Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cooperating with a system set against you!

Last year I came across an article in a local paper about a black couple who had had been out to lunch and when they requested their bill, someone had written, ’The black couple’ on it. I don’t think there was any malicious intent behind the writing, just that the waiter or whoever had just seized the most obvious thing about them to classify them rather than maybe use table number etc. Anyway, what got my attention was the picture of the couple used. While the black man was snapped with a slightly bemused and hurt expression, the black woman was snapped looking menacing!

I kid you not, she looked like she was about to aim a karate kick, her face was ducked and low and all that and she was standing behind the black man. Wow! Talk about role reversal.

I don’t know if she had been coached or they just snapped her at a ‘moment’ but the picture made me think about the discussions we have been having for a while now about a general move to de-feminize black women and make them out to be not worth any mans attention in fact to deny them the Curtsey, Concern, Consideration and Concessions readily extended to other women. Indeed we live in a situation of patriarchy, we are not yet a society of gender equality and therefore a female has 'currency' if she can elicit the CCCC response.

It made me also reflect on how black women, mostly unknowingly, have begun to cooperate with this dynamic to push them out of the female category, with the attendant benefits which come under the terms of patriarchy, mostly because of being blind to the situation and to the intentions to push them out of a profitable category.

Anyway I was talking the other day about how nervous I get around young black girls in my local area. Whenever I hear a blood curdling scream in the morning on my way to work, I can be sure to look round and find black girls behaving uncouth in public. Every. Time.

I might have said this somewhere before but when I look at how black girls are being left to run wild and without manners in society, and how no one is taking the time to pass on instructions about how to conduct themselves like ladies, I have my suspicions that they are being prepared for their roles as the servant girls and milk maids of society. Lowly roles for coarse women.

When you look at the care and polishing that goes into raising princesses and even women who parents want to occupy pride of places in society, you will understand why I feel that society is simply conveyor-belting black girls into the lowliest places of all, with their parents/mothers blisfully unaware as usual.

Indeed that’s what a racist system does, it makes for the worst outcomes for black women and it is only those who are aware and watchful and understand and read the signs, and see things for what they are, that can provide effective manouvers against the ‘will’ of the system.

The most important thing a family can do is to provide an effective barrier to the railroading of their black children towards becoming fodder for the system, by putting strategies in place, but with what I am seeing around me, I can tell that hardly any of the black parents around even gets it, not to mention putting together some semblance of a strategy towards preventing the likely negative outcome that is sure to be the case if there is no intervention. All they do is supply food, clothes and housing and think this is all their children will need, that is until they receive a knock on the door from the police or hospital. Even among the Africans who still have some sort of family units intact, I see this happening again and again.

Cooperating with the system out for you…

I was also on a public bus a few days ago and two black girls starting talking about their friend, mentioning loudly that she was a lesbian even calling her by her name etc etc and then they started on about ‘eating’! This was on a public bus with over forty people seated. No one else was talking and these girls (young mums) felt very comfortable talking very explicitly all under the guise of being morally superior to ‘the lesbian‘.

To detour a bit, you see, in addition to other issues we as black women have, I believe one of our greatest downfalls comes from a need to cling to self-righteousness, piousness and ‘moral rectitude’ as a way of being. Usually it’s all cover up and I suspect born out of feelings of lowliness and not being good enough and a need to strive for approval however I think it also provides black women a good cover for their need to brutally tear down other women in the guise of talking about them not being upright black women.

(The constant need for moral rectitude is indeed revealed to me in that fact that it is almost always only black woman who are handing out tracks or preaching on trains and what have you-another talk for another day.)

I also notice in these situations how that black women reserve their ire for other black women, who they are always picking apart and denouncing of course having bought into the general disdain being shown towards black women currently. They talk about their fellow women not the men who for sure have a catalogue of issues from which they can pick to talk about.

What I found very bothersome was the total lack of shame in discussing sexual issues and believing somehow they had a right to talk about such issues in public (act of social interractional vandalism) . I am very sure they saw some unconfortable looks because the black man at my side was shooting them disapproving glances, but you see in the peversity that has befallen many black women, they actually enjoy luridness and the fact that they are making others uncomfortable, but they will be the first to talk about how white folks are racist! I admit that even I felt racist that day because when another set of black girls came on the bus I started praying for deliverance. Let us not pretend that we do not know how some folks develop their prejudices against us. To me its almost like many black women have become perverse that they actually enjoy bringing down upon themselves the repercussios that will likely result from their activities eg social shunning, limited social range. Its almost like sticking a finger to themselves.

I  agree with the discussion that happened a while back at http://sojournerspassport.com/ that black women who want to thrive, must begin to set themselves apart from such self-spiters and black women who revel in being uncouth and doing damage to their general image. I know some black women are of the belief that, all our fates are tied together and thus we must interrupt our onward journey to help push forward and bring into line others. The truth is that some are just too far off and going back to rescue them will cost you greatly. I know we all feel strongly about standing with our fellow women and this is a build on the whole concept strongly held by black folks of standing in solidarity with other blacks, however the new winning strategy for black women must be 'dissociate from those that can tarnish', let it be known that you are a different 'class' a different breed, that you uphold decency, by your actions, a carefully dropped hint or statement, rejecting their forced teaming when they do come around to display that they have 'links' with you.

I can tell you as someone who has only just completed a project on which I was the only black person, that when it counts towards career progression, social status etc etc, you can quite easily make a good impression for yourself or overturn a preexising negative one!

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Questions to be sent to: relationshipadvice@dateawhiteguybook.com

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your post seems to be suggesting that the coarse persona many Black women adopt is not helping Black women as a collective. This persona is distancing us from the protections and courtesies that other women enjoy. Have I understood you?

If so,I would really appreciate practical ideas to a problem. My daughter is 30 something and I would say quite coarse. She does seem to wear a 'suit of armor' to protect her from men and feelings of insecurity. She is quick to 'defend' herself in the work place. She has a quick mind and uses it to put men in their place if and when they attempt to make her feel small. This is usually by making them feel small in their manhood. I recognize these behaviours are self-limiting but I also understand why she has adopted this stance. (without going into detail she has very justifiable reasons). I think at this time if she were to drop this armor she would feel completely at the mercy of any impending danger. So what would you say is the best thing for her to do? Lady like behaviours is a complete anathema to her. And to be frank she lives and works in an environment where lady-like behaviours would be trampled on viciously.

Anonymous said...

It's really sad Anon that your daughter has to act this way but i'm not surprised; it's because modern society across the board has cheapened what sex is and where it should be, also, men and women are NOT the same; we're not suppose to be. She may even running off really good men who would like to get to know her as a person

tertiaryanna said...

I think at this time if she were to drop this armor she would feel completely at the mercy of any impending danger. So what would you say is the best thing for her to do? Lady like behaviours is a complete anathema to her. And to be frank she lives and works in an environment where lady-like behaviours would be trampled on viciously.

She needs allies and role models. Is she the only woman in her field? Are there any other women that she can look to for guidance?

Also, can she learn to assert herself positively. I mean, can can she say "my way is correct" rather than "your way is wrong"? There's a huge difference between the approaches.

Also, can she learn to be dominant w/o being patronizing or belittling? You can be strong w/o being emasculating.

She needs to make her armor out of material that's not going to harm her.

Lovebug said...

This is a very important topic, Halima and I am glad that you touched on it.

Funny, I was thinking about something yesterday that goes along with this topic. I was on a website that was discussing the Ann Coulter drama at the college in Canada. They were talking about how the protesters were angry and there was a picture of the front page of a Canadian newspaper. The front page showed a picture of an angry black woman yelling at a white male Ann Coulter supporter.
The picture really got to me because from the T.V. news clips I had seen, there did not seem to be a lot of black people at this school. In fact, the woman was the only black person in the picture.
It seemed as if they deliberately searched for and took a picture of a black woman to represent the anger of the protesters. This realization truly disturbed me and I tried looking for other explanations as to why, at an overwhelmingly white school, they chose a picture of a black woman to represent the angry students.

Regardless of why they chose the picture of black woman, the fact remains that image is very important. That is one thing I admire about white women, they realize the importance of image and how to use it to their advantage. It seems many, if not most, black women lack this awareness and, unfortunately as a result, all black women suffer the consequences in one form or another. It seems that many black women are so committed to playing the role of a "strong, good, proud black woman" as dictated by the so-called black community that they don't consider how outsiders might perceive them. Nor do they consider that being perceived positively by outsiders will greatly widen their circle of influence and make their lives a lot less stressful as a result.

Thank you once again Halima for always educating and enlightening us.

Mary said...

Sadly enough, no one can say we don’t know what you’re talking about Halima. Everytime, I’m anywhere next to a group of black women, the same thing that you just described happens. Ex. Yesterday, I was volunteering at a woman’s clinic. most of the women that come are bw. One of my ‘patients’ was a young 18 yr old bw who surprisingly was very softspoken. But when she started talking about her activities, how she dropped out of high school, wanted to get tested for stds, hiv, pregnancy, she blew my mind.
She also mentioning that her sexual partners were two girls and a boy. She does not use protection with any of them. She does not want birth control cause she doesn’t want to get fat. Yall it was too much.

I was thinking, who are her parents, is she an orphan cause why would a child who has parents, be doing all this. Sadly enough, I could hear her mom and her sisters in the waiting room being loud and obnoxious ‘acting black’ style. They were so loud, singing, laughing, the other students were thinking about asking them to lead. It’s like behavior and morals do not matter anymore.



The point you made that many black parents think that as long as they’re clothing, feeding and housing their children that they’re great parents is so true. I’m African and I see this with my mother and other African parents. It’s really weird to me, I don’t understand it but it seems that now that we’re in America, there are no rules. A lot of them are working really hard so they see financing their children’s lives as their only job. As long as they do that, they’re doing well. Like I said before, I don’t understand it at all, I really don’t. it takes a lot to raise a child, a parent that does not guide and monitor their offspring is really not a parent. And it does set them up for failure cause when you’re young, it’s amazing how clueless you are about everything, absolutely everything. So for being so long winded but this topic is 1) so sad 2) so true

Bellydancer said...

Heart & Soul magazine touches on this very same subject. They talk about how our girls have "confused confidence" meaning they try to act confident but come across as loud, overbearing and obnoxious, trying to be grown and sexy without really knowing why they need to be this way in the first place and often engaging in risky behaviors. Regina King is on the cover and the article is called The State of our Girls.
eisaulen.com has the whole article if you cannot find the magazine in your area.

Sky said...

Halima I know exactly what you're talking about. I remember when I was going to school (middle/high) I would make a conscience decision to stay away from girls who were loud and obnoxious. I couldn't stand it. But i really have to thank my parents though...they taught me to stay away from groups of people who are always loud, they'll get you into trouble.

These girls were often ready to fight at any given moment. Some tried it w/ me, thinking that because I was quite I wouldn't say anything. But I usually I would dismiss them w/ intellect that they didn't know what to do w/ themselves.

This also was the same w/ guys, I refused to associate w/ loud men, because they also hung out w/ the loud women (birds of a feather flock together). So when i really think about it, most of my friends were different racial backgrounds or soft spoken blacks, which were few in number.

Even now my younger brother who is 16 in high school has repeated the same thing to me, he refuses to hang out w/ girls who are always loud. These girls don't realize how much they are constantly shooting themselves in the foot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anon 12.39am and tertiaryanna. Both of you have encapsulated the essence of what I was saying. I think it is productive when we try to understand why Black girls and women behave in these ways. This way we can point them in a new direction.

As other commenters have suggested it seems there are multiple factors involved: lack of parental guidance (many parents don't know how to behave either), growing up in harsh environments, covering up insecurities, modeling the wrong women, living up to negative stereotypes and so on. This is sinister when it is clear there are people with a vested interest in seeing Black women display angry, loud, unfeminine attributes. It seems there are many Black women who do not know the art of feminine assertiveness.

I'm a little fed up with the generalization that white women know how to exploit their image to their advantage and Black women don't. SOME White women know how to do this and the others ride on the coat tails of those that do. What I mean is white women are generally seen as the 'fairer' sex, worthy of being supported and rescued. This view has been reinforced in literature, T.V. and film. Consequently, all white women are assumed to be so until they prove you otherwise. Black women have a different discourse going on. And I don't need to spell it out here. As someone else alluded to the collective image does indeed affect the individual. This is why Black women have to work harder to shake off those negative stereotypes and learn a new way. We did need to start with highlighting the issues as Halima and other BWE bloggers have done but I do hope we move on from tut tutting by setting the example and pointing the new way. It is a war we are in because unfortunately society has coarsened across the board and Black women and girls are suffering the most as a result. We who are enlightened could challenge the status quo. And for those of us who are teachers, writers, bloggers, artists, film makers, mentors, designers, musicians, parents and so on lets start including in our work examples of what we want to see. If we are the parents of young girls we can help to stop the rot by giving them tangible examples of what we mean.

Robynne said...

ITA agree Halima! I live in the Washington DC metro area. I commute by the metro/subway and I can tell you that you often come across this kind of crude behaviour daily, especially when school is let out for the afternoon.
I also agree with your point that these parents think that so long as they are providing financially fo rtheir child they've done their job.
Wrong. Back in the day in my old country (I'm from Jamaica) we would call this "home training." This is CRITICAL part of one's upbringing - how to conduct oneself in public and in the company of others. Many parents seemed to have bypassed this, apparently thinking this is not necessary. The resultant coarse discourse - particularly among black girls (guys too, but they are men so they get more of a pass)greatly harms the "collective" image. Part of the problem is that these anti-social behaviours manifest themselves very early - it is not unusual for children to whine or "act up" in public; when this happens the parent must step in and quickly correct the behaviour and steer the child in the right direction. Otherwise, this sort of negative, crude display becomes a part of the child's psyche and continues right into adulthood. Sometimes I feel they need a home training class in school these days since parents don't bother with such "old fashioned" notions anymore.

Neecy said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm of the firm belief that The biggest OBSTACLE for Black women in the dating/marrying arena is this very issue. Its our perceived "femininity" or lack therof. Especially in Non Black environments. Also, BW are typically dealt with a lot more aggressivley int he world than other women. And I truly have to blame most of it on BW and thier need to let everyone know how "STRRRRONG" we are. If BW do not change these behaviors soon, there will be a lot more BW left out in the cold in love and life. BW who do not fit this profile need to work HARD at resocializing our womanhood just as the BW who worked hard (and succeeded) at sending the "strong BW" mantra message to the world did.

The fact is, as you stated the push to de-feminize BW is working mainly b/c Black women as a whole do not see these aggressive non feminine behaviors as an issue or problem. Also, listen to the current music today by Black male artists and you have them rapping and singing about them needing "ride or die chicks" etc.

The Black community has been the BW's biggest downfall in so many aspects.

Also, it is important to understand why so many BW have such coarse unfeminine characteristics. The Black community as a whole raises our daughters to act like, protect, sacrifice and basically take on the roles of Black men.

I have to say I have relatives like this in my family and its utterly sickening to have to go out with them in public. One of my aunts who lives out of state and who i rarely see is like this. Very loud, boisterious and combative. I took my grandmother to Vegas to see her and I had no choice but to go out and eat with her and her husband. She was loud and combative with the waitress and all I could think was everyone was looking at not just HER but me as well and shaking their head at how combative, loud and aggressive BW can be. Her husband said she was so loud in the airport that the poor white guy in front of them walking jerked (you know when someone scares the crap out of you or surprises you how your body jerks). Her response was "everybody is loud in the airport. *shaking my head*

shimmy said...

wow, that is so true what you wrote. I have so many things to say on this one.

As bad as I hate to say it, many black women do demonstrate masculine, ghetto, ignorant and aggressive behavior in public. It's really sad. A lot of these women like to start drama. They also like to tear down other women. I think black women like this are suffering from low self esteem and insecurity. They are really hard especially on other black women that are well groomed, attractive, soft spoken and intelligent.


I have had so many bad experiences with black women like this. I hate to admit this, but this is one of the major reasons why I don't feel comfortable around certain black women. Many people do develop prejudices against black women from negative experiences. It's sad because these women are reinforcing negative stereotypes about black women. I have noticed it's usually the younger ones that act like that. Some of the older ones are immature too.

Many black women do fall into that racist view that they are the lowest on the totem pole. They demonstrate this by reinforcing racist negative black female stereotypes. They also show this by the way they treat other black women in a negative way. Such behaviors are having a nasty attitude, being rude and tearing down other black women.

I said it before, but I think those of us who are enlightened and aware should separate ourselves from other "acting black" black women. These women will not try to become aware and they will not work toward empowerment for themselves or other black women. These women only focus on all the negatives and they lead negative lives too. Many of them make poor choices in selecting men. They have different "baby daddies" and some think it's cute. That's why so many black children don't have fathers. They have no kind of education. These type of black women will be left behind.

Oshun said...

I wonder how much of this is a class issue? I am at a loss here on this whole topic. I don't know how you would make someone aware of what they are doing, why this is important, how far outside the norm they are, and why they should correct it.

I am floored and thrown though at the two parent households that allow this to occur. I could see this in a single parent home because all of the mothers' activities are focused on providing and not being swallowed by poverty - thus parent/child interaction is minimal. But I don't get how a two parent home could fall culprit to this.

@Robynne
I think they are getting home training, but it is outside of human/societal norms. I have seen some parents encourage sexual precociousness, profanity etc..in children as young as 2. They think its cute when children imitate low class adult/mature behaviors.


@ Anon
I think your daughter should make internal and external changes. If she is constantly under threat of attack then she needs to leave that environment or if she can't, devise a new strategy (using new behaviors/allies whatever) to put an end to her enemies once and for all.

That level of stress is not healthy- seriously. High blood pressure, strokes, depression etc... Maybe some of her carriage issues are a result of the physical and emotional strain being placed on her from the attacks.

Anonymous said...

Oshun you are astute. And I thank you for your empathy.

I think when a person develops a defense mechanism it is unwise for others to point the finger. While there is no doubt there are women who think being loud and unfeminine is somehow advantageous there are others who are trying to ward off the threat of "physical and emotional strain". For some, wearing a hard exterior is an attempt to protect the self from further harm .

Your point about class is also worth exploring. However, I do remember old time poor people behaving impeccably in public. It is a feature of our time that letting it all hang out is becoming the norm.

Selena said...

Oshun said:

I wonder how much of this is a class issue? I am at a loss here on this whole topic. I don't know how you would make someone aware of what they are doing, why this is important, how far outside the norm they are, and why they should correct it.

Yes I have to agree with you. I believe it is a class issue because I come across this behavior and attitude whenever I'm in certain areas of my city. You see this same behavior in lower class white kids. They seem to think its cool to act ignorant too.

Whenever I go to any Walmart here, I see those same loud ass talking, yelling (I mean literally yelling across one aisle to the next) and vulgar mouths. Don't let me start talking about the incessant stares my daughters and I get from these young girls. Especially If we're having a conversation with a friend and laugh during our exchange. These kids are so insecure half the time they think you're laughing at them. It's downright sad the way we've let these kids go.

Back in the old days, every neighborhood had that one family that everyone else gave the side-eye to, the family that everyone dismissed as "not right". Sort of like the Bupkis family in A Christmas Story. These days the whole neighborhood is filled with the Bupkis family.

Lovebug said...

@ Anonymous 2:53pm:

"I'm a little fed up with the generalization that white women know how to exploit their image to their advantage and Black women don't."

Were you referring to my previous comment about admiring the fact that white women knew how to use their image to their advantage? If you weren't, never mind.

If you were, let me make it clear, I am in no way stating that white women are superior to and/or more feminine than black women.

However, many black women are socialized to strive for attributes that are not traditionally considered feminine in western culture. I have heard many black women proudly proclaim themselves as "strong black women".
I have yet to hear a white woman proclaim herself to be a "strong white woman." (Maybe a white woman has said this but this is not the norm) In western society, strength is considered to be a masculine quality. Gentleness, compassion, and the ability to nurture are considered more feminine qualities. I doubt that the black women who make these comments are aware that outsiders may consider them to be exhibiting masculine qualities. This is part of what I mean when I say that many black women seem to lack an awareness of the importance of image/perception particularly when interacting with those outside the so-called black community.

Secondly, individuals who know the importance of image don't allow others to distort their image. For example, would an image-conscious celebrity like Madonna or Jennifer Aniston allow someone else to distort their image? No, they would be ready with a plan(publicists, lawyers, etc.) to counteract and/or hinder whatever that person attempted to do. In other words, one either manages/controls their image or they don't. Therefore, we can't say that we know how to manage our image and then claim that others have distorted our image.

As for whether white women may have an unfair advantage. Perhaps, but life isn't fair anyway and still wouldn't be fair if we were all the same race so this is really a non-issue for me.

Anonymous said...

Lovebug yes I was referring to your comment earlier.


I agree with your statement that Black women are failing to see that proclaiming "I am a strong Black woman" is paradoxically counter-productive. I was disagreeing with your admiration for white women as a whole (your statement came across that way to me. If I misunderstood you I apologize). As I said, not all white women know how to control their image or behave. Some do, some don't. For those that don't it matters little because most people will still assume they are worthy until they prove they are not. For Black women this is not the case.


Here on this blog many Black women have behaved in an exemplary manner and I imagine they are the same offline. Yet many bemoan the fact that the women they observe who are the 'acting black' crew or behave in an unsavory manner is casting a shadow on them personally. What are we to do? This problem is more complex than moaning about unfairness. Halima and others have pointed out that these negative behaviors are not helping us. We've identified some of the reasons why it may be happening. We've also identified that intentionally or otherwise others have an interest in Black women displaying non-feminine characteristics. And unfortunately many Black women live up to the stereotype. But how are Black women who see the problem going to rise above the mess? We're not going to do it talking to each other on blogs. We're already preaching to the converted. Perhaps we need to bring this conversation to the mainstream in the same way Karyn Langhorne is doing with helping to shift Black women's consciousness on inter-racial dating.


Incidentally, Madonna may well succeed in controlling her image(s) but she can keep it. Besides, very few Black women, if any, would be forgiven for cultivating such an image. Let alone make money from it.

Robynne said...

@ Oshun - I understand your point. But the home training I was referring to were the basic lessons in manners and civility, coupled with the understanding that you do not wash dirty laundry in public.

I get what you are saying though - their "home training" is more the encouragement/non-correction of negative behaviours.

Halima said...

1st anonymous, i will let others weigh in as they have done, but i must also agree with the coment that your daughter seems to be working in a very toxic place and has unfortunately internalized the toxicity. I cant imagine being in that kind of environment and having to take on a knife-thrusting character. It must be exhauting and soul killing stuff.

Maybe work towards a change in place of work and also how secure can that kind of place of work be anyway, truth is if you rack up enemies as seems to be what is happening then somewhere along the line they will push her out!

Halima said...

last anonymous

I think black women can untangle themselves for a generalized negative image by putting in some effort to ensure they are not joined up to the particular image. This is not saying that black women have to make others like them, just for the sake of liking them. It is a strategy to get ahead at work, in life and love etc.

It takes some forethought but it is doable.

I think people have the abiity to make distinctions (i know we are told we are all black to 'em). Even among ourselves we can see distinctions and even 'them' (white people in positions of authority or who we need in terms of career progression etc)can make distinctions between us.

I think also this distinction making comes into play when it is actually needed, that is among colleagues and people we spend extended periods of time with, unlike in the cases of strangers where in 90% of the cases it isnt of any major importance if they seperate you out of the masses and their perception of these.

I think this points to how important the close contacts are and how black women need to create good impressions and nuture relationships with those they are around constantly!

MissASP said...

Bw (especially the young ones like me, I'm only 16) just need to start identifying more with our gender than our race. I did this up until a few years ago. I've always mostly hung out with nbw because the ghetto bw didn't like me. I still do but I started thinking more about what it meant to be black, how badly bw as a whole r treated, etc. Now I just want to "reinvent" myself and become more feminine. I've always been girly but I need to be more feminine. I am trying to identify myself as a young woman instead of a young bw.

Here's a list of blogs and an article from Kadejah:

http://sojournerspassport.com/the-more-you-do-this-the-less-desirable-youll-look/

http://theartofbeingfeminine.blogspot.com/

www.elegantwoman.org/

These have been helpful to me and will be for any woman of any age who wants to become more feminine and ladylike than you already are! Also, we have to remember that a lot of bw r sadly raised in areas where if they're feminine, they're opening themselves up to being raped, robbed, and killed. Hopefully many of them can get out of those situations and live life to the fullest. I hope this helps! Bye!

PioneerValleyWoman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PioneerValleyWoman said...

I wanted to edit my comments...

I think it is important to make an observation.

Many people think "feminine" always means passive and vulnerable.

Has anyone heard the phrase "passive aggressive?"

Don't be fooled by the idea that "feminine women" who appear passive and ladylike can never be aggressive, don't get what they want and don't take care of themselves. They just don't do it in an aggressive manner.

They might be assertive, but not aggressive, and even today, it is a fine line that many white women, especially professional ones, must negotiate, and I have seen that just this week as our department is searching for a new chair.

White men like don't like aggressive white women in the workplace. Yet, it is a catch 22; if they seem too passive, they are seen as not being capable leaders, but too aggressive, they are seen as unfeminine.

Too many black women have been fooled by the image of femininity as held up by/for white women, the ideology of passivity. As we well know, just because some women seem passive does not mean that they are. They might be aggressive in the strategies they wield but they present them in a passive-appearing and feminine manner. Others might not even see the aggression, because it is carefully masked and might only be seen behind closed doors.

It is about wielding influence and women raised to be feminine are taught that. Seeming feminine and ladylike gets women in a position to influence others, namely men who go out of their way to provide aid and help. That is the dynamic that has animated the relationship between white men and women from time immemorial.

1:45 PM

I spoke about this with a Latina colleague recently. She is from a South American Latin cultural background; her husband is Italian.

She spoke of those cultures as being very patriarchal and oppressive of women; yet, she spoke as well about where women wield power, in the family, in the home, behind closed doors.

She said, for example, women run the home. They influence what happens inside there, even though the man is the head.

I mentioned to her a line from the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," where the young Greek woman is given marital advice from her mom.

Her mom says, the man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and the neck can move the head in whatever direction she wants.

It is about some women being taught to influence and manipulate, without being aggressive. They can be aggressive, but no one would ever see it.

Anonymous said...

Halima and PioneerValleyWoman.


Yes yes yes!!! You have both articulated what I was trying to grapple with. From the discussion I was beginning to think we as individual black women were responsible for presenting to the world a contrary image for all Black women. That would be yet another burden. So thank you Halima for being specific that it is within our sphere of influence that we should be concerned with. I really don't want to be walking around with a radar that spots the Black woman behaving badly.


PioneerValleyWoman you have provided a useful definition of what femininity means. I know I've been guilty of equating femininity with lack of grit. I can't help but conjure up images of period dramas, filmed in soft focus and women floating around with the sun in their hair lol! Your comment reminded me of a scene in the West Wing where a woman used the phrase 'charm and disarm'. Truth is; I know I don't know how to do this. Your last two paragraphs warrants a repeat. You said:

"Too many black women have been fooled by the image of femininity as held up by/for white women, the ideology of passivity. As we well know, just because some women seem passive does not mean that they are. They might be aggressive in the strategies they wield but they present them in a passive-appearing and feminine manner. Others might not even see the aggression, because it is carefully masked and might only be seen behind closed doors.

It is about wielding influence and women raised to be feminine are taught that. Seeming feminine and ladylike gets women in a position to influence others, namely men who go out of their way to provide aid and help. That is the dynamic that has animated the relationship between white men and women from time immemorial."

What stands out for me is your observation that feminine women are strategically aggressive whilst retaining a ladylike manner. You know I really wasn't taught how to do this. And I'll bet many of the negative behaviors we have been discussing arise because Black women are untrained in this kind of femininity. As you say femininity is not about being passive. Untrained women lurch between passivity and aggression. For those like me who have not had the benefit of this kind of training where do we begin? Clearly, it isn't all about comportment, how we dress or speak.


@ MissASP

Good for you. You sound like you're on the right track.

Anonymous said...

I've got two words that might help...charm school. When my two daughters become older I'll be sure to register them both. Here in NYC, years ago there was a school that specialized in Black girls. It had an office in the Empire State Building, I think. Anyone know who and where they are now? Hillary.

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Anon at 2:56:


PioneerValleyWoman you have provided a useful definition of what femininity means. I know I've been guilty of equating femininity with lack of grit.

What stands out for me is your observation that feminine women are strategically aggressive whilst retaining a ladylike manner. You know I really wasn't taught how to do this. And I'll bet many of the negative behaviors we have been discussing arise because Black women are untrained in this kind of femininity.

Clearly, it isn't all about comportment, how we dress or speak.

My reply:

You're welcome.

But comportment a start, it is a start because those are some of the first things that draw others' attention.

Do we speak like ladies, do we dress like ladies, do we carry ourselves like ladies?

When you go out the door, what image are you conveying? Will the world think "coarse?" Or will they think something else?

Much of a girl's understanding of men will come from her interactions with the men in her life, her father as an example. What did her mother model in terms of femininity?

That is where many women first learn the value of femininity, ie., in seeing mommy interact with daddy and being a "daddy's girl," that she only has to be her charming self and she has "daddy wrapped."

But what if a woman has not had that? Observe other women, see how they charm, model their behaviors in interacting with men. Even some good quality movies model that sort of behavior!

The charm school program for younger girls is a good idea; preparing young girls for good self-presentation. The link to Sojourner's Passport included some information on etiquette and presenting oneself well.

Anonymous said...

I used to date a man who exhibited passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than being upfront and ASSERTIVE, he would show AGGRESSION (a generally negative trait) underhandedly by procastinating, being very stubborn and by pretending to be "forgetful". I'd ask him for favors like taking me somewhere, dropping me off, or picking me up in his car -- he'd readily and happily agree, but when the time came to actually do it, he was nearly always nowhere to be found and I had to scramble for alternate plans at the last minute. This went one for a while until I caught on that he would always leave me hanging and I stopped relying on him. Another thing was that he'd make a point of always forgetting my birthday, even though I told him presents weren't necessary but that he could at least call or come over. He considered himself easy-going and laidbackbecause he was non-confrontational but he still got his agressions out by always intentionally not keeping his end up and by intentionally letting others down.

The passive part doesn't make it more agreeable or feminine; it just makes it more cowardly and frustrating for the person who has to deal with it. This behavior is not a noble trait for anyone to aspire to -- men or women.

Khadija said...

Halima,

I can't thank you enough for your ongoing, pioneering work for BW's uplift. The things that you've said have really got me thinking! And what you're explaining with this post is of critical importance for BW. In a patriarchal world, very bad things are allowed to happen to women who are un-women. Un-women DON'T receive the "4 Cs" that you mentioned of courtesy, concern, consideration, and concessions.

Too many BW either never understood or have lost sight of the fact that these 4 Cs = protection for women.
_______________________________

MissASP,

Thank you for mentioning The Art of Being Feminine and Elegant Woman blogs. I hadn't heard of them before. From what I've seen so far, I'm impressed!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Karen said...

Anon 09:46

Some tips for your daughter:

1) If possible begin a strategy to change jobs. This is necessary for her in order to have a "clean slate" to start anew.

2) Until then, I would recommend that she review how she dresses (is it masculine or feminine)?

3) Obtain a few books on the art of being a lady. A few recommendations: Emily Post's Etiquette, 17th Edition / The Art and Power of Being a Lady (by Noelle Cleary)

4) Is her circle of friends conducive to her behaving in a more feminine way? If not, she needs to re-evaluate her friends.

5) Does she have healthy pursuits that allow her to detox from her work environment? Hobbies or crafts that put her around completely different types of people or women (i.e. non-AAs)?

6) I kindly suggest she stop the "making them feel small in their manhood". It makes her look small and it is not a pretty look. No one should be attacked for what they were born with. She would be much better off to either address the issue that caused the affront in a calm, factual manner (no raising of the voice) or clearly state "I am offended by what was said and have no interest in further entertaining the discussion". If she really wants to turn this paradigm on its head, she could go even further to state, "I have had enough. I am a nice person and I am no longer interested in constantly engaging in battle with any of you". She then needs to stick to it. Not knowing whether she is in phyiscal danger, I see no reason why she cannot change the nature of the game by changing the way she reacts to it.

She then needs to follow this with action by changing her mannerisms, dress, speech, everything to transform herself into the beautiful lady waiting to be discovered.

HTH

P.S. - I firmly honour her need to have had this armour (I have had various armours in the past) but when the armour becomes a prison, then it is time to shed it.

Anonymous said...

"...when the armour becomes a prison, then it is time to shed it." So true.


Thank you everyone for your input. You have given me some useful ideas that I know will make a positive change. I am grateful.

cool_splash1 said...

Anon 1:15 yes what he was doing was sad and ugly, but you are comparing a man to a woman. Why are you trying to compare what would be feminine traits or methods of a woman vs. a man. Men and women are different. Yes there are women who can be some coniving b's, but seriously comparing a man vs. a woman?

Anonymous said...

"Anon 1:15 yes what he was doing was sad and ugly, but you are comparing a man to a woman. Why are you trying to compare what would be feminine traits or methods of a woman vs. a man. Men and women are different. Yes there are women who can be some coniving b's, but seriously comparing a man vs. a woman?"

Umm, okay...I was actually trying to show by giving examples why aspiring to be passive-aggressive (mentioned in Pioneer Valley Woman's post -- perhaps you skipped over it -- I've excerpted in a continuing post) is not a good thing for anyone.

The term passive-aggressive does not simply mean being aggressive in a nice, acceptable way as some are assuming. It doesn't mean getting what you want in a passive way, unless intentionally frustating and hendering (usually) a friend or loved one amounts to getting what you want! And it's not cute or okay just because a woman is doing it to you, either. If after reading below what passive-aggressive personality disorder actually entails, you still think this despicable behavior is an a-okay trait for women to culitvate, than there's nothing more I can say to you about it....

"Passive Aggressive (adj.) Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, as by procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency.

Passive Aggressive behavior is a form of covert abuse. When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you've been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse.

Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. A person's feelings may be so repressed that they don't even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. A passive aggressive can drive people around him/her crazy and seem sincerely dismayed when confronted with their behavior. Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior.


http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/abusiverelationships/a/Pass_Agg.htm

Anonymous said...

Continued...

"PioneerValleyWoman said...
I wanted to edit my comments...

I think it is important to make an observation.

Many people think "feminine" always means passive and vulnerable.

Has anyone heard the phrase "passive aggressive?"

Don't be fooled by the idea that "feminine women" who appear passive and ladylike can never be aggressive, don't get what they want and don't take care of themselves. They just don't do it in an aggressive manner.

They might be assertive, but not aggressive, and even today, it is a fine line that many white women, especially professional ones, must negotiate, and I have seen that just this week as our department is searching for a new chair.

White men like don't like aggressive white women in the workplace. Yet, it is a catch 22; if they seem too passive, they are seen as not being capable leaders, but too aggressive, they are seen as unfeminine.

Too many black women have been fooled by the image of femininity as held up by/for white women, the ideology of passivity. As we well know, just because some women seem passive does not mean that they are. They might be aggressive in the strategies they wield but they present them in a passive-appearing and feminine manner. Others might not even see the aggression, because it is carefully masked and might only be seen behind closed doors.

It is about wielding influence and women raised to be feminine are taught that. Seeming feminine and ladylike gets women in a position to influence others, namely men who go out of their way to provide aid and help. That is the dynamic that has animated the relationship between white men and women from time immemorial."

Maybe I'm Your said...

Another movie example about a woman using her influence indirectly is Whale Rider. That movie opened my eyes on this dynamic. The wife of the village head helps her husband realize that their granddaughter should be groomed to be his successor because she's the best person for the position.

Women have often been negatively accused of being manipulative. This occurs because shrewd women know that they cannot assert themselves directly, but must wield their power indirectly.

Oshun said...

@ Anon

Oshun you are astute. And I thank you for your empathy."

You are welcome. I think the other posters have given excellent tips. Karen gave some wonderful suggestions and I agree that an exit strategy would be a wise first choice. I also agree with Halima in that the attackers may be trying to push her out.

While she plans her exit and cultivates her new demeanor, perhaps she could also employ a covert/indirect strategy to lessen/halt the attacks/damage control. If the attacks were coming from superiors then it may be a done deal, but if the attacks are coming from peers she could potentially outmaneuver them depending on who their allies are and those she can manage herself.

Bellydancer said...

Since we have been examining the role of being feminine and leaving the strong woman archetype behind I thought this may be of interest.

A new book has just been released called Fierce Angels:
The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture by Sheri Parks

Product Description by Amazon.com

An important work on an essential subject, Fierce Angels explores and explodes the idea of the “strong black woman” as never before. Authoritative yet deeply personal and daringly confessional, Sheri Parks’s bold new study of the black female’s role as communal savior and martyr will challenge and change anyone who reads it.

Fierce Angels exposes the overwhelming emotional costs—as well as the benefits—attached to this role. Parks, an esteemed scholar and popular media personality, provides exclusive interviews and astute analysis, as well as accounts of her own searing and inspiring experiences, to highlight the myths and the realities of black women’s lives.
Beginning with the oldest ongoing archetype, the Dark Feminine, Parks reveals the layered significance of the fertility of darkness—the abyss out of which the world was spoken into existence, the primordial creator in ancient Greek, Sumerian, and West African cultures, and the essence of Mother Earth herself. As these myths matured, they played critical parts in the assignment of maternal roles to women of African descent, the Dark Feminine acquiring a particularly acrid scent once she crossed the Atlantic Ocean in shackles, bound for a life of slavery.

Parks traces the development of the “strong black woman” throughout her life on Southern plantations and New York streets and in countless kitchens in between. From the Black Madonna celebrated by Italian Americans to the nurturing and selfless “Mammy” forced to nurse her master’s child before her own, these abiding symbols of fortitude and dependability only solidified the mold into which the powerful dark woman was cast and paved a path that her descendants would have no choice but to follow.

Bringing it all home, Parks recalls the personal costs she’s paid for her own identity and fascinatingly captures those moments when she is expected to be all and know all, whether for her students at work or for strangers in the produce aisle in the supermarket. She investigates the support systems holding these stereotypes in place—latched onto by those both within and outside the traditional black community—and challenges readers, mothers, and daughters alike to examine how damaging and rewarding the assignment of this role can be and to take control of it within their lives.

MissASP said...

Please visit this link about femininity:

http://sojournerspassport.com/the-art-of-being-feminine/comment-page-1/#comment-804

ak said...

Halima:

To detour a bit, you see, in addition to other issues we as black women have, I believe one of our greatest downfalls comes from a need to cling to self-righteousness, piousness and ‘moral rectitude’ as a way of being.

Indeed Halima. Black people on a whole not just the women feel the need to say self-righteuous pompous things ONLY when homosexuality/transgender/bisexuality is being brought up even if the black person saying the thing has kids by all and sundry. And then they want to hide behind the Bible and that's NOT what the Bible is there for especially if you're a hypocrite.

They seem to forget that if they were pregnant illegitimately or where a man who got 'girls in trouble' just like that back in Jesus's time THEY. WOULD. BE. STONED! And not in the 'pot' way! They would have to hope and pray that Jesus would be just around the corner somewhere! LOL LOL

The Bible speaks way more about the immorality of HETEROSEXUAL relationships because of marriage and family than it does about homosexuality. Everybody in the Bible was married, on their way to being married, or widowed and children were always born after marriage and this has alluded some very loud-mouthed black people.

All of that routine 'begat'-ing part of the Bible does not recognise any illegitimate births I'm sure. The only recognised one I can think of was Ishmael, from Abraham's wife's servant, who did not receive the blessing, and Jesus who was a 'close call'.

Bellydancer said...

To add to what AK said: Most bible thumping folks also forget that if you were a handmaiden or enslaved or bonded woman back then you still had more protection than these black women do today with their children. You were bonded to that house and man so he had to protect you, people gave you the side eye back then if you did not handle your business or keep your house in order.
Some bw today get all huffy when I mention to them that I have no children because I have no husband like oh you are selfish for not having children at least. Then turn around and ask me what church I go to then get indignant when I tell them I don't attend church. It's like in the bc you have to have these things to matter.
Some white women have gotten out of pocket too before once I asked a lady if she had children since she was always buying children's clothes, she snapped at me "I'm not married" So when she asked me how many kids I had I said none she asked why and I snapped back "I'm not married" that ended that conversation.
It's gotten so crazy that one women mentioned on a blog that she often calls her husband her partner so other women won't get upset cuz she has one and they don't.

ak said...

Bellydancer:

Some bw today get all huffy when I mention to them that I have no children because I have no husband like oh you are selfish for not having children at least.

WTH?? See that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about right there. You are being SELFISH if you don't at LEAST have ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN all around the place??!!

When black people go to church do they only go because the singing is so good and it's free singing that they're hearing that they don't have to pay for? Do they read the Bible for real? Or do they only skim over the parts of it that they KNOW they haven't followed such as children AFTER marriage only? And do they just fixate on the Sodom and Gomorrah part because they feel better reading that just because they KNOW that they're straight?

Wow big moral testing there! LOL You KNOW you're straight so you're morally all set in life?

ak said...

Bellydancer:

Some white women have gotten out of pocket too before once I asked a lady if she had children since she was always buying children's clothes, she snapped at me "I'm not married" So when she asked me how many kids I had I said none she asked why and I snapped back "I'm not married" that ended that conversation.


LOL LOL THAT was funny! Not perplexing this time either, just funny! NO one likes a stereotype, NO ONE.

You see how the ww thinks though.... 'Kids?...when I'm not married at all or never have been??' Yeah, yeah I know not all do.

But you see that thought process should be a given. It's sad that some black people, not all, are more like 'I dated him/her for a lil bit'.

Bellydancer said...

AK: Thats why I laugh at some of these bm videos that all of a sudden are popping up on youtube with the supposed solution to bw's woes POLYGAMY! I am like wtf bm don't want to pay rent at one house let alone bills at 2 houses. No thank you bm I will be dating out there will be no man sharing for me (lol) and bw actually falling for this madness need to quit it especially when the women all have jobs but the bm has some excuse as to why he can't work girl please!

ARLYNE said...

"We've also identified that intentionally or otherwise others have an interest in Black women displaying non-feminine characteristics. And unfortunately many Black women live up to the stereotype."

First I would like to say "Hello". I am soooo happy to find like-minded Black women. I go from crying happily to applauding your articulate thoughts on the subject of Black Women moving on.

I may be naive, but how is and who is benefiting from the "strong Black women image? I do think the Black man needs it to justify his preference for White over Black. Also, to rationalize his inadequacies as a man.

But who else could benefit from this horrible image?

Anonymous said...

A long time ago, it used to be whites and non-whites NOW I believe its blacks and non-blacks..black women are looking foolish in front of ALL ETHINCITIES! Being LOUD, AND UNLADYLIKE...Even though white girls are doing this too, they are percieved being feminine until proved otherwise, because their community shows them that way; although that seems to be changing- the key is that TEENAGE BOYS NEED TO BE RAISED AROUND RESPONSIBLE MEN

Anonymous said...

Ugh. You do not know how refreshing it is to hear other black women say this. Sometimes I feel like I'm on an island by myself. Currently I do not have any black friends in my life and it's because of these issues stated here.

Some of my black friends that I did have in the past and unfortunately lost contact with, all felt the same way as me.

Both of my parents were black and they raised me to not speak in "ghetto-speak" or to be loud and ghetto in public. My dad had a loud voice, simply because he had a voice that carried (you couldn't tell he was black on the phone) and my mom would always tell him, "D__ you are too loud!" My dad, "Huh? Oh, oh sorry." (continues rambling) Lol

Plus my mother was a very feminine women and was submissive - didn't mean she couldn't get her way, she just didn't use all the theatrics.

So yeah, that's environment I grew up with. Because of that I have been called an oreo, not black enough, acting and talking white. You know, the usual.

I used to get picked on and had black females trying to fight me back in middle school. In high school, they left me alone because I had "adopted" black slang and the black way, so I could fit in and prove my blackness. Though it never came across 100% and I truly never believed it. Yes I know it's lame, but I was young.

Thankfully I shook that image off when I was around 18 and out the house. I left the hood in the hood.

I simply cannot be around black men or women who behave this way. It's embarrassing. I sit and stare, and I think to myself, "Why?" And then remove myself from the environment.

White friends have asked me, why are some black people so loud and obnoxious. It's embarrassing to have white people asked that, but at the same time I feel that it is a perfect time to shine so they understand that not all blacks fit the stereotypes. And they realize this, many people do.

I tell people that the reason why some blacks carry on like this is because they are showing out and they think the behavior is cute. Much like how teenagers will act silly (not ghetto) in public. I would also mention that it stems for low self-esteem.

But this article opened my eyes to the deeper issues that cause young black women to behave this way and I find it very sad. Yet I agree with the author that they only thing you can do is to remove yourself from people like this, they will bring you down.