Through an examination of our history’s finest women, you can see that the carefree black girl has always existed. Women like Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, Maya Angelou, Solange Knowles, Corinne Bailey Rae and Janelle Monaé have constantly created new and positive images as black women from the past and present in the public sphere. But in 2013, creating new and positive images as a black woman for one’s own self became an official movement: The Carefree Black Girl Movement.
It sought to celebrate all things joyous and unique about black women all over the globe. The hashtag, #carefreeblackgirl, has flooded several social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The hashtag has highlighted images, ideologies and theories of women who dance to the beat of their own drum. It has helped many celebrate black womanhood in all its glory.
Carefree Black Girls are eccentric women brave enough to mix and match patterns, sport big and brightly colored hair, wear bold lipsticks and stand up for social justice issues. These are women who do not live by the rules that society creates–they create their own platforms and live according to whatever is pleasing to them. While they may be aware of the many issues that plague black women, they have decided to be the breath of fresh air many of us need; a reprieve from the exhaustion of tackling race and gender hardships, and stereotypes that we deal with every day.
While speaking about the Carefree Black Girl Movement, writer Jamala Johns said, “As I continued to encounter more sites dedicated to an endless array of hair textures, personal styles, and creative endeavors, I realized that I wasn’t alone in trying to capture a certain quality that eludes black women in traditional media.”
There’s a story behind the woman with the giant afro and floral crown sitting perfectly in a lush green field. There’s something so captivating about the group of women in colorful patterns with bold lips curled into big smiles showing their pearly whites. And while we celebrate their beauty and diversity, there’s a story that often goes untold. A story of misunderstanding and loneliness that a carefree black girl too often deals with.
Johns credits the Carefree Black Girl Movement with being a form of escapism from the “archetypes of black women (jezebel, strong black woman, mammy, welfare queen, and video vixen).” She points out that it is important to note that carefree and careless are not synonymous and that we should not think of a carefree black girl as a careless one. However, these labels are often bunched together, and for a movement that’s supposed to uplift and celebrate black women, many find themselves still searching for something well-defined. They’re often misunderstood.
The carefree black girl who chooses to artistically promote body positivity through self-portrait photography and nudity often finds herself at a crossroads: she has to offer an explanation as to how her movement is different from what we might label as that of a hypersexual vixen or pornography. One of the stereotypes that black women often face is the criticism of our sexuality. The way black women are portrayed today in popular media makes it hard for a carefree black woman to openly express herself sexually while trying to avoid such labels. Just ask the carefree black girl who chooses to embrace love as the movement. She is often forced to find a way to differentiate herself from the jezebel, which depicts black women as sexually promiscuous and driven.
Yes, it’s a struggle to be a carefree black girl who chooses to take life by the horns and make her own rules. In a patriarchal society, she is labeled as a strong black woman too independent for a man. She even receives backlash from her own men, who have redefined the word “independent” and given it a negative connotation. It can be tough. It’s not all floral crowns, peace signs and polka dots all the time.
In her piece on the movement, Johns concludes that the idea of the carefree black girl is one who “embodies not letting outside gaze rule the way you express yourself.” While that may be the intention, we as black women still find ourselves fighting against what’s been perpetuated through mainstream media. We work to redefine ourselves and make our presence known, but there isn’t enough ammunition to combat the reality TV plague that takes over our channels on a regular basis. And even when we try to be carefree, we still have criticism and questions swatted at us.
Even though we have a ways to go in shifting the way black women are viewed as a collective, I will say that the Carefree Black Girl Movement has been a step in the right direction, even if this black girl is fighting to create her own identity within her race.