I have always been fascinated by the ways in which we go about teaching young Black girls about sex, sexuality, their bodies, and the relationship among these three things. Since 2013, the hashtag #FastTailedGirls has been used by adult Black women to talk back to their experiences of being labeled as “fast” or “fast-tailed” as children and adolescents. (See: https://twitter.com/search?q=fasttailedgirls&src=typd). Please note, this Twitter thread may be difficult to read as women have documented their individual experiences of emotional toll, strained relationships, and victim blaming they have endured as a result of this label. Being branded as “fast” or “fast-tailed” is not to be received as a compliment, rather it sends a warning to a young girl that she is doing something that is “womanish” or could invite sexual advances. Specifically, this label would be said to a young girl who is presumed to have taken on the sexual characteristics or appearance of an adult woman. For example, a girl experiencing puberty may be told that because her “hips are too wide,” “breasts are too big,” or “hips swayed too hard,” she is sending a sexual message to others.
Ultimately, the labeling of young Black girls as fast or fast-tailed communicates that even as a child or adolescent, the mere physical presence of your body signals an invitation to comment, critique, and initiate sexual advances. One of the many issues with this labeling of children and teenagers is that it informs their learning and processing of themselves in terms of body autonomy. This constant policing of their bodies suggests that the development of their physical bodies is connected to the sexual attraction of others, with a particular emphasis on heterosexual men. In other words, no longer are their bodies and its development a girl’s personal experience, rather it is swiftly connected to the sexual gratification of men. The focus on sexual value and physical appearance may reduce perceived personal agency and control of one’s sexuality and body. As I think about the frequent use of the “FastTailedGirls” hashtag and the pervasiveness of this experience, my heart aches and yearns for the day when young Black girls can openly and freely experience their full personhood without the added stress of being labeled #FastTailedGirls.
- Written by Elom A. Amuzu, M.A.