What is TikTok’s “Black Femininity” movement really doing for Black Women?

“Activate your Goddess energy (Get everything you want)”. “How to make him want you.” “Masculine behaviours to STOP NOW!”

As with many things, it all started with a deep dive on TikTok. I found myself scrolling through #divinefeminine,#hypergamy, #feminineenergy, #goddess and finding an overrepresentation of Black women making content underneath these hashtags. TikTok now seems to be the home of many Black feminist conversations, with the divine feminine movement taking centre stage. I’d heard these phrases come up in podcasts, and in day-to-day conversations with Black women and femmes – what femininity means to us, whether Black women and femmes have access to femininity, what femininity physically looks like. But discourse tends to look different on TikTok. 

Generations of ancestral practice become 1-minute videos. Integrity is replaced with aesthetics. Videos entitled “How I attracted every man I’ve ever wanted” or “How to make him want you.” Movements that started as a self-care and self-preservation become rooted in desirability and exclusion – and that’s why I find most of the liberatory Black femininity movements on TikTok, not very liberatory at all. 

Navajo Two-spirits and Ancient Chinese Yin and Yang are just two examples of Spiritual practices globally that refer to ideas of feminine and masculine energy. The masculine is logical, confident, powerful, outspoken, whilst the feminine is introspective, creative and nurturing. If you are working towards feminine energy, then you have to use ‘masculine’ traits like goal setting, progress and goal setting to tap into it. Because if they were exact opposites, feminine energy would be lazy, sluggish, purely playful and restful. If those tapping into their feminine energy accept the existence of the opposite, why do they ignore the fact that one does not operate without the other? 

It’s almost logical – Black women have been consistently emasculated and invalidated, therefore the most obvious presentation to fight these narratives and reclaim our sexuality is a more than feminine, divine woman. And I understand the healing that one might hope would come from this. But why try to attain something which was never for Black women, rather than just rejecting the notion of femininity altogether? Femininity, in and of itself, is not a real, tangible thing. Things are gendered as feminine – clothes, hair, makeup, music etc. Presenting these things does not make you any more or less feminine. Isn’t the point of the divine feminine that it is an internal, spiritual process? 

“The divine feminine urge to listen to Erykah Badu, adorn yourself with gold jewellery, burn incense, wear brown lip liner, go fully plant-based, wear headwraps, walk around barefoot…” These things can exist alone, without becoming part of a wider ‘movement’. And one thing that so many of these black femininity videos do is bash the ‘opposite’. BBL and surgery culture, streetwear, brightly coloured hair, sexual promiscuity. To label things, styles, or mannerisms that are the so-called “antithesis” of being a classy, spiritual woman, makes a cryptic, but very loud, statement. 

This is one of the dangers of diluting ancestral spiritual practice into bite-size pieces of content. Yes, TikTok is exposing us to so much more than we have learnt in other academic or social spaces, but there is a lack of consistency when everyone is creating content. And this is specifically dangerous when people warp dangerous content which promotes the use of desirability and submission to attract partners, under the guise of healing and spirituality. 

We can’t ignore the sheer power of the digital space. Black women do need self-care and healing spaces. Healing, as a non-linear process, does not come from even more unrealistic standards that Black women must force themselves into.

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Yet, when you pedestalise people in that way, you don’t recognise their humanity and their access to a full range of emotions. Automatically assigning strength and power to Black women means that in the absence of this strength, poise, or “Godliness”, both humanity and femininity are negated. It is impossible to build strong foundations on concepts as fickle as femininity, and by extension, humanity. 

After consuming the content made by these “divine feminine” coaches and content creators, I still wonder why and how it became such an exclusionary space, promoting unattainable ideals for Black women and femmes. Black femme energy cannot be explained by the binary of masculine or feminine energy, it is far more expansive than that. Years of oppression, hypersexualisation and masculinisation cannot be wiped away with guides on how to “act classy” or “vibrate higher”. Appealing to structures of femininity, that are not native to us, cannot liberate. Black women can imagine beyond that.

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