Erykah Badu, a musical genius who is one of my favorite artists, ignited a Twitter storm Monday night with her controversial statements on rape culture and sexuality, tweeting that she agreed with an article in which a school required girls to wear longer skirts so as not to serve as "distractions" for heterosexual male teachers.
Why does she agree? Because it's "fair to everyone."
Badu went on to say that men can "absolutely" control themselves and have no excuse for not doing so, but because we live in a "sex-driven society," it can be "difficult" for them to exercise restraint.
When someone pointed out to her that men are not punished for their sexuality in the ways that women are, Badu replied, "Punishment is a perspective."
Unlike many people on social media who were disheartened by her statements, I was not at all surprised by her position. In fact, I would have expected nothing more.
In her role as host of the 2015 Soul Train Awards, Erykah Badu introduced R. Kelly as her "brother," insisting that he had "done more for the blacks than anyone"—even with all the court records, investigative reports, anecdotal evidence and video making it clear that he's a predator with a history of preying on underage black girls. (No, he has not been found guilty of the alleged crimes for which he's most commonly associated, but neither has George Zimmerman or O.J. Simpson.)
In our rape-culture-driven society, #FastTailGirls are often held equally, if not more, responsible for the sexual violence of men. With this in mind, we should not be surprised that Badu said it is "natural" for heterosexual male teachers to be attracted to young girls in short skirts, thus potentially raping them. It is a man's world, after all.
I agree with Badu on one thing: Human beings are animals, and sexual attraction is natural; however, that does not mean it is acceptable. What separates us from four-legged animals is that rational, sane human beings understand that children are ill-equipped for a sexual relationship with an adult (and the emotional and psychological ramifications of such) and cannot grant consent. This is not merely a question of morality; nor is it a debate on nature vs. nurture, the fluidity of childhood and how experiences can shape its boundaries.
Let's be clear here: It is unethical and illegal for adults in positions of authority to act on sexual urges they may have for children entrusted to their care. That is rape. Period. Therefore, the focus should be on identifying, then firing, teachers with a proclivity for young girls, not pulling out the measuring stick for their skirts in the interest of so-called fairness.
Children learn more in school than reading, writing and 'rithmetic. They learn how to navigate the world in which they live. Without having the language, they are exposed to systems of patriarchy, sexism and racism, the building blocks of which begin to take shape internally and externally in their own homes.
So, let's discuss what's not fair.
Yes, we live in a world where women and girls must be aware of how some men, particularly men in positions of authority, will strip them of agency and rape or sexually assault them on a whim. But it is neither "fair" nor accurate to tell our young girls to "dress how they want to be addressed" in order to stop it.
It is not fair that rape kits around the country are being tossed into the trash, untested.
It is not fair that, according to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, black girls grow up to be black women with a "tendency to withstand abuse, subordinate feelings and concerns with safety, and make a conscious self-sacrifice for what she perceives as the greater good of the community, but to her own physical, psychological and spiritual detriment."
It is not fair that, despite knowing that Muslim women are sexually harassed and raped all over the world—even when wearing concealing hijabs or burqas—black women and girls in the United States are being told that "respecting their temples," as if skirts shorter than knee length were disrespectful, is a rape deterrent.
From any "perspective," these things are punishment. And to seemingly equate the systemic and systematic policing of young girls' bodies with forcing heterosexual men to ignore primitive, sexual urges is a false equivalency of epic proportions.
We know better.
When Badu takes the stage, she often greets the audience with, "Sisters, how y'all feel? Brothers, y'all all right?"
Whether intentional or not, what Badu's tweets suggest is that how sisters feel is a lesser priority and should be sacrificed to ensure that the brothers are indeed all right—and that's all wrong. Whenever young girls are taught that they should bend to the nature of grown men and cover themselves in order to survive—or risk being complicit in their own oppression and the violence enacted upon their bodies and souls—that is neither protection nor empowerment. It is imprisonment.
And, in all fairness, imprisonment is a punishment best served by Badu's "brother" and sexual predators like him, not young girls being indoctrinated to believe that their bodies are dangerous distractions, foreshadowing their own abuse at the hands of men who couldn't control themselves.