Soft Black Girls and the Reclamation of Black Femininity

Softness in Black girls is both strength and rebellion

Casira Copes
ZORA
Published in
5 min readMar 10, 2021

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Photo: Vladimir Yelizarov/Unsplash

I was not Black enough as a kid.

At least, that’s what I was often told by my classmates and, more subtly, by my family.

As soon as I entered middle school, I became obsessed with shoujo manga and anime — the type of Japanese visual media made for teen girls. Magical girls, romance stories, and cute colorful characters were my kryptonite. Every week I was in Borders (I know) spending my allowance on every volume of Tokyo Mew Mew (which was for me what Sailor Moon was for everyone else).

Yet when talking to friends at school, I hid the extent of my hobby, covering up my more girlish interests with a passing familiarity of more male-oriented titles, like Naruto. When making friends with other anime fans online, I was careful to hide my race behind cute pale-skinned avatars. Even at such a young age, I had internalized enough of society’s messaging to know what to expect if I were honest about my interests.

The cute Japanese things were not meant for a Black girl like me.

Softness is an act of rebellion. It’s a form of reclaiming the delicate femininity that has long been thought of as exclusive to White and Asian women.

Back in 2015, Vice interviewed Black attendees at an anime convention about their experiences in engaging with otaku (fan) culture. One Sailor Moon cosplayer revealed some of the nastiness she received for dressing up as her favorite character:

That was the first time I ever cosplayed. I got some pictures taken that were posted on the internet. I was excited… And then I read the comments. A lot of them weren’t good, at all. I got “The cosplay is good, but she shouldn’t be Black,” and “Oh, her skin is too dark,” and “Oh, her hair shouldn’t be blonde.” It was a lot of nasty stuff people should have kept to themselves.

Anime is not the only realm that tries to exclude Black women from all things cute and sweet. We’re often told to avoid wearing bright and colorful things that will “clash” with our skin tones. Even young Black…

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Casira Copes
ZORA
Writer for

Bisexual Black Feminist | BLK INK Editor-in-Chief | casiracopes.com