This just in: black women have skinny, ashy ankles. Black women have skinny, ashy ankles and the world needs to know. They are disproportionately represented in sales for Nivea, the thick cream marketed purposely toward black women’s bodies. They supply the band-aid brand with most of its sales, as they are the frequent victims of blisters. And they are dying. Read it: DYING from skinny, ashy ankles.
This is why it is a national crisis. Black women with skinny, ashy ankles are frequently the victims of career-ending injuries. Since black women are fat, their skinny ankles don’t hold all of the extra weight and they tend to topple over, especially the majority of black women who live in urban areas with unpaved sidewalks.
Skinny, ashy ankles are a class issue. Have you ever tried to use dollar store lotion? It doesn’t even have a scent and it has the consistency of a vinegar douche.
Skinny, ashy ankles are also a black family issue. Since black women are one hundred times less likely to be married than every other raced, gendered body in the world (and probably the universe if we would just admit that what we are really interested in is the study of alien bodies and extend our studies to the populations on Mars), they typically trip in places with no burly men to help break their falls. This is an epidemic that hurts the black family, as young boys have to watch their skinny, ashy ankle mothers fall without the support of men. These boys develop a sense of nihilism and think to themselves, “fuck it, I’m going to fall too. Falling is in my bloodline.” Then these African American sons of skinny, ashy ankle black women decide to sag their pants to make their falls more likely. Hence, because of skinny, ashy ankle women, falls and sagging pants are now integrated into black culture as if this pathology should be glorified.
And you know what? Black women want to have skinny ankles. It’s because of slavery. This is the part of the essay where I apply my argument to the controlling tropes of black womanhood, as if black womanhood has not become a signifier in itself, a trope without tracks:
Mammy: Mammy’s ankles were ashy because she used all her lard in her cooking and therefore it contributed to her overwhelming obesity, which was passed down to the current generation of obese black women with skinny, ashy ankles.
Jezebel: Jezebel was led into sexual sin and exploitation by way of her seducer’s attention to her ankles. Her skinny ankles only fed her insecurities, which were exploited by male suitors. You will notice that the modern video vixen, aka Jezebel, has skinny ankles.
The Tragic Mulatta: It is well known that female products of miscegenation often had one full ankle (their European heritage) and one skinny, ashy ankle (the African heritage . They spent their whole lives trying to hide the black side. This way of walking, this peculiar fascination with positioning the white ankle toward passerby, was called “passing” by the journalists of the day and the term has continued to explain the mulatta experience in America.
Sapphire/ Matriarch: Like our ancestor Sojourner Truth, black women have never had men to help us over puddles—huge puddles that splashed mud on our already ashy ankles and made us lose our balance and titter over. All that falling makes a woman bitter, especially since we have learned to balance the world on our skinny, ashy ankles. No wonder we can’t keep the few good men who actually would like to help us. No wonder we run them off and raise their offspring by ourselves.
This is the part of the essay where I return to the present and talk about the joys and perils of skinny ankles. I am married. Read it: MARRIED. To a man. Who is straight. Who finds me desirable. Who makes me not a statistic and therefore the perfect person to write about black women’s pathology. And we have legitimate children who have skinny but well-oiled ankles. He loves my skinny, ashy ankles and he thinks the ashier the better. In fact, he loves when my ankles are so ashy that they get cut on the back of my pumps and I have to wear band-aids to cover the blisters. Those are the nights that he gingerly takes off my abusive shoes and wears them as earrings as we make passionate, heterosexual love, my blistered ankles in the air.
Still, I don’t want my daughter to suffer my fate as a skinny-ashy ankled woman. I tell her to get her stuff together and oil those ankles. I apply butter directly to her ankles in hopes that the lipids will soak into her skin and give it a plumpness that is finally, finally non-pathological. I want the best for my children. I don’t want them to be like me—a web of problems, a “fix me” sign, a pathology, a wanderer in a desert, looking for the lake called hope…