It was 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning when I found myself persistently typing away on my phone, fending off an internet troll. A day or two before, Chloe Bailey, one half of singing duo ChloexHalle, had blessed my Instagram feed with a video of her simply living her life. Recently, she and her sister decided to make separate Instagram pages in addition to their joint page.
Like most posts I encounter on Instagram, I gave Chloe’s post a like and kept scrolling. I was surprised to find her trending on Twitter a few moments later. Similarly, my Instagram explore page was filled with posts about her for several days. This was where I found myself in an unfortunate encounter with a balding, Black male musician who chose to messily throw together a personalized dislike button and dump it underneath a post about her.
He insisted that he was not like those “IG weak [men], insecure or intimidated by women pushing for liberation from stupid male dominated social norms.” Yet, in the same 2,200 characters, he said that it wasn’t “appropriate” for him to see Chloe like this, and thus she needed to “cover up.” As if he couldn’t simply unfollow her if he didn’t want to see her.
He also said that it didn’t make sense for us (women) to make posts showing off our bodies in a provocative manner and not expect derogatory comments. According to him, what women were trying to do with posts like this was “rope in a baller, get pregnant then collect a child support check.” I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t plan on getting pregnant any time soon, and I can write my own checks.
If I wrote about our whole conversation, I’d be writing all day. Honestly, I shouldn’t have even engaged with his sorry a**, but what he said really struck a nerve. I genuinely wondered if someone that ignorant could ever be capable of seeing things in even a slightly different way. The best I got from him after a barrage of messages was a half-way apology for a joke he made comparing women to zoo animals. Tuh.
Later that day, I had a conversation about this argument with a close friend. We ended up recounting numerous stories of times we showed “too much” of our bodies. I grew up in a strict Nigerian (redundant, right?) household where I couldn’t even dream of walking out of the house in anything that stopped above my knee. The hand-me-downs I received formed a baggy, floor-touching, arm-shielding tarp. I felt like a vintage car tucked away in a stuffy garage.
My friend recalled a time in middle school when she was sent to the office for wearing a spaghetti strap dress. She came to school that day dawning a colorful striped dress with a light jacket. As she hung a poster up for a class activity, her teacher stopped her.
The female teacher pulled her aside and told her that the dress she had on was too short. A few moments later my friend found herself sitting in ISS. The school had called her parents requesting they bring a change of clothes and halted her learning until the clothes arrived. It was hours before her dad showed up with the new clothes.
Thinking back to that day, my friend commented on how weird it was for a teacher to halt a student’s learning over something as harmless as a dress. How is an extra inch of skin or exposed arms stopping anyone from learning? The truth is the only person stopped from learning that day was my friend.
Experiences like these are an unfortunate, yet not-so-surprising reminder that people will continue to sexualize, demonize and police what women, especially black women, decide to wear.
Chloe’s Instagram feed is first and foremost a place for her to express herself. Period. The clothes we wear are for ourselves. Period.
The number of men and women I saw expressing their disdain for Chloe’s choice of clothing was disheartening to say the least. For anyone who feels the need to police, or make disparaging remarks about a women’s choice of clothing, here’s an alternative: don’t. Simply mind your business.