OPINION] Josie Pickens draws the through line between Curry’s borderline slut shaming and the alleged sexual assaults of Daniel Holtzclaw

by Josie Pickens, December 10, 2015

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The Respectability Politricks of Ayesha Curry

AP Ayesha Curry

There’s already been a ton of commentary presented about professional chef (and wife of pro baller Stephen Curry) Ayesha Curry’s recent tweets concerning her preference to dress modestly and save the showing of her body for her husband and the father of her two super adorable babies. I love the Currys. They’re one of many ways Black people can partner and parent—but they are not the only way. 

Curry clearly wasn’t prepared for the responses to her tweets (and I’m sure the many think pieces that followed). But being the wife of a professional, popular athlete and someone who offers plenty of glimpses into her personal life via social, she probably should have been.

The tweets is watching; they always are. And the perspectives shared regarding Curry’s tweets have been varied and important perspectives on women, respectability politics, and how ashy, basement dwelling men use any opportunity imaginable to remind Black women that they are lonely, bitter, ain’t-never-gon’-have-a-man, fake feminists who are undesirable whores.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Journalist Diana Ozemehboya Eromosele says Curry was passing judgment and shouldn’t be.

Ayesha, see what happens when you insinuate that women who dress a certain way are doing it for the wrong reasons? Don’t be presumptuous about why some women prefer a certain style of clothing. Be secure enough bigging up your own style, without inadvertently passing judgment on those who don’t rock like you. 

Author and life coach Demetria Lucas D’Oyley argues against Eromosele, saying Curry was simply stating her preference, and what happened after was merely Twitter being Twitter:

Curry only commented on whom she shows her own lady parts. She noticed that a lot of people are wearing less, which is a fair observation. Again, she never said anything about anybody not mattering. She implied that her husband does to her. Shouldn’t he? I mean, he is her husband.

Lucus D’Oyley adds in a gut punch to her commentary as well:

I wonder if the real issue here isn’t just what Curry wrote but what Curry represents in our culture. She’s a young, Black, happily married mom of two. She and her media-friendly, Christian husband project what some might think of as the perfect relationship. They’re always posting goofy family videos of them loving on each other and the kids. She has something that a lot of people wish they had, and for that, some people have been looking for a reason not to like her. In some baffling way, they think that her recent set of tweets are a solid reason to rally against her and that doing so will hide their envy of her life.

(Which sounds a lot like what those knucklehead bros on Twitter were saying dressed in heels, to be honest.)

Author and patron saint of Black girl stories Tami Winfrey says it best, and gets to the core of why Black women spoke out against Curry’s comments… and why that speaking out shouldn’t simply be dismissed as jealousy or nitpicking feminist critique:

The real problem with Ayesha Curry’s tweet, though, is that in her desire to assure the Twittersphere that she is “one of the good ones,” she assigns women who make different choices to the trash heap. She appears to buy into a fractured and sexist way of thinking that leaves Black women particularly vulnerable. Reinforcing a system in which only women who hide their sexuality with layers of clothing by covering up are “classy” and worthy of regard also reinforces the very same system in which Black women, no matter how we dress, are often viewed as nothing but sexual objects.

Perhaps we can retire the very notion of arbitrary markers of respectability to signal superiority in women and instead be concerned with cleverness and strength and creativity and kindness—HUMANITY not hemlines. That would seem the classier thing to do.

Of course Ayesha Curry didn’t intend to reinforce patriarchal/sexist ideas about women’s worth in her tweets, but most people who practice microagressions don’t. You know, like when your White coworker tells you that you don’t “talk Black.” Or when well-meaning Whites who visit eateries in Black neighborhoods (on a quest to absorb culture) describe that neighborhood as “sketchy” before they describe the food in a food review. We know that good intentions, or a lack of intention at all, doesn’t mean that folks don’t end up hurt.

Was Ayesha being a bit judge-y, even if unintentionally? Yes. But all of us are intentionally (and unintentionally) judgmental. American culture is founded on the idea that in order to be viewed as a success, you kind of have to sh*t on someone of a different race, gender, ethnic background, class, education level… shall I go on? And in the year of our Lord 2015, Black women still believe that being good girls who cover up and save their good stuff for the men who matter will buy them respect and keep them safe. It’s problematic and dangerous thinking, even if subconscious.

As the jury in the case of Daniel Holtzclaw enters another day of deliberations, attempting to sort out charges brought against the police officer regarding his sexual assault of 13 Black women and girls, I urge you to remember that words about Black women’s respectability matter. Holtzclaw chose his victims because they were not deemed as “respectable” (and thus valuable) in their communities or our larger society.

Many of the women who were sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw didn’t come forward after they were assaulted because they were poor; some were addicts, some were not modest or saving themselves for the “ones that matter,” and therefore they believed that they didn’t matter either. 

It’s all connected, please believe me.

Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter at @jonubian.

 
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