After I read this blog post from a woman who regrets the $700 butt shots she received, I couldn’t help but think through my own journey to body acceptance. The blog post reminded me that in recent years, black folks have been our own worst enemy in perpetuating body image issues among black women and girls. In our efforts to defy white supremacy, we adopted an equally unattainable aesthetic ideal. Large breasts, tiny waists, and humongous behinds are the desired anatomy of a substantial segment of Black and brown people. Normal women with 9 to 5s aspire to the video girl dimensions we’ve deemed most attractive. Now those women are dying, and it’s time to rethink our preferences.
Many women of African descent are born with naturally round behinds and supple thighs; however, many are not. Placing this one type of body on a pedestal has cost us dearly. There’s a new generation of women caught between mainstream beauty standards and those of the culture they wish to be validated within. These women have nowhere to turn. They can’t be beautiful because they are not white, and they can’t be sexy because they are not thick.
“Thick” being the current body descriptor used to terrorize Black women. It singles us out and shames us. We all know shame is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It drives even the most level-headed among us to pursue illogical courses of action. But some of us, by constitution or circumstance, are more vulnerable, and we succumb to the whims of an unforgiving culture.
In order to embody “thick” some Black women began injecting themselves with all manner of toxic sludge. They made themselves attractions. I see these women as attempting to reclaim control of their bodies and the way they will be viewed. Inverting the plight of the Hottentot Venus, they, themselves, put their outlandishly large body parts on display. Trading the white gaze for black leers, these women don’t realize that once you have been reduced to the sum of your body parts, you’ve lost your power.
I, too, lost ownership of my body for a time. I’m still trying to regain it. My lower body has attracted unwanted attention from both sexes and all races since I hit puberty. At around 9, I began to “fill out,” and the comments began. My adolescence is marked by the horrors of shopping for jeans. Each excursion ended in similar bouts of self-loathing. The well-meaning encouragement and compliments only deepen the despair.
Then, of course, there are the not-so-well meaning comments. While exiting a hot tub at 14 or 15 a white teenage boy caught a glimpse of my behind. He unashamedly asked me if all Black girls have “ghettos.” I assume he meant ghetto booties. I laughed nervously, but I wanted to cry. Those moments happened to me often in all-white spaces. The stares and jokes were particularly devastating as I was often the only black girl. They were constant reminders that my body was an oddity. I’d never be like “them.”
The rise booty magazines and butt shots brought a shift in the kind of attention my body attracted. I grew up as well. As I began to pursue adult romantic and sexual relationships, the thing that was once a liability became an asset. It drew men’s attention. I took pride in having fatty, a donk, a booty, an ass. They wanted it, and I wanted…affection. But it seems certain type of men can sense when a woman thinks all she’s worth is poking out of her skintight dress. Those of the type of men who don’t call you the next morning. They don’t take you out for your birthday. They don’t show up to family functions.
Disappointment is a great teacher. It taught me that I’d have to find a new way to cope with trauma of growing up with a tattered body image. Even as a feminist, well-educated woman I fall victim to the lures of male validation. Everyone wants to be wanted. Through personal growth, I understand that being fetishized, even for a personal attribute I used to hate, is not a compliment. But that took work, and it takes time. I can’t fault other women who haven’t started the journey.
Cracking jokes at the expense of women with slim bodies once felt like retribution for years of torment, but I can’t laugh anymore. All women are victims. Black women are losing. All of us. We can only hope to win by resisting boldly those who taught us to hate ourselves.
I took a long time to assemble my thoughts on Shawty Lo’s new show and the outrage it’s inspired primarily because I was deeply conflicted. Shawty Lo’s recklessness is indefensible. I have no desire to defend the show or its right to be on the air. I don’t believe that the arrangement the rapper has with his 10 children’s mothers and 11 children is a justifiable alternative family structure. The discussion around the show, however, has been largely unproductive and intellectually lazy. Too many men and women missed the greater, ongoing tragedies in black communities that this show represents.
Prescriptions of marriage for all Black women who wish to have children are bullheadedly misguided. Marriage, across many segments of American society, is dying, and black folks aren’t going to revive it. Yet compassionate conservatives continue pushing it without acknowledging that this institution simply does not align with the lived experiences of most Americans. Now that white folks are doing it in larger numbers, cohabitation and unwedded co-parenting will be normalized, but it’s a shame that majority culture has to adopt a habit so it will not be seen as pathological among blacks. Out of Wedlock shamers feel emboldened because their ideologies are validated by majority culture. That will soon not be the case.
If teaching young Black couples the value of marriage were the answer to problem of abandoned children, these discussions wouldn’t be necessary. Blacks are extremely conservative when it comes to theoretical moral stances, but morals, standards, and ethics are not fixed. They are situational and contextual. They require continual evaluation. I’ve known many men and women who’ve expressed a belief in the value of marriage who went on to have children out of wedlock. Things happen. Life happens. Stern lectures and catchy slogans don’t displace real trials and tumult life brings.
Marriage fell out of favor in Black communities decades ago because of shifting economies and values, and the shift we’re seeing away from marriage largely reflects that in the whole of America. When black folks do it, it’s primitive behavior. When white folks do it, it’s cultural evolution.
We have yet to discuss real solutions. Pro-marriage advocates refuse to acknowledge that a likelihood to marry is tied closely to education. College-educated women marry later and stay married longer. We also know that better health outcomes and financial stability also accompany formal education. Why then would “personal responsibility” campaigns focus exclusively on fertility. If you want young Black women to lead more stable lives, encourage them to stay in school. Of course, acknowledging that fact requires reading beyond the headlines, and takes away the fun of slut-shaming. But that’s a real solution – not a hash tag. A diploma.
Then again, higher education has become increasingly unattainable for those without family and financial support, and those are the women most at risk. The education solution does not account for the women who will not ever earn a diploma. That means we must turn to the women themselves and the families they produce.
In order to progress past the hand wringing, black communities have to embrace and encourage supportive, non-traditional families. This is, however, difficult to do with a family that is the result of the kinds of coercive sexual relationships that produced Shawty Lo’s situation. The majority of the mothers met the rapper when while they were underage or barely legal. This man is a predator, and he created a family born not of consent and support but of the perceived limits of black women’s romantic options. Without a commitment or assurance of stability, the women had his children. It seems they settled for what was available to them rather than what they deserved. It’s a mindset not uncommon in women – onne that stems from internalizing constant degrading messages.
Our worlds are limited by constant attacks. I question the motives of the black women bloggers who’ve taken this as an opportunity to further degrade women who clearly cannot see how valuable, beautiful and capable they are. You cannot claim to care for black women, especially those at risk of exploitation, and hurl the same insults at them as everyone else. Quite frankly, if you don’t hesitate to refer to black women as livestock, you’re not really for us. If further stripping Black women of their humanity is a central component of your movement, I have no choice but to hope for its speedy demise.
We grossly underestimate the intelligence of the women who find themselves in less than ideal romantic and child-rearing entanglements. In reality, women must get creative in order to navigate the landmines of patriarchy. “Respectable” black women talk down to those they presume don’t know any better and do nothing but preach to the wannabe upper class choir.
Alternative families can be beautiful; however, ideally those family structures would be created with consent and support. Support is more than financial. We must demand men assume emotional responsibility for their children as well as financial culpability. This requires a fundamental reimagining of the foundational roles of fathers. The problem cannot rest solely at the feet of women who birth the children.
Shawty Lo and the mothers of his 11 children didn’t reveal to me anything I hadn’t seen or imagined. But they did force me to think through the ways we can improve the lives of the adults and kids caught up in less than ideal circumstances. Attempting to silence or erase them won’t fix anything for the countless other women who face similar challenges. Empower women to pursue higher education. Empower them to seek partners that will uplift them. Empower them to use birth control and condoms. We must remember that strong families cannot exist without strong women, and the work of building them never ends.
On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu wrote, “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”
Lee replied the same day, “Hello Emmitt—I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
"Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
"Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that he is not a racist, but “… this world has … certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?…” Source
Not only did the station not offer Lee support like that given this Wisconsin television reporter after she was taunted about her weight, Lee says the station’s general manager and news director fired her for violating social media policy that was never placed in writing.
The firing was clearly illegitimate, but Rhonda Lee committed a revolutionary act, albeit a small one. She had two options in this situation: ignore the criticism, or address it. She chose the latter. But even that was too much for the station which expected her to turn the other cheek. You see, it is actually company policy that a measured, articulate defense of your cultural ancestry is inappropriate if it is presented in the wrong platform — the wrong platform being any platform ever.
(Watch: Melissa Harris-Perry and Rhonda Lee Discuss Black Hair in the Workplace)
The predicament exemplifies life as a black woman. No decision is legitimate because we’re not allowed to feel. We’re “strong,” so we should be able to handle it all, and when we bend in either direction, we are weak or angry—never human. Black women have no real options in handling the biased words and actions we face daily. Society places the onus on us to prove racist (or sexist) intent, so we gracefully take the lashings.
But when we continually dismiss ignorant comments where does that leave us? While we contend with the self-doubt and frustration racial innuendos leave behind, the perpetrators of microaggressions remain empowered in their privilege. Picking our battles means we allow whites the continued privilege of trampling on our rights not to be victimized. The man who addressed Lee not only had these thoughts but felt entitled to say them, while demonstrating no command of the English language, publicly. Ms. Lee is a warrior for black women who endure pointed, frustrating questions about our hair, culture,and bodies endlessly, and she took up the fight while maintaining remarkable composure.
When attacked, we often keep quiet out of fear — an understandable fear that striking back in any way will cost us our livelihoods. Of course, no one will blame you ignoring racism in order to keep your job. That’s not cowardice; that is self-preservation. But why shrink away from battles that will cost you nothing? Instead of questioning the audacity of those who perpetuate racism without hesitation, Audre Lorde said it well, “We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” Your silence will not protect your sanity, your pride, your heart nor your spirit. Keeping quiet about overt ignorance only reinforces its presence in our culture.
I’ve come to realize that, as a black woman, everything about my existence will be questioned. I will have to continually assert my worthiness and my womanhood, and that is an daunting task. Of course it would be easier to dismiss the foolishness. My blood pressure and my faith in humanity would benefit greatly, but I also know that if some of us won’t draw a line in the sand, we can expect the same treatment indefinitely. I’m simply unwilling to concede my dignity.
Who will defend a black woman? Others may join in the fight, but we will have to do it ourselves.
I did not discover the transformative power of sisterhood until I entered college. There I found a group of Black women in whom I could confide and depend. Knowing them centered me in my own womanhood. I saw myself in their gorgeous reflections and their radiant power. They were smart, funny, and fly. I was because they were. My sisters. My soulmates.
These women opened up my heart with love like I’d never known. Slowly, steadily I felt my core shift. We could laugh and cry together as we compared emotional scars left from the common trials of black girlhood. After spending my adolescence grasping at validation, I began to feel warm and worthy.
Everyone should be so enveloped in liberating love.
These spirit connections didn’t erase memories of the coldness I’d received from the Black girls who couldn’t relate to my unabashed bourgeois aspirations when I was a kid, but I wasn’t arrested by my past interactions. I now knew how amazing black women were in their essence, and that is what I held on to.
Unity is the answer. We are, however, fighting an uphill battle. When I hear women, mature and young, say “women can’t be trusted” or “I don’t have girlfriends,” I offer my testimony of restorative sisterhood. The detractors always counter with stories of betrayal and deception. I learned that these sentiments are forged beyond ubiquitous anti-woman messaging. Women who hate women are speaking out of hurt and frustration.
Recently I have been reminded of the complex and often fraught nature of Black women’s relationships. Thousands of miles away from the women I consider the loves of my life, I befriended a new group. Without trepidation, I threw myself into forging bonds with transparency and love, and they welcomed me. Because I had experienced such genuine camaraderie and caring, I assumed that is what I would always receive as long as I projected the same. My naivete shone clearly.
A male friend, whom I trust, informed me of the night they talked about me viciously as soon as I left the room. These adult women tore me down. One even commented that I wasn’t pretty enough to be in the circle. I hadn’t cried that hard in years.
Had I not already found the beauty of sister-friends, I might have dismissed black women entirely. I could not, however, because sistas have been my most ardent supporters. They have protected, inspired and guided me, but they have also wounded me. No one can hurt you quite like a woman whose reflection so closely resembles your own. It seems as though Black women know precisely how to attack each other fatally. A white girl never made me cry.
That heartbreak helped me understand why some of us are so quick to pounce on one another. We jump to avoid getting jumped and harden our hearts as hostility becomes the status quo.
In Black Looks “Revolutionary Black Women,” bell hooks interrogates why Black women seem to address each other with physical and emotional violence so often. hooks writes, “Among black women, such deeply internalized pain and self-rejection informs the aggression inflicted on the mirror image.”
As hooks notes, emotional violence is often an expression of self-loathing. A self-loathing grown from the mistaken belief that we are worthless and disposable. It’s not unusual to see Black women fighting where there are no prizes. Nowhere do we see better examples of women clawing to the bottom than on reality television, where women value themselves so little that they will happily tear each other down for whatever remnants of fame, love, or dignity they can scrounge.
On screen conflict may be magnified, but we encounter Black Girl Hate everyday. It is the nastiness women direct at each other without remorse. It’s impossible to dodge every dart, but we must remind ourselves that we are worthy simply because we exist. We are precious because we’re still here.
Releasing lingering resentment feels like surrender, but I will continue to love boldly and wish peace upon the wounded women and those who do the wounding. I have to. Openness and forgiveness mends broken hearts, and we all need a healing.
As a kid, I often felt voiceless. I didn’t grow up in one of those TV drama homes where we discussed our feelings. I’ve always been opinionated, but I, like many Black women, was taught to turn emotional affairs inward. Subsequently, I became a great actress and fooled most everyone I encountered for the majority of my life. And then my house of cards came tumbling down during my third year of college.
It was during that time that I founded For Harriet and discovered storytelling saves lives. I don’t believe in coincidences. That this forum launched at the time my life fell apart isn’t lucky. Put simply: a blog, this blog, saved me.
At last, I found my voice, and I met my passion. Reading the stories of black women helped me better understand my own, and I was inspired to write and explore the ugliness that lay just beneath the surface.
Honesty should come easily, but diversion becomes the norm when you spend all your energy protecting your spirit from real and perceived threats. Blogging has allowed me to be honest for the first time about the things that caused me shame. I wish for everyone to know that freedom, so I began Black Girls Blogging.
I began writing about my mental health struggles after seeing women discuss theirs openly online. The emails, comments and tweets I’ve gotten let me know that sharing was the right decision. Now I know my story matters.
Everyone has a story worth telling. Whether or not we all have the skill or wherewithal to be professional writers, we can each carve our own digital space to define ourselves. That is priceless.
The 70s were a golden age of black self-representation. Black women warrior writers like Michele Wallace, Alice Walker, Angela Davis wrote themselves into being with portraits of their complex womanhood. We’re now in a renaissance of self-exploration. The Internet has democratized representation in a way that liberates those relegated to the margins. Women of color, in particular, have nothing to lose but our chains.Transparency begets transparency, and one day we’ll all be free.
When Wendy Williams made a comment about Viola Davis’ natural hair not being “glamorous” or “formal” enough for the Academy Awards on her daytime talk show, I was horrified but not surprised. You’d hear countless Black women echo the same sentiments just about anywhere you go. These women are generally projecting the hurt they’ve internalized since childhood.
I hear those self-loathing words, and my initial instinct is not to attack. First, I simply want to ask, “Who taught you to hate yourself?" But, of course, I already know the answer.
There exist no completely safe spaces for Women of Color to escape the utter oppressiveness of patriarchy and white supremacy. Because we each carry it around with us every second of every day, the indoctrination seeps out of our consciousness unwittingly.
The education of men and non Women of Color about the difficulties of Black womanhood is not my responsibility, but for black women who get it utterly wrong, I have nearly interminable patience. Sisters need hugs and information, not verbal beatdowns and “draggings.”
Wendy’s words are problematic; however, I’m becoming more concerned by the attacks she’s received. It seems smart, thoughtful women are reveling in the low blows. Particularly sickening are the endless riffs on Williams’ hair, face and figure.
If I’m understanding this correctly. We are fighting the degradation and humiliation of a Black woman by degrading and attempting to humiliate another Black woman. It doesn’t add up.
A few months back, I tweeted that I would no longer comment on the physical appearances of women. With few exceptions, I’ve stayed true to that promise. I made the decision upon reflection on the ways I’ve internalized gauging a woman’s worth by her physical appearance, and because I wish for a world where “beautiful” is not the highest compliment a woman can be paid.
I take fictive kinship to the limits. I feel connected to most black women in all our contradictions and ignorance. Viola is my sister, but so is Wendy. You can look at Wendy’s self presentation and pathologize her, or you can see a woman dealing with familiar issues operating within the same sexist, white supremacist world we all live in.
If you managed to escape the matrix with your self-concept and esteem in tact, I applaud you. You’re doing a lot better than the rest of us. But heightened awareness gives no woman the right to shame another.
Many of us are still nursing open wounds. Have a little compassion for your sister.
Let’s get this out of the way. I adore Viola Davis. I adore her gravitas, intellect and fearlessness, but above all, I adore her prodigious talent. For her merits, Davis deserves to be named alongside screen legends like Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. But alas the black, female body she inhabits prevents her from reaching the professional heights she so deserves. Ms. Davis as a radiant, 46 year-old woman, only came close to fully realizing her potential on film 3 years ago in her limited but remarkable role in Doubt. In a part so small it could nearly be called a cameo, Viola Davis wrought a compelling performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination.
Last year, Davis’ lauded work in the film adaptation of The Help propelled her back into the spotlight. The magnificence of her portrayal of Aibileen is unquestionable though the film itself has been poked, prodded, and picked apart particularly by concerned black audiences and academics.
Pushback against the film forced Viola to take the defense. In an interview, she told Tavis Smiley all the way off saying his disdain for the film was a mindset that’s “killing the black artist.” Davis was nothing if not beautifully eloquent in her assertion that “the black artist cannot live in a revisionist place.” You couldn’t help but nod along as this brilliant Black woman argued her case.
Davis, of course, fails to take into account that Aibileen occupies the most loathsome of revisionist locales. Historians have noted that the tale of Minnie and Aibleen are not even close to accurate depictions of life in the Jim Crow south.
The most intelligent criticism of the film is based not on the fact that the women play maids but that they play mammies. Maids, you see, are real women whose stories deserve to be told with dignity and without shame. Mammies are fictive martyrs whose love for their white employers eclipses the economic and often sexual exploitation domestic workers endure(d). The Black women of The Help are the latter. (Melissa Harris-Perry explores this in our book club pick, Sister Citizen) The critique is a rejection of the ways white filmmakers have manipulated our stories to assuage their guilt or to suit their interests.
The story of The Help is appalling; the acting is sublime. Both Black and white filmgoers loved it which makes criticizing the movie in any manner like navigating a minefield.
I wanted so much to side with Davis during her showdown with Smiley, but she sidestepped the primary point. There’s no doubt that film critics overwhelmingly celebrate the debasement and pathology of African Americans. While the more than 94% white and 77% male Oscar voters award the varied, complex performances of white actresses, it seems Black women are only visible when we are playing out our most damaging cultural mythologies. Smiley makes it clear that his frustration lies with the racist Hollywood system that dictates what makes it to theaters. Conflating that criticism with a dismissal of the actresses is misguided.
This is all none of Viola Davis’ or Octavia Spencer’s concern really. We place an unfair burden on black actors by asking them to constantly justify their professional choices. They are actors not activists. This is their craft, but it is also their job.
So when those of us who understand and appreciate the importance of media representation express our frustration at the film, its fabricated history, and the racist film industry it signifies, it is really, truly not personal. We want black actors to flourish and to explore the depths of humanity in new, untold stories. That is our tribute to great Black artists who spent their entire careers encaged, and that is the battle we all must continue to fight.
Black women do not save. That is, of course, unsurprising considering the American culture of consumption has transformed into a culture of debt . But it just so happens that structural racism has made partaking in this culture all the more costly for Black communities.
A few weeks ago, the Post Gazette featured a study that explored into the racial wealth gap in the United States. This time, researchers analyzed the fiscal divisions through a gendered lens. The findings told what we already knew: Whites (this time women) control the overwhelming majority of wealth in the United States.
The writeup, titled “Study Finds Median Wealth for Single Black Women at $5” (an obvious attempt to capitalize off of the mainstream media’s obsession with the pathology of Black women.), wasn’t perfect . But the fact remains: the economic structure of this country combined with the financial illiteracy of Black women promise us certain financial doom.
Countless blogger and armchair economist questioned the study as well as the motives behind it, but these findings should inspire some serious self-reflection. As a 21 year-old, my negative net worth is typical for a woman of any racial background . These studies, however, do force me contemplate the ways in which my current risky fiscal behaviors may be setting me up for a shaky financial future despite my middle-class upbringing and world-class education.
And that box of economic dysfunction is not too difficult to unpack. Why spend spend the money in the first place? What prompts women like you and me to live life on the edge of financial ruin?
Not to ignore the very real structural impediments to the development of wealth in black communities, but according to KK Charles (2007) blacks could shrink the wealth gap by as much as 50% if we eliminated what he calls “visible consumption.”
This is an issue that cuts to the very heart of Black womanhood. Black women literally wear their insecurities. An oppressive economic structure cannot be blamed completely. Continued attacks on black women produce consumer culture that has an especially devastating affect on the emotional and financial well-being of all Black women.
As the media has been so quick to point out, it’s hard being a black woman. We’re continually told we’re too fat or too thin, too dark or too light, too picky or too easy. Black women have yet to succumb to the victimology that MSM tries to map onto us, but it is time that Black women grabbed the reigns of our economic destiny.
Changing The Channel
Black women cannot afford to be passive consumers of the media we are presented. Constant critical analysis of the way we’re represented in MSM is essential to developing a sense of self-worth in an unsympthathetic society. BET is an easy target; however, the brazen materialism and misogyny that many young women have become keen to consume provide examples of the ways that we’ve internalized the negative images that we have been force fed since birth.
However, reprogramming requires more than a rejection of the degrading music, videos, and film we encounter daily. It demands a new understanding of how we view the problem.
It’s time that we realize the repercussions of conspicuous consumption don’t confine themselves to innercity housing projects. Much maligned is the black woman who will spend $500 on her weave but can’t pay her light bill. We ridicule these women. We scorn them for their unrespectable behavior, but at the end of the day, we are these women. No matter how we may justify our spending sprees, few of us can afford to throw our money away. But old habits are hard to break.
What Are We Teaching Our Daughters?
I resist the temptation to blame entirely the designer-clad booty shakers on BET for our financial peril. These are issues that began long before Bob Johnson’s Frankenstein hit the airwaves. Studies show that bad financial behaviors are learned , so I’d venture to say that the majority of us who can’t balance a checkbook grew up with parent’s whose bank accounts, for one reason or another, were consistently overdrawn.
I am proud of most of the things I’ve received from my mom: her sense of humor, her love of music, her good genes that will keep me looking 35 when I am well into my 50s. But from her I also learned that worthwhile women pay meticulous attention to their appearance. That same voice that has me reaching for a mirror 10 times a day also has me reaching for my debit card as soon as I see a pair of shoes that would match perfectly with my new dress.
Before young girls are able to set priorites for themselves, we determine them. So let’s teach eachother that we don’t have to wait for a man to acknowledge our beauty. Everyday should be a celebration of Black womanhood. That includes abstaining from participation in a celebrity culture which delights in dissecting the flaws of female celebrities.
Mental stability and health are inextricable linked to that of our bank accounts. We as black women will never be able to close the dreaded wealth gap if we don’t first take time to learn about ourselves as well as the costs and consequences of reckless spending. Not only for ourselves but for our communities.
1. “Why can’t Americans save a dime? - MSN Money.” Personal Finance and Investing - MSN Money. http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/savinganddebt/savemoney/p145775.asp.
2. Ta-nehisi Coates does a characteristically brilliant job problematizing the Post’s presentation here.
3. The most stunning findings measure the wealth of single women between the ages of 36 and 45.
4. “Parents Offer Key to Children’s Financial Well-being.” http://uanews.org/node/25529
This was originally published in April 2010 on The FreshXpress
Let’s be honest, Women run the Black blogosphere. Though the overall ratio of men to women who read and write blogs is roughly the same, these demographic trends don’t seem to hold for black writers and readership. And I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. The Digital Sisterhood demonstrates that after centuries of being relegated to the margins, Black women are eager to explore ourselves and learn from each other in public.
The pervasiveness of Black female voices has expectedly riled resentment. Relationship blogger Dr. J writes:
“So how do some popular female bloggers who aren’t interested in talking about sex keep large readerships entertained? If you asked me, it seems as though they are constantly bringing men down, also known as blanketed hate for men, or Misandry.”
He goes on to explain a phenomena he unfortunately calls the “Domestic Violence Effect”:
“…because every man knows that you cannot simply go around bashing women and get away with it. I’ve titled it, the Domestic Violence Effect, men can never attack women, but when a woman does it, the man should grow thicker skin and never, under any circumstances, respond to an attack with a counterattack.”
I would be remiss to not point out how the domestic violence analogy, in this context, is ill-conceived. 85% of domestic violence victims are women; 1 in 4 women will experience abuse in her lifetime. Why would one take issue with men being encouraged to exercise good judgment in confrontations with women? But I digress…
In his myopia, the author neglects the fact that men routinely “get away with it.” Take a quick look at SBM’s recent posts, and you’ll find titles like “Ten Things Men Find Unattractive in Women But Probably Won’t Tell You,” “8 Signs That Girl Might Be Hoe …,” and “8 Things Women Just Don’t Get.” These are not exactly complimentary pieces. The success of pseudo-relationship gurus on and offline depends on women being just as eager to receive the lashings as men are to dole them out.
Dr. J’s musings struck me because this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a black man on the Internet use the term. There seems to be a perception that men are somehow marginalized in the digital arena; when in reality, Black men’s voices are elevated and amplified online just as they are offline.
Widespread misandry in digital spaces which cater to Black women is a myth. Perhaps the author is so used to Black women falling over themselves to avoid bruising the Black Male Ego that he perceives the absence of this behavior as “misandry.”
I am an infrequent visitor of the Black big love blogs. I do love Max Fab’s take, but beyond that I’m out of the loop. This piece caught my eye because it exemplifies how easy it is to latch on to a narrative of imagined dominance. It’s not just for delusional Tea Partiers.
Much like reverse racism, reverse sexism is an attempt to obfuscate real privilege and oppression. These men are emboldened by pseudo-intellectual piffle that gets printed by “reputable” publications like Psychology Today. (Yes, the very same people who brought us the “Black Women, You Shole Is Ugly” article.) According to Professor Anthony Synnott:
Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” won the Pulitzer and is totally misandric, as are the best-sellers by Terry MacMillan. The movies were also were also very popular among women. Misandry sells. Why these black women should demonize black men, compounding sexism and racism, I don’t know. It just reinforces racism.
Do you hear that? Forget structural oppression and global white supremacy. Black women are to blame for compounding the sexism and racism perpetuated against Black men.
Cries of male-bashing are based on the patently-wrong assertion that misandry is somehow comparable to misogyny, thus we have to take the complaint seriously. It is not; therefore, we do not.
Yes, there are individual women who hate men. Men do even suffer discrete acts of discrimination; however, men were not bred in a society that devalues their worth in virtually all contexts. Unlike misogyny, misandry isn’t tied to a deeply-rooted system of institutional constraints. Call it a double standard if you wish. That is the truth.
As I mentioned before, Black women spend an inordinate amount of time reassuring men of their value in our communities. Even while we discuss our own unique set of issues and challenges, we must constantly check in to make sure our brothers know they are not under attack. The cycle is counterproductive as it further insures that men remain at the center of discussion; furthermore, the constant back-rubbing is exhausting and detracts from our ability to get to work.
The ongoing Black Male Privilege debate provides a prime example. The dispute has reached a number of platforms, and the response has been predictably divided along gender lines. Professor L’heureux Lewis defines BMP as, “a system of built in and often overlooked systematic advantages that center the experience and concerns of Black men while minimizing the power that Black males hold.”
While women confirm BMP’s existence with observations and experiences, men deny culpability while dismissing the idea as simply an attempt to “pile on.” Check the blog comments; a cadre of sistas waiting to jump to defend their mates can always be found.
Misogyny is real. Misandry, however, is an anti-feminist buzzword trotted out to silence women. Many Black men refuse to see themselves as having any privilege, and it is that denial which tears our community apart not angry Black women who can’t wait to slander good brothers in blog posts and comments.
Women are drawn to blogs and blogging in large part because they provide safe spaces to discuss pertinent issues. Women should not and will be shamed for speaking our unfiltered truths.
cross-posted @ ForHarriet.com