gallery > Melanin Femlin

When I was just a little girl, I discovered my father’s modest porn stash buried in the bottom our guest room closet, peeking out from under an afghan my grandmother had crocheted as I was playing hide-and-seek, with no one but myself. At this age I had only began to discover the “male gaze”, what it felt like to be observed as a woman (at this point I had been a child model and received much admiration from my peers and adults). It was of course a stack, of the slightly tasteful Playboy. Flipping through the pages, so slowly as if to not damage the delicate flesh of women I had never thought existed... I became enamored not with the whole of the playmates beauty and epic proportions... but with simple pen and ink drawing of petite woman yielding a mirror observing her perfect coif, a strong and prominent afro. Something came over me— I pushed aside any feelings of reverence I had (or the chance that I might be reprimanded in the future)... I tore the page from its staple bound clutches. I began to breeze through all of the other magazines. Searching for her, in the same guise, finding her, realizing that was not her form. That she had been in costume. Disappointed, I neatly folded her into my the front pocket of by overalls and adjourned to have a conversation with my cat about the whole experience.

I’ve had this clipping of the Leroy Neiman “femlin” from Playboy, my whole life. I often looked back at it and wondered what significance it had to me when I first laid eyes on her. Why was I despondent when I didn’t see her in the same hairstyle again? I have, as a multi-racial woman, always struggled with my own identity. Most of my cultural identity was confronted in this snippet, the pride that she possessed over her hair, was much like what I observed my aunts and cousins as they braided, greased, picked, flat ironed and relaxed their hair. I didn’t get to have that female bonding experience until I was much older and trusted by family to tackle their pride— their hair. I longed to have my mother’s textured hair. I was often caught in a sullen mood by my mother as I cried: “Why am I not Black like you Mommy?”.

I realized that having representations of all women of color, even in the atmosphere of pornography, is important. If we are giving this to the world for pleasure, why not include every-body? I decided that best way to approach this was to reappropriate the “femlin” to the “melanin femlin”. Making her all inclusive and in color, every color, every shape, every size. Yielding objects of significance or supposed shame, to use their image as a teaching tool. To use the color as the emotive quality that the original black and white “femlin” (with an obviously ivory figure) could not possess. What if people of color were included in the conversation about pornography from the beginning? Why was it considered “fetish” or simply just classified as “ebony porn”? How could that change the way we view what is desirable?