Flawless Black Women are so perfect because they have had to be — because they have to be incredible where others are merely competent. As we celebrate their successes, we have to balance the desire for them to represent Black women more largely and the need to not be held to their standard.
If Ayesha Curry ever cheated on Steph the world would explode. If Steph cheated on Ayesha, we’d be disappointed because he’s supposed to be the shining star, but not in the same way. He will have “succumb” to something — maybe the “nature of the league” or the “pressures of fame”. He will have “slipped up”. Ayesha, if she ever cheats, will be single-handedly responsible for shattering our ideal of true love.
Flawless Black Women are two, three, a billion times as good. They are unattainable portraits — feminine but progressive, fun but relatively chaste, wise but not condescending, pioneering but not offensive (for those who would argue that Beyoncé’s politics push her too far left for this — the NFL and Pepsi agreed she was chaste and universal enough for the Super Bowl, twice). None of them speak African-American Vernacular English regularly in public. They are mostly conventionally beautiful, with lighter skin and thin bodies. Oprah is less representative of conventional beauty standards, but much of her career has played into them — how many years have we tracked her weight fluctuation on magazine covers?