What you’re really saying when you call black women undesirable: Part two

Here we go again I guess…

Intro

I debated for a while about whether to write a second part of my first story. A part of me felt as though it wasn’t necessary to expand upon what I had said in my previous article. But when the comments started pouring in and I watched my piece be highlighted to oblivion I saw that it resonated with people. More specifically black women. Being able to articulate the misogynoir behind the black women’s placement on the desirability totem pole I think granted a semblance of comfort and validation that a lot of black women had been longing for. Knowing that my writing is helping to validate others and help people come to understand the world around them is amazing. In fact, it’s the reason I write in the first place. So when I came across a Tik Tok of a young black girl responding quite humorously to what sounded like a black man refusing to date black girls because “they’re the most ratchet” I decided that there was more to be said. So I’m back with a second piece breaking down the anti blackness and misogynoir behind some of the most common reasons why black women are deemed off limits. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

There is nothing more annoying than a black man who has sworn off black women but can never seem to stop going on about them. Seriously. Whether it’s an innocent black woman scrolling through her feed or walking through the halls or the street, it seems like these men will do anything to make sure that the whole world knows how repulsed they are by black women and why. But the best part is the plethora of men who will make sure they never stop. Who’ll keep asking them something along the lines of “what is one race of women you will never date” knowing that the person whose about to answer will spend the next one (or more) minutes rolling in misogynoir. But they ask anyway because most of these people aren’t just misogynoiristic but they’re also clout chasers. They can’t use they’re platform to educate or entertain, no. That wouldn’t get them the clicks, retweets, likes, and clout they are so desperately looking for. So they spend their time perusing the streets asking them the same questions and get the same answer typically goes a little something like this…

“Black women”

“Why”

“Because-”

Hair

“If a black girl’s gonna wear a weave to look like a white girl, I might as well go and get the real thing.”

This is by far the dumbest, most ignorant reason to disqualify an entire race of women from the dating pool. But it still is rather unsurprising. Black women’s hair has been used to justify numerous acts of discrimination and has been subject to social, political, and economic policing since the beginning of time. During slavery, slaves who survived the middle passage and reached the lands of their owners had their hair, a source of pride and identity in many African tribes, cut off in order to erase their knowledge about who they were and where they came from. But from these shaven heads, new tresses grew in a new world order that spent most of its time believing they were ugly and the rest convincing those born with these tresses the same.

In time, that is what black people began to believe. Slaves who worked under the hot sun in the fields resorted to covering their hair with head rags, while those who worked in the house manipulated their hair to emulate the look of their masters. To prevent the upset of the status quo, Louisiana forced black women to cover their locks with head coverings through a series of legislation known as the Tignon Laws. These laws reminded the white men and women who were entranced by the intricate and beautiful hairstyles of those blessed with melanin that regardless of how beautiful they present themselves, they were still members of the slave class. Later on the 1900s saw the rejection, reclamation, and another rejection of natural hair. Hot combs were traded in for wide tooth combs, and wide tooth combs were traded in for creamy crack. But regardless of how black women wore their hair, it was always controversial. We have had job offers rescinded for wearing locs, we have been sent home from school for wearing braids, we have been declared unprofessional for wearing our natural hair, and deemed unworthy partners for wearing weaves.

But the most infuriating part about comments like this is how they reduce black women’s hair, one of the most meaningful part of our bodies, to an object simply created for the male gaze. Men like this never really take the time to consider the fact that black women are more than just bodies that exist to please male onlookers. They ignore that we are whole human beings who are trying to navigate the waters of a white supremacist society the best way we know how. The fact of the matter is that we wear weaves for a variety of reasons. We wear it for work. We wear it for protective styling. We wear it for convenience. We wear it to switch things up a bit. And yes, we also wear it because we’re still working through the self hate society has taught us. But regardless, you can bet that we aren’t wearing it for you.

I’d like to believe that most black women who meet men like these have the experience and super-vision to see right through them. Just like there are men who deny black women for wearing weaves, there will be black men who deny black women even if they’re wearing their natural hair. Or braids. Or cornrows. Then these men will turn around and praise the Kardashians for wearing the same styles they deem unattractive on black women or forget that everyone, regardless of race, wears weaves. From Lady Gaga, to Kylie Jenner, all the way down to black men themselves, black women aren’t the only ones who’ve fallen in love with sporting hair extensions and wigs 24/7. But black women are the ones who get the most flack for our hair, no matter how we wear it. I wonder why that is?

Stereotypes

Black women are constantly told that maybe if we fixed our attitudes, that if we weren’t always so hostile, aggressive, angry, combative, masculine, and upset, we’d have better luck finding a man. From one black woman to another I truly mean this when I say that there are no words to describe how racist, sexist, and exhausting this stereotype is. Truly. I slouch when I hear it. As I watch black men dismiss black women and reduce us to nothing but a caricature, I watch them endorse a racist, sexist stereotype that has been used to delegitimize and dehumanize black women for decades. Born from the radio and TV show Amos ’n’ Andy the angry black woman stereotype has not just been used to justify the dating preferences of black men for decades, but it has been used to place the blame of the destruction of the black community on the shoulders of black women.

The angry black woman is closely associated with the hard headed, aggressive, masculine matriarch who all too readily embraced the role of community leader and breadwinner and in doing so, emasculated the men in her community who abandoned her as a result. The tale of the angry black woman and the black matriarch is often told by many black men to position the blame of the failures of the black community on us. This is all done despite the fact that black women are the ones who literally keep the black community running. This stereotype not only says that black women are deficient romantic partners, but it also says that we are bad mothers, bad leaders, and bad providers. But at the same time, I’m knowledgeable enough to know that ignoring the long history of the racist social and economic policies that have run a scythe through our community allows us to place the blame of the condition of the black community on black female leadership and independence.

And that is why it’s sexist, whether you want to admit it or not. Women have long been dismissed as incapable leaders due to being hyper emotional for a very long time. Our portrayals of being inherently deceitful, manipulative, and incompetent has been used to villainize female independence and justify male dominance and patriarchy. In a world where black women are criticized for exercising bodily autonomy and agency, it’s no surprise that we are deemed incapable leaders because we are angry. Because of this we can’t be trusted to defend ourselves and our communities.

Unfortunately the angry black woman stereotype doesn’t just serve to delegitimize our leadership but it also serves to delegitimize our voices as black people and as women. According to the stereotype the angry black woman is angry because that’s simply how she chooses to exist. There is no rationale or logic behind her explosive outbursts which she resorts to impulsively for no reason at all. In fact her irrational anger defines her existence. So when a black woman is perceived as angry, anger is all she becomes. Her words are assumed to come from an illogical place and her rage, no matter how justified it is, is dismissed immediately afterwards. By removing our humanity from the equation and reducing it to one emotion, our mouths are covered with a muzzle and our words are forced through a filter.

Black women are then pressured to walk a tightrope, worried about how our passion, assertiveness, and confidence can be received as angry and when that happens, game over. Good luck getting anyone to take you seriously again. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that 80% of black women downplay certain aspects of their personality in the workplace in order to avoid being labeled as an angry black woman. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that black women are attuned to how the stereotype is used to control black female expression in a world that is desperate to erase us and ignore us. Weaponizing our anger, the same emotion that drives us to continue to destabilizing and disrupting white supremacist patriarchy, is one of the easiest way to do this.

Despite the fact that there is more empirical data that shows that black women are less likely to express their anger explosively and are more likely to suppress it, the angry black woman continues to persist, remaining as one of the main reasons when we are deemed undesirable romantic partners. But this stereotype also threatens our very livelihoods. A study linking the stereotype to intimate partner violence found that not only do black men overwhelmingly endorse this trope, but use it to justify domestic violence against black women, especially if there was reason to believe she provoked her abuser. In turn, black women are seen as less needy and are less targeted for intervention, making us more vulnerable for continued domestic assault. Professor and researcher Tricia B. Bent-Goodley accused domestic violence shelters of denying housing to black women because they didn’t think they sounded fearful enough or sounded too strong. The suppression of our anger doesn’t help us out either and puts us at risk for lower self esteem and depression. But who cares that the same stereotype that you use to justify your dating preferences is one that is historically racist and has been used to control, dehumanize, and deny black women access to life saving resources right? As long as you get a date, everything’s cool.

“But, it’s true! I have personally come across many bitter, angry black women who fit this stereotype perfectly. It’s not my fault that I’m just calling it out as it is.”

Really? So are the conservatives who call all black men drug dealers because they witnessed an exchange the other day calling it out as it is? Is someone who calls black men inherently bad fathers and partners because they’ve seen black men with five baby mama’s and eight kids they never see calling it out as it is? Is someone who says that if black men pulled up their pants, got an education, and stopped being gang bangers they wouldn’t have to worry about getting shot by police or treated unfairly calling it out as it is? Is someone who perpetuates harmful stereotypes that seek to generalize all black men as dangers to society simply based on experience or what they’ve seen calling it out as it is?

I’ll wait.

Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of Negative Nancies sprinkled out amongst the millions of black women who live in this country, but utilizing racist stereotypes that are used to generalize black women as angry and demonize us as a result is not the way to address it. No matter how well you think a black woman fits into the characterization of a stereotype by reducing her to just that you cease any conversations that could be had about her emotional state and any attempt to understand why she is the way she is. You dismiss her anger as illogical, irrational, and inexplicable and all the while you continue to uphold a system that strips black women of our voices and deems us unworthy of our humanity. For all you know, the black woman who you caught in a mood could’ve had a bad day, a rough upbringing, or recently lost a loved one. But that’s something you never stopped to consider because to you there is no reason to consider it, since all she is is an angry black woman. Period. Full stop.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how closely a black woman resembles a stereotype because that’s not what she is. She’s a human being with complex emotions and thought processes and that is something that the angry black woman stereotype refuses to recognize. Just because the stereotype is something you feel a black woman embodies doesn’t erase it’s racist history and it’s harmful impact on our lives. If you answered no to any of the questions I posed in the last paragraph you already know this.

“Black women are too masculine.”

The masculinization of black women dates back to the auction block where black women were equated to black men and were forced to perform the same manual labor. The concepts of femininity created by white people depicted feminine women as docile, subservient, nurturing, weak, and innocent; everything that a black female slave who worked from sunup to sundown and who was seen as subhuman couldn’t embody. For almost two hundred years, white slave owners profited off of the lack of distinction made between black femininity and masculinity. It allowed them to expect equal work output between both men and women. It allowed them to punish us, beat us, rape us, and rob us of our children and deny us of the dignity and protections afforded to white women. Slave turned women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth said it best in her speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ when she stated quote:

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Slavery not only did well to rob black women of our womanhood but it also did well to create a world that used our ‘lack of femininity’ to justify violence and mistreatment towards us. In a UCLA study that scrutinized the white female beauty standards that black women are so often compared to, it was found that the participants perceived black women to be more masculine than white women and thus less attractive. The perceived lack of femininity of black women among study participants was correlated with a lack of outrage to the hypothetical date rape of a black woman. In fact, the rape was seen to be more acceptable. Black women’s masculinization explains why sexual abusers who prey on black women are also less likely to be convicted.

Regardless of the dehumanization black women face as a result of this, the black community continues to apply masculine adjectives like strong, tough, invulnerable and unbreakable to black women. We continue to be masculinized by the same community that deems our strength as undesirable. Maybe because we know that the black community has been able to survive so much because of black women’s ‘strength.’ But still, it’s funny how as the white community can no longer use the masculinization of black women to the benefit of their community, the black community has seen that it can.

Even though studies show that black women see themselves as more feminine and thought it was more important to invest in femininity (like clothing and home decor) than white women, black women continue to be seen as the difficult, aggressive, confrontational opposite to the easy, submissive, and subservient white woman. It’s so bad to a point where even black feminine women like Michelle Obama was once rumored to be a man. The perpetuation of the idea that black women are inherently more masculine and eagerly reject their femininity even though the data- and history- says otherwise, continues to endorse a culture that uses this stereotype to justify our dehumanization.

“Black women are bitter”

Ah, the bitter black woman. Another product of the Sapphire caricature. Well, if you haven’t figured this out by now, just because a stereotype may ‘prove’ true doesn’t lessen it’s racist impact or erase it’s racist history.

“Black women’s standards are too low/too high”

Strange how black women are accused of being elitist gold diggers when we want a man with a high economic status but are accused of having a bad taste in men when we mess the bad boys of the world.

“I don’t want to be associated with struggle. ”

We live in a world where being associated with whiteness or being in close proximity to whiteness grants you more social, political, and economic access not afforded to those who are farther from it. Not only does this reinforce the idea that whiteness is superior but it also says that blackness and economic, social, and political success can’t coexist. By holding these kinds of beliefs you continue to empower white supremacy, but something tells me that’s not something you’re really concerned about.

“I haven’t had good experiences with black women”

Fair. But that isn’t a good reason to perpetuate the misogynoir I’ve spent this entire article dissecting.

Like my part one of this series, this piece isn’t about encouraging black men or anyone else for that matter to date black women, nor is it an exhaustive list. In fact, I believe that anyone who cites these reasons to explain why they believe black women are undesirable should stay as far away from black women as possible. My objective is to highlight how many of the reasons that black women are deemed undesirable are rooted in long histories of racism, anti blackness, and misogyny and continue to harm the lives and livelihoods of black women. But I highly doubt the black men- and admittedly women- know this.

The conversation of desirability politics in the black community is always reduced to black women’s deficiencies. There’s always something wrong with us, always something we can ‘improve’ on. These people will go on and on about why black women just aren’t worthy partners reassuring us they come in peace. That they simply come to bestow the truth. But no matter how benevolent it’s presented, misogynoir is always harmful. When the truth is wrapped in the package of misogynoir, black women realize that these people aren’t here to coach us into a romantic relationship, but to continue making black women the problem.

This article is already too long at this point, but I want to leave black women with a note: Just because you’re not perfect doesn’t give someone else the right to reduce you to a stereotype. Just because you’re not perfect doesn’t give the world a reason to uphold structures and endorse ideologies that hurt you or actively work to kill you. You deserve a partner who will cherish you because of your black womanhood not in spite of it. So go to that therapy session. Get that degree. Pursue that dream. Start that business. Constantly strive to be your best self, not just for your future partner, but for you.

References

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“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” I come with truth because I care more about the world than I should.

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