by Andreece Williams
How does one characterize a woman? Most would say she is a selfless caregiver, a nurturing mother, a band-aid wielding wound healer or an attentive wife. In modern society, she can be a navy-suited businesswoman, a case winning defense attorney or a skilled brain surgeon, if she so chooses. She is a success driven Glass Ceiling breaker working to make her indelible, feminine mark on a world doused in testosterone.
But, what if she is of African-American descent? Well, you can throw those descriptions out of the window!
If she’s Black, she is a Trident smacking, neck swiveling, eye-rolling diva on welfare with multiple “Baby Daddys” and an out-of-this world ability to pop that bountiful, glorious backside to the thunderous bass of any Hip Hop song blaring from a speaker. She is an aggressor: the sassy, token Black companion whipping her flowing weave into a ponytail as she asks her homegirl to “hold her earrings” while marching into battle. She is a modern day Bo Jangles: overly sexualized and here to “twerk”, shuck and jive solely for your viewing pleasure.
In fashion and media industries, Black women are often portrayed as stereotypical caricatures of themselves more than human beings. Take Rick Owens’ Spring 2014 runway show at Paris Fashion Week, for instance. In a failed attempt at showcasing diversity on the runway, he chose a Black female step team to “model” his line. Stomping down the runway in tough leather clothing accessorized with wild eyes, glinting snarls and fury etched onto their faces, they were in no way there to exude beauty or grace: they were used to propagate the cliché of the “Angry Black Woman”. If Black women aren’t already primalized by having to wear the animal printed clothing in a designer’s collection (if they’re chosen to walk a show at all), they’re tastelessly being instructed to look like furious animals. Typical.
In media, it’s hardly any better. If a Black woman isn’t shown scantily clad while gathering dollar bills into her g-string or gyrating in a Miley Cyrus music video, she’s serving as the mammy-like punch line in Tyler Perry’s “Madea” film series or the ghetto girl with a raging attitude problem in Toddrick Hall’s “Mean Girls” parody on Youtube. Sure, you have shows like ABC’s Scandal that give an African-American woman somewhat of a successful leading role. But those are so far and few between, they scarcely exist at all.
The negative portrayal of Black women in media is hemorrhaging into how we are treated in our every day lives: we are expected to be Gospel singers, rhythmically gifted dancers with moves that would make even the most skilled stripper envious, incompetent minimum wage earners and anatomically blessed with dangerous curves, among other things.
But my challenge to you is this: begin to look at us as the individuals we are so desperately striving to be, not as the stereotyped whole we are constantly fighting against. We, too, are doctors, lawyers, businesswomen and educators.
We are revolutionaries, political activists and philosophers. We are more than our bodies and our sexuality: We are real people, and if you allow yourselves to look beyond the false pretenses perpetually thrust at you in the media, you will see just how much we are truly capable of.
We are Black; we are women; and we are ready for change.