Why I’m Over The Carefree Black Girl Label » VSB

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Why I’m Over The Carefree Black Girl Label

Willow Smith (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Vitamin Water)

 

The advent of the social media era has brought about a great many things – some good, some bad – and notably it has facilitated the emergence of safe and thriving spaces for underrepresented people of color, both men and women. Worldwide, communities of Back women have been able to stand in their glory and showcase their worth in spite of a patriarchal and institutionally racist society that seems altogether determined to put Black women in limiting boxes of what we can and can’t be, what we represent, and what we have to offer.

On the whole, this is great. Seeing women use technology to establish their own self-determination in the face of marginalized expectations is fantastic. Taking a peek at hashtags such as #BlackGirlsAreMagic will introduce you to a rich multitude of women who are kicking ass and taking names, whether it be Serena Williams versus arguably PED-laden fairer-skinned European rivals, Gabby Douglas continuing to make waves in the global gymnastics circuit, plus-sized women on the cover of EBONY, or women of color being highlighted at the forefront of the current social justice movement.

This has also in some ways metastasized into the concept of the “Carefree Black Girl” – the Black woman who defies gendered and cultural norms set upon Black women in society by doing things on her own terms, her 3c hair or twist outs flowing in the wind, bralessness and septum piercing optional but preferred. Tumblr aesthetic aside, on its face I understand the seeming empowerment behind praising women who seemingly set their own terms for how they comport themselves; but nontraditional and carefree are not synonymous terms and shouldn’t be treated as if they are. Nevertheless, I find myself constantly reading depictions of women with various amount of celebrity being affixed with this “carefree Black girl” title and I find myself at a loss as to why this is happening.

One such recent case is Cardi B – a woman who, through a series of Instagram videos about love, life, and strip club etiquette, has won over the heart of the inner hoodrat of many of us. (Present company included.) Cardi ‘s brash and no-holds barred approach to bopping and thotting is many things – witty, insightful, entertaining (as long as it’s not directed to the brown M&M peanut known as DJ Self) – but carefree it is not. Cardi is trying to get out of the hood of the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx; she has openly stated that she got out of stripping to get out of an abusive relationship. Cardi B cares, and she cares a lot. The realities of her life don’t allow her to be carefree, but they do allow her to not be afraid of being bold and enterprising by any means necessary.

This doesn’t apply just to Cardi either. Most Black women, I would argue, care about a great deal of things – how to advance in their careers, how to not be reduced to their sexualized identities, how to find something else to keep you warm at night besides your degrees, etc. Personally speaking, on any given day my range of concerns can be as broad as demanding respect in a male-dominated field, to rerouting my daily path home because of the creep that figured out my schedule, to stressing over the fact that H&M seems to have an eternal vendetta against cutting pants that accommodate my rice-and-plantains fed behind.

The fact is,that most of us simply don’t have the liberty to be carefree beyond a certain point. And that is perfectly okay. The Smith kids may be the “carefree black teens” ambassadors, with their rejection of formal schooling and dabbling in whatever whims come to mind, but I don’t know how us regular folks can really extrapolate that circumstance to our day-to-day lives, although I am more than open to suggestions.

Ultimately, why do we want so badly to have that carefree label? What is so intrinsically better about it? Being a Black woman is amazing, and I fervently believe we should celebrate that at every turn possible. It’s also hard, and consequently difficult to create a “carefree” space in a world where there are so many lenses that are boring down on us. And that’s okay! It really is. We shouldn’t feel so beholden as to pursue this carefree state of mind when what most people seem to ultimately seek is as much self-determination as possible.

Additionally, why do we label some of the people we do as carefree in the first place? People were heartbroken when they found out Lianne la Havas was part of the All Lives Matter ilk. But why did we associate her as carefree and woke in the first place? Taking pictures with flowers in your fro indicates nothing beyond following the same aesthetic that you can see at any FKA twigs concert and says nothing about how you comport yourself in day to day life, or in Black, White, or blue spaces. Yes, hair and aesthetics can certainly serve as a political or bold statement, but placing that label on someone who hasn’t claimed it for themselves is unnecessary and just as ridiculous as the eternal memes comparing the Ayesha Currys and the Kim Kardashians of the world.

I encourage all of us to use our words and not be so lazy as to describe things as carefree when we mean a litany of other things. Creative doesn’t mean carefree. Neither does midnight blue hair. Or being proud. Or laying in a bed of flowers. Or wearing a crop top year round. Or making your own deep conditioner. Or having casual sex partners. Or going to AfroPunk Festival. Or engaging in sex work. Or any one of the plethora of ways that people choose to go against the grain of the limited selection of boxes Black women seem to be allowed to check. We can celebrate the array of ways that Black women have chosen to represent themselves without reducing it to a catch-all term that seems to run counter to the reality of not just being a Black woman in America, but in much of the world. Most of us don’t have the pleasure of truly being free from anxiety or responsibility. But more and more, we’re finding ways to carve out our own flourishing spaces despite that, and that is more than remarkable enough for me.

Shamira Ibrahim

Shamira is a twentysomething New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her in waxing poetically about chicken, Cam'ron, and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at her semi-monthly blog, shamspam.tumblr.com

  • I think the lure of the carefree comes in us trying to define ourselves based on things other than our struggle. Harryette Mullen said that the black woman is the muse and drudge of the world, and sometimes it gets downright exhausting having to pull ourselves up out of the muck every. da mn. day to just be seen as normal, sentient beings. That strong black woman who can bear all things while frying the best chicken you ever had label became too tired and fodder for hotep ninjas and the reformed thots who look for their praise, so I think this carefree black girl is an attempt to shake some of that off.

    We aren’t carefree in the sense that we don’t care about anything – just not what you and your crusty heels have to say about us.

    • 2011k

      That’s how I’ve always seen the meaning of the whole “Carefree” movement. Not the same as careless. But in the end, it’s just another label that we can use – or discard – as we please.

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      Yep. This is how EYE view the term.

      I can understand the exhaustion around it though because like any term for us, it gets warped into something it was never intended to be in the first place. Thing is, IDGAF what it means to them, what it means to me is liberating af. And it’s only one part of me, not all. Just like ANY adjective. Ainno “catch-all” term for me, bih.

      • I don’t know any black women who’ve taken the term to mean they have zero problems at all; it’s just a way to show that we’re not letting those problems become yet another way for people to pathologize us. Like, why can’t I just want to have s e x with random ninjas because I want to sample some dic ks? Why does it have to be because I have daddy issues and was molested? Does eeeeeeeeeeeverything have to be a symptom of the ills of the black community?

        can I live? or nah?

      • That’s what bothers me about these debates over #carefreeblackgirls and #blackgirlmagic — apparently, some of us identify with these movements (I don’t agree with calling them that, but hey) as liberating and uplifting. Yet critics always tear them down as stupid or useless or an insulting label to attach to black women. In essence, they’re doing the things that spurred both of these hashtags in the first place, placing a limit on what words are “appropriate” for us to use. Why does it matter, if women are finding inspiration and encouragement through it?

        • jolly

          Interesting analysis. A close friend pointed out that we ought to be careful with phrases like “blackGIRLmagic” when a lot of the folks flaunting the phrase are grown women. I’m still dissecting or not because I think it uplift the youth dem lol.

          • Yeah, I can see where some people may not like it. But I do refer to my friends as “my girls” or “my girlfriends,” so it makes sense to me in that way. Plus like you said, teens and youth may be uplifted by it, and we know how the world is hard on black kids…

        • But if these labels didn’t exist…wouldn’t you just be Regina still?

          • Certainly. It still doesn’t mean that those labels/movements whatever we want to call them are pointless. Obviously they’ve been inspiring positivity among black women, so I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing.

    • Quirlygirly

      “We aren’t carefree in the sense that we don’t care about anything – just not what you and your crusty heels have to say about us.”

      I feel this is the original meaning of carefree.. not caring about the predefined labels that are put on us as black women. However it morphed in to a label that once again defines us. In reality non black women get to be every woman, black women only get to sing about being every woman

      • Verdadgiuliano2


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      • Jenniferjhartman1


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    • Question

      The Muse and the Drudge of the world. Soooooooo true.

      • That whole book of poetry was something else. I felt all the things while reading and dissecting. Shoutout to Professor DuPlessis giving black feminist writers a shot and pushing me to explore deeper.

    • cakes_and_pies

      “I think the lure of the carefree comes in us trying to define ourselves based on things other than our struggle”
      Hello…..I have to check off another set of boxes to be considered “carefree”? Do what now?

      • Basically. We can never just claim something and have it be that. We have to justify, explain and provide receipts.

        • All these dang receipts. My wallet is full.

    • jolly

      I agree. I also think carefree is perhaps an inappropriate catch all term based on what we see on the opposite side of the color spectrum. Let’s use hair as an analogy (albeit very simplistic). White women can wake up, hop in and out of the shower and toss their wet hair up and head straight on into work if they so choose– without being fired. Black women cannot or could not with such renewed fervor as we’ve seen with the natural hair resurgence. Basically people confounding our natural human behavior with deliberate “no fucks given” intention. Translation: “Oh you don’t care about conforming to my idea of respectable you? ” = CAREFREE lol.

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      You better say that, Pinks!!!

    • Mary

      Only supposedly carefree Black women are the completely assimilated ones who only consider themselves biologically Black. As long you identify with Black people you can’t be carefree; not possible.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    Sham God I’m assuming there are levels to this thing. What separates no effs to give from being carefree? It almost appears that they are one in the same.

    • Question

      Carefree people, despite the label, have norms that they follow. Givers-of-no-flucks have no norms which they are trying to adopt, and no level of Ultimate-Givers-of-no-Flucks whose attention they are attempting to garner.

  • **slow claps**

    “Carefree” is becoming the new “Strong” and I’m really not here for a new way for the general public to say a Black Woman’s full range of feelings is a problem. People are real-life stressing themselves to have social media accounts worthy of a “carefree” or “excellence” or whatever term we’re using at the moment to combat “superhuman monsters” life, and it’s a problem.

    • BJenks

      I was going to make a comment similar to this. I know a woman who loves to portray herself as the ‘carefree black girl’ and takes pics with flowers in her hair and tries to associate herself as a flower child and all that on social media. But in real life she is most definitely not carefree, especially if you associate “carefree” with non-traditional because she is very traditional. You care a lot about having this image on the gram but in actuality you are nothing like that. I don’t get it.

      • Mary Burrell

        Imaginary lives of social media people.

        • Val

          Right! This is especially true on facebook. Lies! Lol I see it erryday, Mary.

          • Mary Burrell

            lol

    • Asiyah

      I was thinking along those lines. I wanted to write to @quirlygirly:disqus that I think only White women get to be every woman, while all other non-White women have to fit into neat little boxes and categories. But when it comes to Black women, I’ve noticed how society at large can’t accept them or see them as human but couldn’t find the right words. You said it best: a new way for the general public to say a Black Woman’s full range of feelings is a problem. Poignant!

    • Betty’s Babygirl

      That’s exactly why I’m not on Book-Face. The lies we “post” to paint a picture of our lives that we know is a facsimile of our real lives.

    • also as a young black man told me one time he said dad “you know everything that come out black people have the tendency to take it too far” and I found that to be true assessment, I believe if white liberals say it’s cool and ok to eat crap black people will go out and eat more crap than white people to prove just how care free, cool, down, empowered and liberating they are.

  • Your vicious attack on fka Twigs fans aside, I am in complete agreement with this. I agree with the notion of some Black girls and women are carefree. I don’t understand this notion to attach the idea of carefree onto any and every Black girl and woman that exists. Like it’s okay for Black girls and women to have different personalities and identities. Not everyone needs to fit into this “liberating” box that has become “Carefree Black Girl.”

    • Val

      “Your vicious attack on fka Twigs fans aside…”

      Lol

      • Akin to terrorism Val!

        • L8Comer

          I love that woman!! Have you seen her perform? She’s amazing

  • MarcusSun

    Looks like NoFuxGiven 2.0 for Women Edition to me

  • ED

    I really enjoyed reading this. Great post

  • miss t-lee

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one over this label.
    I’m just glad that Gabourey is included, because the “carefree” ones that I see folks fawning over, definitely all look the same.

    “The Smith kids may be the “carefree black teens” ambassadors, with their rejection of formal schooling and dabbling in whatever whims come to mind, but I don’t know how us regular folks can really extrapolate that circumstance to our day-to-day lives, although I am more than open to suggestions.”

    Also. I’m not sure if us regular folks can run around claiming to be “carefree”.

    • “I’m not sure if us regular folks can run around claiming to be “carefree”.

      If being a regular black woman is as hard or harder than being a regular black man I’m guessing it’s not as easy as saying it aloud. It’s hard out here for a super predator.

      • miss t-lee

        Definitely not as easy as saying it aloud Wu.
        I know you know…lol

      • Sigma_Since 93

        “I’m not sure if us regular folks can run around claiming to be “carefree”.

        To me, the meme describes the whole movement. Monday comes in many forms, family, bills, expectations, etc. Even the most carefree person has a Monday they have yet to slay.

    • Tambra

      Spot on!

    • Mary Burrell

      I have bills to pay I don’t have a trust fund or rich celebrity parents i have to work to keep a roof over my head.

      • miss t-lee

        Exactly.

  • BJenks

    Wait Lianne is ‘all lives matters’? I ain’t much know. Not that I associated her with being ‘woke’ and honestly when I think about it, I can see her being that way (all lives matter) but its disheartening to hear.

    • miss t-lee

      Yeah, she shot herself in the foot on twitter a few weeks back.
      Fascinating to watch in real time.

      • She puts me to sleep.

        • miss t-lee

          She’s not really my steez. Outside of one song, she’s pretty snoozy.

        • Val

          I think she’s really talented. She can actually sing. Which is saying a lot these days. But her twitter statement’s were enough for me to not listen to her or take her seriously anymore.

          • I agree she’s talented but she makes me want to gain weight and sleep until the first thaw.

      • BJenks

        Oh ok. I’m not really on the twitters like that so I miss a lot of this stuff until someone tells me, or I see it somewhere like here. It almost makes me want to be on twitter more to catch these things in real time, but then at the same time I’m not sure if that’s the best use of my time.

        • miss t-lee

          “I’m not sure if that’s the best use of my time.”

          Oh it’s definitely not…lol

      • Val

        Yep. She broke Malik’s heart. She’s ‘New Black. You just can’t tell who’s who these days. Lol

        • miss t-lee

          Hahahaha.
          It wasn’t just him…I saw lots of folks in sheer turmoil…lol

  • IsitFridayyet?

    This. Is. Everything.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Serious question: I’m getting the impression that #CareFreeBlackGirl is either the final form of #Unbothered or synonymous with it. Am I wrong?

    • Quirlygirly

      To answer your question, I think it is becoming the final form but once again it is a label, without a firm definition. So while #Unbothered to one person can mean you do not allow anyone’s opinion to hold you back from reaching your potential, someone else may define it as giving #NoFucks about anything or anyone, which inturn can be used negatively.

      • I see. I think the problem(?) with all these labels popping up is that they are so fluid and they don’t have a concrete definition. And this ultimately leads to dissension, when IMHO, labels do nothing but cause division. I don’t necessarily have a solution, but that’s what I’ve observed this far.

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