The full name of this blog is Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS. I generally ignore the part after “and” because intellectual property law is complicated, and I don’t want to get sued, but writing a memoir has been making me think constantly about how being a Black Girl(s) Raised In The South is part of my identity.
I first encountered the phrase “Black GRITS” on a T-shirt I saw in a vendor booth at a neighborhood festival when I was child, younger than 10 years old. It had a picture of five pretty black women of various hues standing or sitting on a porch. Denim daisy dukes covered ample thighs and behinds. Cleavage spilled out of low-cut, tight, red tank tops. Some of the women had rollers in their hair. Others toted shotguns. But what stood out was their sex appeal, all those womanly curves. Sold on a T-shirt. Meaning: This is quite literally the image you should buy into.
I think that to a large extent, I did put stock in having a shape like theirs. Lately, however, I associate other things with Black GRITS. As I see that tee in my mind today, I think of family (the women do appear to be related), femininity, food (I remember some cooking utensils on the porch, too) and the one “F” that’s not represented: Faith.
I’m not sure how it was left off the T-shirt. Maybe it wasn’t and one of the GRITS was holding a bible along with her spatula and gun. (If anyone knows of this graphic, please tell me where I can find it.) Faith, or more specifically Christian religion, seems such an entrenched part of southern life that even when it’s not mentioned, people infer its presence and influence (see the comments section).
Like the commentators at the above link, I consider some of Christianity’s negative impacts on women, and specifically southern black women, often. I think about the conflict it presents with the sexuality celebrated in the ultra-feminine image and about the fact that men are usually behind religious teachings, and the male gaze is behind popular images of femininity and the female body. They control messages we women receive about ourselves. I think about enslaved African women and their American-born and enslaved daughters receiving some of their first lessons about Christianity and sexuality from white men. And I wonder how Black GRITS find truth within the mix of messages.
This post isn’t meant to draw a conclusion, but rather to prepare you, reader, for further observation. As I attempt to narrow the focus of this blog, which every good blogger must eventually do to become a better blogger, I’ll be trying out a new feature: Faith and Feminism Fridays. (Failing miserably already because today is Sunday, but let’s see what happens.)