This Stereotype, Used To Desexualize Black Women, Still Impacts Us Today

mammy figurines
Via Flickr
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
December 16, 2021

The “Mammy” character – an enslaved, fat Black woman who “loves serving white people” – was originally racist propaganda created to justify enslavement. Historical plantation records show little proof of there ever being actual “Mammies,” meaning the stereotype was invented to disempower Black women. 

But “Mammy” did more than that – and her legacy still affects us today.

To create “Mammy,” enslaved Black women were compared to white beauty standards: if thin, white women were “attractive,” then fat, Black women were the opposite. Why do this? 

Writing off Black women as “unattractive” meant white enslavers could rape them without consequences – upholding violent lies that rape is about “attraction,” not about power. And that’s not all.

It also tells Black women and girls, especially “plus size” women, that they’re unworthy of love, respect, romantic intimacy, or sexual pleasure. And public shaming of Black women tells others that this disrespect is OK.

When Lizzo and Cardi B dropped their single “Rumors,” internet haters frequently called Lizzo “Mammy” as an insult. 

This is just one example of how Black women, especially if they’re dark-skinned and fat, are constantly devalued by our culture.

Lizzo, who lives unapologetically, demands respect, and centers her own pleasure, actively challenges the Mammy legacy.

We must all disengage from white supremacist ideas, and determine for ourselves that we’re worthy of love, respect, desire, and pleasure!

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