Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Image of Black Women Part I

One of the very entrenched images that will not be given up without a fight is the image of the brash, loud black woman, unfeminine, unattractive.


The whole of western civilisation needs that image to continue for their collective sanity. I see it everyday. If anyone where to shift the portrayal (not sporadic representations of pretty black woman), to the point that the image of brash, unattractive black woman become severely eroded the prescription for Prosac and other calming medication would go up. This image is required to maintain the present way society is set up and run.

Indeed, one of the key reasons for the persistence of this image is the benefits it generates for all other parties, as we have discussed ad nauseum, however the key thing here is that the image ensures that black women are shut out of social and power alliances. You see, in a world where women depend on building alliances to survive and thrive, the very ability to create alliances is being attacked and taken from black women to mire them in disadvantage and to ensure that they never move into a better social situation and hence ‘reserve’ the good of the land for others.

I hear folks say that women should make their own money etc. BULL! We do not yet live in a society were women don’t need alliances and to be linked and connected to make it.

We still need social contact and to be linked in firmly to secure jobs, contracts, relationships, good education etc etc. A deliberate con man's (and women) argument is being sold to black women that they are an island that can live comfortably alone.

A slight detour here, but have you, like I, noticed that black women are often asked to run out in front of everyone else in living by standards and conventions that are light years ahead and thus impratical in societies current configuration. Yes even though these life concepts that black women are being told to run with might be progressive, society is not yet in such a place where living by such standards is practical and does not result in a sever penalties to all those who would dare live so out of tune with the rest of society. Indeed the move to make black women totally self sufficient and able to ‘go it alone’ can be seen by some as the ultimate feminist dream (for white women that is), but we can all observe what damage this has done to the image of black women deemed now a 'mules', 'beasts of burden,' 'masculine', needing no help or respite…who but a sadist would want that kind of life for black women.

In lots of ways black women are being urged to be pathfinders and battering rams to scale walls and beat down iron doors and when they have taken the brunt of it all, others come in after the battles have been hard won, to pick and choose the spoils they want.

Now back to the issue of black women and our image, ask yourself, who would want to build relationships(alliances) with the stereotypical black women, indeed who would want to give a job to the neck rolling, shrill black woman that occupies popular imagination? Not many for sure. It is important to see then why this image of black women is in heavy rotation and heavily guarded so that it does not move off and away from popular imagination. Remember that it is the very ability to create alliances that is being attacked and taken from black women here, so that societies assets and material resources continue to circulate only in specific circles.

Indeed the stereotypical image of black women has such a powerful hold over the general perception as folks can’t even believe, and I have a key example for you to underscore this point.

Now some of you have said that in online dating, you have often been ‘contacted’ by men who have stated in their online profile, that they do not want black women i.e. they want a selection of anything but black replying to their profiles or they want to be matched only to non-black women. So here you are preparing to respond to this nice white or other guy who has ‘winked’ at you and just before you fire off a nice flirty email, you decide to check his profile once more (you casually glanced at it first and it said he was a writer!), anyway you are in for a shock because he has clearly checked for everything but black! So how come he is emailing you, does he not see from your profile that you are black? What kind of disconnected thinking is that?

Many of you have wondered about this totally confusing situation. I mean why would a man who says or who indicates that he doesn’t want a black woman suddenly IM or respond to one. What many of us fail to understand is that the general idea of ‘black woman’ conjures up negative associations in many of these men’s minds, so when these men are filling out the generalised form and come across white, black, asian etc, as soon as black comes up, it taps into the negative associations and images particular those which saturate society.

But guess what, as soon as that classification assumed a personality e.g. Tyra, Oprah, Halle, Gabriella etc or you in your cute photo, suddenly he is no longer thinking stereotypes. Trust me on this one, but if these dating sites changed the system of demographic identification and made it more personalized e.g. instead of asian, white, black, they have asian =Lucy Lui or black = Oprah, you would note the difference before too long. The negative ideas of black women are triggered in all sorts of areas and ways, denying black women opportunity and their humanity. Yes I know we like to believe that people can think for themselves and all that, but the reality is that the average person (the population from whom most of your social interractions will come) has tastes and choices that are easily controlled and dictated. Humanity unfortunately is sheep that can be lead and manipulated and suggested to, and this is what those who control resources play on.

The image of black women is being controlled to sustain an impression that prevents her from moving to a more propitious place socially. This is a feminist issue for black women, not for white women for sure, because anything that would redistribute the resouces accruing to white woman will be avoided and down played and even made a figment of our active imagination.

Those that determine social images will, even in deep sleep, tightly hold the image and idea of black womanhood captive to the most negative stereotypes available!

What to do?
I have always said that I am not even worried about what folk plan for black women, IF ONLY BLACK WOMEN COULD BECOME SELF AWARE!

Black women walking about clueless about what they face and showing even less willingness to figure things out is the key problem. Indeed even if folks are training a nuclear weapon against black women, as long as we know they are, we can strategize against their worst plans.

But instead what do you get? Black women intent on remaining ignorant and preferring to run after dead dreams, work for crumbs or work to buy the affection of the very folk that would use them and in the end be happy to see them destroyed.

Under such a situation, very little can be done on a broader scale to wrest the image of black women from the negativity unless black women become serious and invested in the idea of organizing themselves. Each of us is left with the option of working on an individual basis to create the best impression of ourselves and the image we have in the minds of others.

Get clued up about interracial dating, read the Interracial Dating E-book

Send your questions to relationshipadvice@dateawhiteguybook.com (I will try my best to give a reply/answer)

24 comments:

Sandra77 said...

Halima, I so agree with your post. I get sick and frustrated by the image portrayed of black women, particularly in the movies and television. We're either the de-sexualized friend/colleague or we're the neck-rolling, loud, brash, "ghetto", single-parent (with multiple fathers) female, undesired by anyone and undesirable to have around. These images have become so powerful and pervasive - how do we change this? You're absolutely right about men on dating sites who don't check black women in their profile due to these negative stereotypes, but are then willing to communicate with an individual black woman who doesn't fit the stereotype - I get that all the time (and it does, on a certain level, make me angry - I have to fight a phantom enemy and sometimes don't even get the opportunity to fight that enemy - I am just eliminated based on stereotypical beliefs that I don't even get to control). It seems the rest of the world has such a large stake in perpetuating these stereotypes against black women. We can try to forge alliances with others to change these ideas, but that seems like such a slow process (especially while our efforts are being simultaneously undermined). It's a battle for sure, but it's one that we have to fight for our own survival, primarily through our individual choices and actions.

Jazine said...

I’m not so worried about pop culture’s take on bw as much as I’m concerned how bw themselves put on the negative stereotype as a beloved suit they parade around in.

I have seen countless bw shoot themselves in the foot in the work place by either acting as the mammy (wet nurse) or the angry black woman. A lot of times these bw act like a hybrid of the two. They’ll bend over backwards at their job by sacrificing themselves to enormous amounts of work but their angry black woman attitude keeps them in a lateral position.

There is one such woman I know who was very upset she was bypassed for a promotion and they hired a bm who uses her to cover up his lack of knowledge. I have cringed many times witnessing bw use foul language and act totally unprofessional to their peers and outsiders with their neck-popping sass.

Recently a white colleague was grabbed by the wrist of an irate client. She called security which promptly sent the client scurrying out the building. My colleague started crying and was very distraught. Everyone comforted her from subordinates to the head of the company. Her assistant (a bw) was out that day. Everyone joked that it was too bad she didn’t come into work. She would have “handled” this person and would have protected her boss. When she comes back to the office and hears about the incident, she shrugs off her boss’s tears and said she would have “enforced” the law. All the white staff members joked with her wishing she was here to save the day. What kind of BS is that?! What was worse was her reveling in being seen as a shemale to protect white femininity and yet she complains in private about being seen as a mule.

BW allow themselves to get played like this time and again. Until bw on a collective level start playing smarter in their personal and professional lives, the general unflattering images will continue to fester. Halima, you are so right on the money regarding the Internet dating choices of wm. BW have to stop being such knee-jerk reactionaries. They want an unrealistic assurance about being seen as desired from non-bm, but expect zero expectations from black men. It’s no wonder that so many bw don’t know how to be treated by a man.

Lovebug said...

Great post! Halima. I think one of the primary issues for black women is that many of us don't know how to market ourselves either individually or as a group. We allow others, who don't have our best interests at heart, to do it for us. It never occurs to many if not most black women how much our collective "negative" image impacts so many aspects of our daily lives. Therefore, we have to counteract those negative images on a daily basis in our personal lives.

Black women also have to realize that if they want the best this society has to offer, they can't just appeal primarily to the so-called black community. They have to appeal to the larger society as well and that might mean changing some of their social behaviors. For example, the actress Christel Khalil on the Young and the Restless gets a lot of criticism for not being "black enough". Some black viewers say they can't relate to her or it took them awhile to get used to her. However, it is not a coincidence that she is the only black character on that show who regularly get a major storyline. The producers of the show are white and they will only cast an actress that they feel they can relate to. Therefore, as long as whites are the majority, black women who seriously want to get ahead have to come across as someone whites can relate to or connect with. Like it or not, this is reality.

Pamela said...

The only sensible option that bw have in the immediate and now is to not succumb to the stereotype. It is out there and there is not much that can be done about what others choose to think about us. We can take the chance and mingle outside of our circle. If nothing else it will give those people a chance to see that at least one that is not like the stereotype (yourself). Ignoring that it is out there is deadly to your chances BUT knowing about it and submitting to it is just as bad. The right approach is to be yourself, try your best not to blow up when the stereotype is thrown in your face and act the way you truly are. There will be people that may change and become educated. We all need to find people that accept us as we are as we are in the process of becoming the best we can be. Not everyone will like us for whatever reason, including the outrageous stereotype. Drop those people and move on.

Halima said...

Thank you all for your comments, so much richness contained sandra, jazine, lovebug and pamela.

I wanted to just pick up on one thing pamela, you raised the issue of bw doing something against the sterotype, but there are a lot of bw stamping their feet in anger that they have to do anything to counter the stereotypes. We have indeed had a few blow outs over this idea of 'to do' or 'not to do' something to challenge the stereotypes and bad images.

I get mighty tired with a whole lot of bw who want society to be and do fair towards them or who for the shake of the 'principle' of not being responsible for peoples racist views, insist in not doing anything to change their situation. Now i can understand the principle of it all but given that the stereotypes affect bw more than anyone and cause them hardships, it is a little counterproductive to insist on not doing anything to alleviate your situation.

see when people talk about racism this here is where i see racism. to me racism is about the fact that bw have to be and do beyond the call of duty and be twice as good. Yes i am not happy about it, but what is the alternative?

We work toward the hope that in a couple of years, we would have laid the foundation so that our daughters will not have to work to transform society on their behalf.

tertiaryanna said...

@ Jazine

"Everyone joked that it was too bad she didn’t come into work. She would have “handled” this person and would have protected her boss. When she comes back to the office and hears about the incident, she shrugs off her boss’s tears and said she would have “enforced” the law. All the white staff members joked with her wishing she was here to save the day. What kind of BS is that?! What was worse was her reveling in being seen as a shemale to protect white femininity and yet she complains in private about being seen as a mule."

I think this is where some BW get snookered. I think when someone is esteemed only when she does counter-productive behaviors, it's easy to fall into the trap of wanting validation so much that she willingly exhibits the behavior. It's like being rewarded and groomed for bad behavior. I think that's why it's so important to develop self-esteem, but one that's grounded in normal, healthy social behaviors.

Halima, thank you for explaining the online-dating thing. I'd been on OKCupid, and had been turned off by seeing so many men who explicitly excluded BW. It was really disheartening and confusing, and I ended up leaving the site.

I totally agree with this:

"In lots of ways black women are being urged to be pathfinders and battering rams to scale walls and beat down iron doors and when they have taken the brunt of it all, others come in after the battles have been hard won, to pick and choose the spoils they want."

Pure truth.

Anonymous said...

tertiaryanna, I’m sorry to hear about your experience on OKCupid. Try Match.com where you can filter out profiles of men who are not looking for someone with your attributes, interests, etc. If you’re a 5’ 10” black woman who is looking for a long-term relationship, you can use a special button on Match.com that will pretty much only show you profiles of men who are open to a 5’ 10” black woman who is looking for a long-term relationship. A few of the wrong guys may slip through because I think they will show you guys who match you by 97% or more, but in general, it works quite well.

Aabaakawad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Taylor-Sara said...

Halima, you outdid yourself! This post was so on point and so well written, it's amazing!
And I've seen this principle at work many times. Once in a store, a bw asked the sales girl if they had a coat in a certain color, and the girl shook her head, then backed away like the woman was going to attack her! The bw's eyes widened, and she said: "Oh, ok-then I'll take it in blue, I was just hoping for green" Now her voice was sweet and light, but the wg stood there acting stupid (waiting for the woman to get angry) The woman asked her to ring it up, but the girl just kept 'pretending to be afraid, and stood there. Finally, the lady said "Never mind-thank you-I'll buy it elsewhere" She turned and with head high strolled out. The manager had seen the whole thing, He promptly had someone else take the register, and told the girl (thru gritted teeth) to "clock out and go home!" She had tried to 'fake' a scene to cause problems for someone else, and had caused them for herself...

Aabaakawad said...

Aabaakawad said...
Halima,

This same subject, coupled with a possible strategy for improvement, is being covered by an (involuntary) guest post by me on another Blog.

Are Black Women Not Yet Discovered?

the blogger grabbed a comment of mine and used it for a post. Fine by me. I am trying to hold forth adequately.

Aphrodite said...

I read this post six times. Thank you Halima.


"I get mighty tired with a whole lot of bw who want society to be and do fair towards them or who for the shake of the 'principle' of not being responsible for peoples racist views, insist in not doing anything to change their situation. Now i can understand the principle of it all but given that the stereotypes affect bw more than anyone and cause them hardships, it is a little counterproductive to insist on not doing anything to alleviate your situation."


This is interesting because from my understanding Black people in general used to do this. I can recall conversations or hearing instructions from family members some long gone who would say, "always or never do x, y, z in certain circumstances because some people (usually whites) think a,b, c, about blacks."

So basically they were aware of the negative perceptions and adjusted according to their benefit.


I don't understand what has happened between then and now.

Adisa said...

This is another great post.

This is a little off topic.
I have made it nearly an art form to not be what people expect, and it can be oh so tiresome, but i see it as necessary to progress in life. I am a pre-pharmacy student with peers of all ethnic backgrounds. I find that some non-Black women can be turned off by my intellect and confidence, but I can't do much to appease them without changing myself completely. I have always found that non-Black men are more intrigued and pleasantly surprised when they find that I am well-mannered, agreeable, and a hard worker, and they subsequently want to get to know me better. Maybe that is why SOME non-Black women don't like it when a Black woman is self-aware. I have tried to explain this to my Black boyfriend, but he doesnt quite understand. I am considered attractive, I am tall, nearly 5'8", and I am in very very good physical shape because I work out religiously, and it seems the last thing that an insecure non-Black woman wants is to find out that I have a 3.8 gpa and that I am not the stereotype. Usually an intelligent Black woman is painted as masculine and disagreeable.

The image of Black women in the media does affect all Black women whether they are aware of it or not, and I prefer to stay in the know, because it helps me to make better decisions to elevate my image.

Anonymous said...

Hey Halima,(This is Miss Phantom)

Thanks for the posting. As an a actress, I and a couple of other BW have something up our sleeves that we are in the works, that's going to dispel some myths about us. See, we CAN afford to complain IF WE plan on doing something about it!!! I have at this point met a few filmmakers and producers while NETWORKING at film social clubs. And the other ladies as well (in NYC).(Part of why I hadn't been posting much and I am re-working some things in regards to my upcoming sci-fi work.)

It is in our best interest--like it was said-- to do for ourselves. Others, including BM (not a surprise) will not do a darn thing.

The key thing here is to get out there and make some connections, and be a lady. It was told to me through another actress, that I made a great impression on them which meant they remembered me. :o))))) ...Because where I am located the film community knows everyone...lol.

Image is truly important for us BW, especially if we need to move some furniture around so to speak.

Halima you post is on the money.

Anonymous said...

I want to know what the other's thoughts are on the sister who talked about non-Black females who get upset with her intelligence nad confidence.

You see it's so easy to tell us, "It's YOUR fault people don't like BW cause y'all conform to negative stereotypes", but it's NEVER discussed how a alot of these same people (Non-Black females in particular) have anti-Black female attitudes no matter how non-"ghetto" a sister may be.

cool_splash1 said...

The producers of the show are white and they will only cast an actress that they feel they can relate to. Therefore, as long as whites are the majority, black women who seriously want to get ahead have to come across as someone whites can relate to or connect with. Like it or not, this is reality.

I wonder about that, because looking back at Whoopie she took control of her image. I guess she showed herself in a way that the majority could relate to, but I think it had a lot more to do with networking etc. Like Evia, Sara and others have noted bw tend to stay within all black social circles

cool_splash1 said...

Thanks for the posting. As an a actress, I and a couple of other BW have something up our sleeves that we are in the works, that's going to dispel some myths about us. See, we CAN afford to complain IF WE plan on doing something about it!!! I have at this point met a few filmmakers and producers while NETWORKING at film social clubs. And the other ladies as well (in NYC).(Part of why I hadn't been posting much and I am re-working some things in regards to my upcoming sci-fi work.)


Yeah me too. That's also why it took so long for me to post anything lately. I am again attending school, plus I have the second semester of the film prodction class and we are preparing to work on our two class shorts. Plus I have a short that I wrote for the class that wasn't picked that I am rewriting to do for the BET Filmmakers Challege. That and I'm still researching on Internet TV as well as leased access tv.

I'm not going to lie. Networking or keeping contact is one of my weaker suits. Mainly because I am a loner type etc., but that's is something to mos def work on.

I understand the frustration of having to work harder than others to get ahead when their hard work is good enough ours isn't etc.

ak said...

Jazine you do have more than just a point there!

ak said...

Hey Taylor Sara to that story I say 'Good!' LOL

GoldenAh said...

Those of you who are shy or introverted (which is a different thing) about networking, don't hesitate to bring a buddy who is supportive and is a good backup. We don't have to do everything alone.

Just make sure your friend is not a saboteur.

I sometimes joke with friends that I will hold the person down while they do the stomping. It never hurts to tag team....

Anonymous said...

Hey cool-splash!

Glad to hear things are progressing. Yeah I am taking up some more acting as well and perhaps more in my dance background. I want to be well rounded.

Miss Phantomare

Anonymous said...

First of all, another GREAT post!

Regarding White men and their posted preferences on dating sites, this can be a real ego killer. I notice that most White men post that they will date anyone but a Black woman although they will click on your posting. But they do not reach out and wink or write. I was wondering if putting only White men in my preferences may change their outreach, I previously used to post any?

Anonymous said...

To Anon poster on dating...

YES! That lets them know EXACTLY what you are looking for. They click into it, because they are curious but may not know your standing, this is where black women must be clear and spell it out. In *some* cases it is not enough to just say, "I will date a nice guy" "Looking for nice gentlemen" or "race not a factor" Put it out there just like they put it out there. Men can not read our minds. Put it out that you are attracted white or whatever men you are attracted to, they are more likely to respond. I did this POF (plenty of fish) and I got Overwhelmed by white men.
Seriously overwhelmed.( You want responses but geeeeesshhh oh maaannn!!!! :oZ ) I had to come off because I became a bit busy but black women simply need to be CLEAR.

No it is not fair that white men have that tendency to check all but black, giving that impression to Bw that we are less, less desirable, ugly and of no use(meanswhile black men snickering behind the lines *at you* because they believe it proves a point that WM don't want a BW). I know the feeling when I had starting online dating years ago. But once you state that in your heading those same ones will answer. It may be because so many BW have been shooting themselves in the foot about their god called a black man that they don't bother to put black woman as a choice. This we need to understand.

So we need to stand out from the crowd and be bold with our choices and like Asian women---make no bones about it. Just do it!

Miss Phantomare

stompingstereotypes said...

RE Miss Phantom's Post

It is in our best interest--like it was said-- to do for ourselves. Others, including BM (not a surprise) will not do a darn thing.

The key thing here is to get out there and make some connections, and be a lady.

_______________________
So so true! This is what I write about on my blog "stomping stereotypes".

BW have to take action to slowly, but surely, change these negative stereotypes. Specifically our presentation, dressing, speech, etc. Individually, if we all do our part and start contributing to what the media sees *we need a few BF versions of Tyler Perry* we can start to dispel the popular belief.

Great points in this essay, and as was already noted, we should expand our horizons when it comes to networking/making friends with non-BP *men & women*.

(Not to say we shouldn't be making friend with BP, but BW tend to exclude the pool of friends to other BP.

neecy said...

Tertiaryanna,

http://www.okcupid.com/profile/SplendidChaos/

What you are experincing on okcupid is not in your imagination. This pretty much sums up what you have said. Black women are the least responded to of all races. I am not posting this to make us feel bad about ourselves. But we need to know the reality of what we are dealing with in Black and white (pun intended).

I am only posting this b/c i don;t understand why we as Black women do not make a stronger fight against the social outlets that are constantly assassinating us and putting us in this position of least desirable. An attack has been and is continuously being made on our FEMININITY and Black women are losing out b/c of it. We have to be a LOT more pro active in fighting these venues who marginalize us. Simply put, Black women are sitting by, complaining but yet doing nothig. And the end result is what we see on this blog and the many responses from men saying they simply find us the most unnattractive.


Black women HAVE to organize and start fighting back. Its not going to get any better. We are the punching bags of society b/c we will NOT stand up and out up a fight. We will complain and analyze what is going on yet do nothing about it.