Remember when being a strong Black woman was said to be a virtue? It was before we realized the ultimate sacrifice of ourselves, really meant the utmost benefit to everyone else.
However, as it turned out, society said we were actually too angry and held too many masculine attitudes to know a proper place.
Perhaps it had something to do with our supposed uncontrolled sexuality or the claimed crown of independence—which was also projected onto us.
—And now, our standards are apparently too high to go where the “soft life” is taking us.
Soft life, where? Society wonders.
While the 2020 pandemic is known to have forced us to slow down and re-evaluate our well-being and priorities, it also seemingly sparked the trending #softlife movement. The decline of hustle culture and struggle life brought about a craving for more peace and less pressure.
More urgently, Black women, — with a 60.5 percent participation rate and an integral force of American labor, were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in the same world where we long faced pay gaps, racial discrimination, overrepresentation in low-paying service jobs, and many other longstanding inequities in the labor market.
Work pressures, burnout and the struggle of living up to the strong Black woman trope perpetuated by society were foundations of our attraction to a softer life. Black women also realized the struggle was a rite of passage and a prerequisite to being. Work lives, love lives and personal lives meant nothing without struggle as a birthright. It is no wonder the movement was the cultivation of trading in a hard life for the opposite.
A life that is typified by or filled with ease and comfort, without requiring any hard work, sacrifice, or unpleasantness.
While it is unclear exactly where the term originated, when #softlife begin trending in late 2021, the movement became a social wellness form of protest taking over TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Though, initially associated with people of color, no other demographic resonated with the soft life quite like Black women. For us, the soft life rejects the strong Black woman trope and hard work struggle that labor and capitalism demand while embracing a life of ease, comfort, and femininity.
And unfortunately, Black women became the same demographic society criticized for seeking such. To put it into contemporary terms: Black women began to find solace in soft life and people started losing their minds.
While social media helped catapult soft life to public attention, it also promoted the false belief that having a soft life simply means a full life of luxury. Social media deliberately provides us access to desire symbols and aesthetics of luxury and freedom in a manner that is inevitable not to embrace.
And perhaps the dangerous concept about soft life via social media is its effortlessly pleasing aesthetic. The real irony is that it will take a more diligent effort to have a softer life.
Black women, who are the most besieged and sought after on social media platforms, are likely attracted to the soft life because it provokes a lifestyle that may have seemed initially off-limits. And perhaps the only thing social media soft life does achieve is the display of Black women embracing femininity long thought only exclusive to other races of women.
History provides that Black women are only afforded femininity that is suggestive and hypersexual. Even young Black girls are subject to a great extent of adultification. Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire; —all stereotypical perceptions that said Black women were in less need of softness and robbed us of the opportunities to explore sensuality on our own terms. The soft life for Black women is a rebellious act against such harmful stereotypes and allows us to carve out a range of vulnerable emotions until we have fully landed in our deepest, feminine places.
While social media does capture aesthetics of confident sensuality in Black women, a true feminine soft life will require going beyond visuals. But is the soft life a symbolic aesthetic fairytale, or can it somehow manifest and make a real difference in a Black girl’s world?
Social media often displays the epitome of a subject or lifestyle and its soft life is no different. There is surely a real soft life out there. But the soft life according to social media won’t save us.
Only self-rooted change can do that.
While the social media soft life may compel society to inform its impact on Black women, it should never influence our lifestyle aspirations; — especially in a world that constantly tells us we only deserve the opposite. Society has no agency to decide whether Black women are qualified to go where the real soft life is taking us, nor should society be threatened by the idea.
If Black women can save the world while just trying to survive, imagine a world saved when we thrive.
Though the soft life may not be a reality to many Black women now, it doesn’t mean the possibility should be devalued or debunked by baseless judgments. There is a world of pressure, burnout, and tropes that must be undone to begin finding softer places to land.
And sometimes, it will start with society.
Not only should Black women consider changing their ways to a softer life, but society should also consider its treatment and perpetuated pressures on Black women. Because what if we told you that the soft life was less about luxury and self-care and more about Black women finally laying down what was never ours to carry?
So sometimes it will start with the self.
At a minimum, a soft life should require us to self-reflect on our identity and the forces that keep us from finding solace in the world. Such self-reflection can be achieved through meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, reading, self-body exploration, nature walks, etc., and will compel us to determine what areas in our lives can be better improved upon; — ultimately landing us in an overall sense of self-awareness.
A soft life rooted in self-reflection will be necessary to land at the best version of ourselves; —a reflection so grounded that it transforms our lifestyle, rather than just the appearance of it.
Our soft lifestyle will ultimately be dependent upon our terms. The minimum is not to be confused or compared to us. We’re not bare minimum women. We were never softened enough to be. It is also not to be confused by limitations. Because to place limitations or pinpoint what a soft life will look like for all Black women is to self-deny us everything we deserve.
But sometimes, it will require structure and support.
We may all have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé́, but we do not have the means to spend it all similarly. We also do not have the means to carry it all alone. Soft life is a subjective term. While it may require the hard work of prioritization, therapy, and tough decisions, accepting the opposite in a world not made for Black women to live a soft anything can be far more exhausting.
In a world heavily supported by Black women, the soft life may just be the support we need more than ever.
Precisely why if we’re not careful to define on our own terms, it will influence society to devalue the idea with ungrounded notions, returning us back to the birthright struggle. A soft life must require our own structure and subjectivity; — to be more than luxury or self-care goals, but a personal landing place to inform our lifestyle now and beyond.
They say the greatest reward is given to those who’ve waited diligently. And no one has waited their turn quite like a Black woman. We deserve to believe in soft life after the struggle, the same some do in the afterlife. And that may sometimes require solace, too.
A soft life is simply the opposite of a hard one. Black women deserve to know seasons requiring more ease can be started on our terms; —compelling us to find other ways to live besides what we’ve been long taught to accept. Those will perhaps be the softest landings of all. It is our self-determining right to make it a time to be alive in a world where we can give up the weight to fly to safer and softer places.
To put it into contemporary terms: We’re good enough to go where the soft life is taking us.
Actually, we belong wherever we land. On top of the world and everywhere in it.
But let’s start humble.
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