Aiming to live beyond a stereotype

The clash between media and black women

It is no secret that African-American women get stereotyped on a daily basis. In all aspects, black women are seen as “too much”. We are too loud, too opinionated, our bodies are too developed, our lips are too big, and of course our hair is too kinky. In the media, black women are depicted as the baby mama, the drink thrower, and the bodacious, overly-sexual friend. If we think about all of the videos on the internet of black women that have gone viral, what comes to mind? Black women sliding down poles in music videos? The loud women yelling about not being able to go to her favorite night club, Bella Noche? The woman who said “Ain’t nobody got time for that” on the news? What about the two black women who were fighting in Wal-Mart?

These are all of the images that popped into my head within about 25 seconds. Why? Because I haven’t seen too many positive videos of black women going viral. I only see people sharing and retweeting videos of African-American women that are “comical”. We are not a joke. We are just sadly misrepresented. The media should depict us less as black women with issues and more as women who are African-American and need to get a message across.

Very rarely are black women portrayed as being the victims of stalking, kidnapping, or rape. This might seem like a good thing, but it can also be seen as a way of subtly saying that black women are simply undesirable. In reality, women of color make up a large number of sexual assault victims. According to RAINN.org, 18.8% of African-American women are victims. That number is only the percentage of those who have reported their attacks.

Some exceptions to the stereotypes in media of black women being ghetto or uneducated is ABC’s Scandal and BET’s being Mary Jane. Both shows feature strong black women who, no matter what, get the job done. They’re both well respected women who have broken the glass ceiling, but they are very different from each other. These women are like superwomen in the African-American community. Olivia Pope from Scandal is a personal inspiration to me. My biggest complaint is that they are both made out to be that desperate, single black female who, after some series of events, finds herself to be a side chick by choice.

I have an issue with it being impossible for a black woman to be strong without a man being her kryptonite. Also, every time these two women even shows a pinch emotion, they fight the tears and keep going. Why do black women have to be mad and tough all of the time? Why can’t we be shown as strong-willed women who simultaneously reserve the right to be feminine? Unfortunately, these images of what black women feel and do behind closed doors only furthers the ideas and stereotypes that social media makes fun of. Yes, black women are complex. We have seen and experienced things that other people may not understand.

Another way that the media, especially social media, negatively portrays black women is by down-talking many of the styles and characteristics of black women. For being who we are, we get called “ghetto” and “ratchet”. But when other races do it, it is fashionable, trendsetting and exotic. I worry about social media and the way that it makes being darker skinned seem like a curse, but praises other women who tan their bodies in the winter time. This is strictly my opinion, but the best example of this problem is the way that big lips have always been made fun of and called ugly on black people. In recent years, the Kardashians have publicly admitted to getting their lips, amongst other things, enhanced with injections and they still have faithfully been many Instagram users’ “Woman Crush Wednesday” every week.

There is a problem when one culture gets judged for what they are naturally born with, but other cultures can make it seem desirable. Black women are constantly compared to other women who we should be “more like” which is why, as I mentioned in a previous article, learning to love ourselves in spite of outside pressure is important to talk about.

The final example I want to give is from the Empire star Taraji P. Henson’s Golden Globe acceptance speech. She subtly implied that she was shocked that she won an award for her role in Empire instead of her many other roles. She listed her more professional roles that she has played in the past, but instead, she received an award for playing an ex-convict named “Cookie”. Without stating the obvious, she was honored for a role that people saw as fitting or comical for a black women. Can you see the issue here yet? As an actress, she didn’t win a big award until she played a degrading character that society deemed acceptable.

The media plays a big role in the way that African-Americans are portrayed and treated in society. Not only in film, but also social media. It is time the black women get recognized for what we are. We are strong, tenacious, complex and beautifully fierce. If you didn’t know, this is only the beginning of a revolution. Black girls rock!

Photo: (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  Disney | ABC Television Group 

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