Type in the term “carefree black girl” into the search bar on Twitter and Tumblr. The results showcase an array of stunning black women and girls oozing chill vibes while being unapologetically black. The term was coined by Huffington Post writer Zeba Blay and an eponymous Tumblr page in May 2013, which sent positive shockwaves through social media. The movement of the “carefree black girl” offered black women an opportunity to unite together through another spectrum. Followers boast figures, including Solange Knowles, Janelle Monae, and the earthy and hippie women of Tumblr and Instagram, as inspirations of the movement. However, like any other movement in the social media age, the “carefree black girl” movement endures its criticisms for its underlyingly exclusivity and its close-mindedness to real world problems for black women.
Some critics balk at the “carefree black girl” movement because of the perception that it caters solely to one group of black women. Popular YouTuber Philogynoir—whose videos seek to uplift, empower, and mobilize black women—criticized the movement for continuing “to exclude black girls who don’t represent a specific tax bracket, who aren’t of a certain skin tone, body size, hair texture/length, and/or physical ability.” This criticism acts as a reflection of the persistent issues of colorism within the black community.
For example, on Twitter, one can find a short clip, which appears on timelines every so often, of a light-skinned black woman dancing in front of a pink background, most definitely feeling herself. Twitter users praise this aesthetic as the embodiment of the carefree black girl. However, for Keke Palmer, an actress with a darker complexion, the narrative changes drastically. When she dances in the streets in the midst of feeling herself, Twitter users are quick to throw derogatory labels, such as “crackhead.” When she posts Instagram photos of herself sans makeup as her natural, carefree self that features an imperfect skin complexion, the criticisms never fail to roll through. Palmer has been outspoken about this constant criticism, letting her fans know that the only things that she is concerned with are herself and her business. Yet, it is interesting to note the different reactions that both women face for the same act, simply because they bare different skin tones. The contrasting reactions allude to the notion that being carefree only works for one group, which contradicts the movement’s initial objective of social liberation for all black women.
Other critics have focused more on the perceived illusion of the movement. The Root columnist Shamira Ibrahim vocalized her abandonment of the movement and her issues with its ignorance of issues for black women, such as advancing in one’s career and the perils of sexual harassment on the streets. They contend that the social media version of the “carefree black girl” movement prompts individuals to ignore the real world. While this may be true in part, the movement also gives an outlet for black women to be themselves, in their truest forms, without the harboring of societal opinions and social constructs. The ambiguity of the hashtag and subsequent movement offers an environment in which any black, female-identifying user of social media can boast her unapologetic blackness. There is no set manual for what type of content must accompany the hashtag. It is about exuding what each participant feels is carefree in their being.
The “carefree black girl” movement has offered black individuals the opportunity to express their truest and most confident selves. Since its conception, social media has witnessed a plethora of movements displaying the freedom of black men, black kids, and black bodies in general. In a world where the black body is criticized and hyper-visualized, it is important to observe the genuine joy in the union of being both black and carefree.