Hard Black Women

“Why are Black women so damn hard? I don’t have time for their crap!”

Warning I’m venting…

I feel that most Black American women have had the wonderful pleasure of dealing with two layers of oppression: racism and sexism for the majority of their lives.   That can make anyone “hard”, tough,  especially if you feel you constantly have to “fight” just to come close to being on a level playing field. It sucks to have to go out into the world, face one or both “isms” in your professional time, then go out and face the same isms  in your personal time. This has been the plight of most Black American women in just about every era of this country’s history.

Does this mean Black women have an excuse to be negative? Absolutely not.
Does it explain why our collective psyche varies from Black women from other nations? Somewhat.

If we dress sexy, we are upholding the Black woman as sexual stereotype passed down from the slave masters, who used us as sex toys, when we had so much choice in the matter and then label us as promiscuous and whores for our troubles. .If we dress more conservatively, we’re accused of dressing like old ladies or a *gasp!* church girls, as though that is a bad thing.

If we are up on the latest street fashions, know the difference between Lil Wayne and T-Pain on sight and can neck roll with the best of them, we’re low-class and/or ghetto. Yet if we speak proper English, have clue as to how to set a proper dinner table and actually know the lyrics to songs played on non-“urban” radio stations, then we’re “Bourgie” (slang for bourgeois) or “Oreos”.

Who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be has all been influenced by our collective experiences. We cannot change that. Individually, we try to take different approaches, but collectively, our struggle is unique. We have had to (and continue to struggle with), defining what femininity and womanhood means to us; especially in relation to our men. Being a Black Woman in America often means defining our womanhood through our relationship to men in general, but Black men in particular.  In addition, all too often, the onus of responsibility falls on the Black woman and the finger pointing turns to us. We don’t raise our males correctly. We are not walking away from the abuse. We keep accepting the bullshit and so on and so on…

I don’t think I’m harder on men, specifically Black men. If anything, at times I think I’m not hard enough on some as I accept so much bullshit in various forms of oppression from “brothers” without consequence or recourse, that it all but destroys my spirit, all for the sake of being “loyal”.  This loyalty, innately expected of us as Black women, regrettably is one that is not often reciprocated in kind. This seems to be even more heart-breakingly true of my generation and the generations coming up. THAT, if anything, is what wears us down… makes us angrier than others, sadder than others, more depressed than others, etc.

Yet THE MOMENT we stand up for ourselves — we are hard, we are cold, we are “the bitch”; the ball breakers; the misandrists.

Females are taught from an early age to grow up and get married. Being in a relationship (preferably married), means at least one someone wants you (what’s love got to do with it? -as Tina would sing).  Therefore being single is to be deemed undesirable by anyone.  And the longer the woman is single, obviously, the more undesirable she must be – right?  Now add in being fat and oh yeah – Black.

Another problem… Black women rarely speak to anyone other than other Black women about this. Women who are more than likely also swimming in the same muddied waters.  The advice from many of our matriarchs whether by words or by actions, was to just deal with it. “A single man is over forty a confirmed bachelor. A single woman over forty is a shame.” Yeah, more lovely pearls of bullshit dropped into my once young ears.

Instead of coming to the defense of our fellow sisters of color, who speak out, many of us that raise our voices, often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place alone. Because there is some invisible code of honor not to OUT our current public status of being too much to deal with. We are “airing dirty laundry”. How the fuck is it ever supposed to get clean then, if we can’t even acknowledge the fact the track marks exist?

As women in general, we’re raised to believe, it is expected of us to be so loyal with our men. We accept it. We suffer in silence for want/need of a man. We wear a smile and act like it is okay. We hold a great deal of our hurts and thoughts inside. We hold it in for as long as we can, and then lash out. If the relationship doesn’t survive, we’re now once bitten-thrice shy with the next soul, who inadvertently may suffer the penance of another man’s sins.   It’s generally unspoken, but that expectation of loyalty is even higher with Black woman in a relationship with a Black man.

Still, because he is a Black man, and I am a Black woman, I am supposed to be instantly all ready to drop my drawers (and you can’t begin imagine how much I abhor that word as synonym for underwear), simply because he decided my name is “Baby gurl/Mami/Boo” and wants to talk to me. If he wants a moment to see if I’m worthy of his body, why am I not afforded the same courtesy? If I give in too early, I am an easy lay/skank/freak and men don’t buy the cow if they can get he milk for free. If I make you notice my worth by waiting, I’m “playing” hard-to-get, or I’m gold digging and why should you work for it when there’s always someone more willing around the corner.  I’m punished whether I’m Madonna or Mary Magdalene.

Many women of color state having difficulty-finding mates of any color due to issues many in general state about American women of color. Some men take the rejections or run-ins with some Black women that they experienced (and I won’t lie – the are some negative ones out there), and then use it to color how they view all Black women. The men who complain the most about Black women being low class/ghetto – gold-digging/bourgeois (note the contrasts), are also quick to write off  my entire racial gender with impunity and never look beyond their own negative stereotyping. They are so content to push all women of color into one, maybe two, shallow categories and never see the reality: that we are so much more.

Yet these same men would never think of writing off another entire racial/ethnic gender as a whole due to a few negative experiences. For these men, other women are given the chance to have their actions and how they present themselves judged on an individual basis … but most Black women, it seems, are not afforded this courtesy. And it is a damned shame.

The beauty we admire on most classic statues is due to someone taking the time to painstakingly whittle/smooth away what’s seen on the surface and expose the warm exquisiteness within.

Do most Black Women have thick skin? We have to, to protect our hearts, minds, souls, selves.  But we are so worth the time and effort to the one who sticks with us long enough to get to our cores and find out.

11 thoughts on “Hard Black Women

  1. Rai – once again you have proven what an intelligent, thoughtful and thought provoking person that you are. This is an excellent topic to share with many so that others can think about it and possibly change their minds into a better response next time they encounter “a hard, black woman”.

    Keep on doing what you do so well. Thinking, writing and sharing. Much love to you my friend!

  2. Beautifully written – especially the last line (which is more true than so many will ever have the pleasure of knowing).

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have real-world education on the subjects you touched on (because what you wrote was just the surface – this is a topic that could have been expanded a thousand fold to encapsulate all the variations on such stigma that black women – fat and thin – have been labelled with for far, FAR too long) thanks to some amazing people in my life, in particular my S/O who is both black and plus-sized. I’ve always loved the contrast we have (me being skinny and blindingly white), but it was very little time before I was privy to the racism still so prevalent in so much of America – even just the looks a couple of such contrast receives are quite shocking to someone who’s never been put in that situation. Now to imagine women across the nation having to deal with that every day from so many little, beligerent, uneducated sources… it’s disheartening to think that this is STILL where we are as a social experiment – still hung up on labels and preconceptions that will just never frakking die.

    Excellent post, Rai. Very well said.

    • Andrew the above post was only the FIRST TWO pages of the stream that came out of me today. I just need to take all those furious thoughts organize them, perhaps find some stats and get it all out. As you rightly noted, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I plan to expound more on various subjects over the next few weeks. Trust me, I have a hell of a lot more to say.

  3. I love this. Thank you for speaking out and for airing the laundry maybe one day sooner rather than later our laundry will gleam bright with respect, understanding and love for all.

    As is the norm you are great.

  4. Really enjoyed this post. I’ve been contemplating similar thoughts and feelings. My context as a black woman in Africa is certainly different from yours but I find, more and more, that my experiences as a black woman of the world are distressingly similar. I really liked what you said about the fact that we confide in fellow black women and that perhaps our perspectives are not as clear as they could be because of that but recently I’ve found myself mired in an enormous amount of bitterness and anger that is taking an incredible spiritual resilience just to shrug off – to move past – and what makes it harder is that there are times I don’t think the issues should be moved past or ignored, that they deserve to be spoken about, brought to light, dealt with. The problem is that I always think that nobody else but other black women, where-ever in the world, will care and I’m f*cking tired. Nway, rant over. Really enjoyed this!

    • Monde!

      I would love to engage in an open DISCUSSION (not man bash) with my global sistas and see where the similarities/differences of our experiences lie in such matters. I suspect the paths may differ slightly, but in the overall journey, I’m sure we have more in common than not.

      Thanks for posting.

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