Of #FastTailedGirls and Social Media

I usually don’t participate in Twitter hashtag conversations, but with nothing to do on Saturday except type up some of my own writing, I was compelled to look in on a discussion about #FastTailedGirls started by @hoodfeminism (Twitter’s @Karnythia and @thewayoftheid). What I expected to be a two-hour conversation among a few ended up being an all-day discussion among thousands, many of us telling our stories out loud for the first time.

Much to my surprise, I relayed my own story, but I must admit that I only told part of the story as I am not ready yet to face so much more that happened to me. However, I saw so much of my own experience reflected in the stories of other black women and girls. People I’ve befriended online and others I’ve just gotten to know had so many similar experiences with the myth of fast-tailed girls in our young lives. Honestly, it was heartbreaking and cathartic all at once because I know, like me, many of these women and girls had a much easier time telling our stories to “strangers” on an online forum than to our best friends or others we may be afraid will judge us because of what happened to us.

For me, it was revelatory. I had to think about how the myth of fast-tailed girls affected me in the way I saw myself as a sexual being. In many ways, it meant facing the sexual trauma inflicted upon me long before any consensual sexual activity at age 22 that I usually attribute to sexual confusion and pain. It meant feeling guilty when boys felt on me for fear that no one would believe that I did not ask for it. It meant trying to look at unwarranted touching as a compliment because at least someone wanted to get with me when I always thought no one would.

We live in a society that forces black girls to grow into womanhood sooner than so many others. By age 8, I had glasses. By age 9, I had my first period. By age 10, I was growing out of a training bra. By age 11, my first niece was born, which meant I was no longer the youngest child in my low-income family and my needs would have to fall after hers. Throughout these formative years, I kissed away anything resembling childhood and had to navigate this new worldview mostly on my own (as a “smart kid” I was assumed to already know everything even when I had not been taught).

What I know now is that those experiences still have their effect. Touching is one of the most confusing things to deal with on a daily basis. Trying to distinguish between an innocent touch and a potentially malicious one leaves me cringing.

What #FastTailedGirls did was help me realize that I am definitely not alone with these types of struggles. Unfortunately, it also helped me see just how widely this myth of deviant black girl sexuality runs within our culture. If I could see myself through so many others, then there is something wrong with the society in which I live, not with me.

This is why I am grateful that Mikki Kendall and Jamie Nesbitt Golden have created HoodFeminism and for what they do on other social media like Twitter. The #FastTailedGirls hashtag discussion has already helped me in ways I wish would have happened 20 years ago. So many black girls and women need that Good Will Hunting moment with someone saying, “It’s not your fault.” Maybe someday I’ll tell the rest of my story. I know now someone is listening.