Being Broadtail: Body Emancipendence
A few articles ago I mentioned my extensive love affair with my nine girdles. I am proud to say since then I have had my moments when I let it all hang out and I strut around feeling the little jiggles that sometime make me giggle because they seem to dance to an old rhythm my mother once recited to me – “wuk di money bring it come”.
Last week, I walked into one of my favourite fast food restaurants in Liguanea in a maxi dress with significant cut outs on the side… girdle and bra less. I immediately noticed that I caught the attention of most of the patrons. Though I am always game for some added attention, this time, without my girdle and bra as my armor, I felt a little self-conscious. I looked down on my breasts if they were succumbing to gravity and took a deep breath to silently tuck it all in.
My tuck routine didn’t last very long, after all, I am here to eat! As I exited the restaurant, an older couple stopped me. The gentleman timidly asked if he could say something to me. He said “my wife and I were saying how great you look in that dress, you are confident, you seem to know it, and we think it is just so refreshing to see a young, black, BIG BODY woman so comfortable with herself.”
I smiled, thanked them and wished them a good night. All of a sudden, my previously sagging breasts and jiggly tummy felt perky and my entire body was happy. However, I couldn’t help but think to myself, did I truly deserve that compliment in its entirety on that day? Was my brush of insecurity without my girdle and bra on a warm summer evening symbolic of the shackles of the “gaze” that not just full figured women but ALL women go through, which leaves us thinking we are being scrutinized than admired?
Also, the mention of a “big body black woman” feeling comfortable in her skin was an important part of this dialogue as Jamaica celebrated Emancipation (on August 1) from a slave system that demonized the black body (more so females than males) for decades. After all, I know we can all agree that women are judged more based on our appearance than our male counterparts.
An just like when di ball lick yu when yu a play sightings as a child in Jamaica, I realized that on this “broadtail” journey with all my confidence, I still anticipate negative comments about what I am wearing, how it fits and whether or not persons will think it is acceptable for my body.
If we are to be honest, I know every woman at some point can relate to the feeling that “we have been made to think we should be everything that we are not.” For those of us who are full-figured (you should be leaner), those of us who are dark skinned, (your skin should be of a lighter hue), those with kinks and curls in our hair (straighter hair please) and for those who are lighter, skinnier with straight hair…oops, you have a vagina and so you must either use it to get ahead or work twice as hard.
Gentlemen, I promise, this is not a rant. Nevertheless, women continue to be quite the “spectacle” whether we are being scrutinized or admired. However, after my moment of intense emotions about my apparent insecurities, I enjoyed my meal, with the knowledge that whether I was being scrutinized or admired, I emancipated my body of my girdle and bra and two persons appreciated my dress and my body in it (either way, victory is mine).
I am also pleased to conclude with a commendation! The office of the Prime Minister sent out a press release on August 10 notifying the public that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has suspended the practice of prohibiting women who wear sleeveless clothing from entering Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to do business. I read the press release with the brightest smile on my face because for years I have wondered if I was the only one that realized that we live in a tropical climate where the heat is sweltering at times…suh wey sleeve really a guh?
I will now happily emancipate my shoulders and flaunt my arms independently as I enter Government Buildings and try to get my business done!
Happy 56th Independence Jamaica!
Dania Beckford is the Managing Director of BroadTail Designs, a full-figured apparel company in Jamaica that specializes in resort wear. She is also a Brand Communication Consultant.