On Black Men Telling Our Stories?

One of the reasons why I have devoted nearly a year and half to working on a project on Black women’s sexuality is because I am sick and tired of Black men speaking for us. Telling our stories.

Stories help us to understand who we are. Stories are how we make sense of the world. This is why children love them so much. Stories are magic.

How are you going to understand who you are when someone is always telling your story?

In terms of Black women’s bodies, I have found that between being perceived as being 50 million ho’s in rap videos to having our bodies hyper surveilled by our families, there is no place for us to just be, in our bodies.

The way I see it, the ability to speak for my self, for ourselves is tied to our ability to act, to be human.

Think about it. When was the last time you were at work or at home or with your family and someone started speaking for you, putting words in your mouth.

I can’t stand when someone puts words in my mouth. I can speak for myself.

Last week, I had a heated discussion with Goldy about my blog. I had just learned that a new book  is about to come out about Black women and dating titled “Is Marriage for White People?”  I was pissed because I thought, here we ago, another person, who is not a Black woman, talking about Black women’s narratives. I thought to myself Act Like a Lady and now this?!#@#@!I#P@#%!

With regard to my blog, Goldy couldn’t understand why I did it. Wait scratch that, she asked me whether I thought about the tension between writing publicly about sensitive topics, some of which are personal, and the risks associated with it, ie your google footprint.

I can see why she would be concerned, as I write about my life, so that means I will ostensibly be writing about her as well.

I went on to tell her that I am tired of Black men telling our stories. She then looked at me and said “That story that he is telling is not Black women’s story. In fact, there ARE many women in DC who believe the narrative and the advice in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” I said “Well, my blog is a counter narrative. #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture. I write my blog to show that there is a different experience. That Act Like a Lady narrative attempts to erase me and my homies. We don’t want for dates. We are Black feminists. We want to be treated like human beings. Thats the issue. We get all the dates we need.”

She then went on to say that “While that may be true, the Steve Harvey book IS speaking to a group of Black women, they believe it, that is their story but that is NOT Black women’s story. Renina, you are saying that Black men are telling our stories, they are telling one story about a group of women who believe it.”

Then a light bulb went off. I realized she was right. My adviser stays on me about using precise language when I am writing. And I mentioned that.

I then went on to say that “Okay, you are right. Black men are telling a particular story about Black women. However, when we look at mainstream representations of Black women, the image of the single, affluent/middle class, college educated, lonely, heterosexual Black women is pervasive. Wasn’t there an entire special on TV last year about this demographic? In some ways this woman is the new “Welfare Queen.” Black women have gotten off public assistance, according to mainstream representations, but we are still  dysfunctional and deviant, strong, powerful, unmarried and childless.” She nodded.

I like the fact that she challenges me. That she can point to weaknesses in my arguments and my logic. This is a hard thing to find as a doctoral student. #Ummhmm.

**For more Peep Summer’s piece on Black men telling our stories and Beauty standards for Black women set by popular culture and Black men.

What would you change about how mainstream media represents Black women?

What is the appeal of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man? Have you read it?

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  1. says

    I wish that Black women were allowed to be more complex. There is a wide range of personalities between Sassy Independent Straight Talker and Ditzy Ineffectual Token Sidekick. As for Mr. Harvey’s book, he offers rules that attempt to solve the man problem. There is a kernel of truth in all the bluster but finding love is much more complicated than waiting 90 days to have sex. However, for women who believe black men are inherently flawed & already believe that something is wrong with themselves or they’d be married already, it’s very appealing. My problem is that the book promotes a line of thinking that suggests marriage is a prize to be won only by deserving women.

  2. says

    1. Can I get a credit for that image? BEAUTIFUL.

    2. There are women who definitely believe it, live it, love Harvey’s message. But even this runs the gamut from full on internalized heterosexism and racism to (what I’ve found in my own interactions) women who take bits and pieces and subtly reframe them in ways that make sense and empower themselves. And these women are most fascinating bc at the point where Harvey starts to really go over the deep end…boom. The book is thrown against the wall. But up until that point…

    Coalitions of black feminism need to be built along that point, along the line where women can agree to disagree.

    3. Black gyrl publishing is CRUCIAL and is right now. Blog on.

  3. Renina says

    @Brownbelle I WILL tell you one thing I liked about the S Harvey Book. He said, Know form the outset what you want and be clear about it. I liked that. Often times We DO allow others to set the tone. I have found that being explicit and holding fast DOES benefit me. #ummhmm.

    Thats a still from She’s Gotta Have It. Not sure who took it. It may be on IMDB tho.

    What do you mean about coalitions of Black Feminism need to be built along that point. #SplainMoreLucy. Please and Thank you.

  4. says

    Let us not forget: Zora, Audre, and Sistah Souljah remain more popular on the street than Steve Harvey.

    In terms of the literary world, I think there’s a need for more support of Black Women authors, yes.

    But I think work from Black Male writers writing narratives on Black Women lack the same kind of credibility and power as real narratives of real women. A story about someone’s grandmother is more powerful than a Steve Harvey Seduction guide, figgadealme?

    I think readers can discern the sincereity of a text. A street novel becomes more real told by a person from the street. A story about a woman becomes more powerful from a woman. So what we really have are rewrites and recycled misinformation.

    Andre Lefevre(peep his article here http://tiny.cc/u2kxv) suggests that the rewrite of a narrative(ex: when someone “republishes” The Souls of Black Folk )is sometimes closer to literary theft than it is sharing knowledge. That’s what I believe is going on here. Theft.

    But it doesn’t make the work more potent if it comes from an uninitiated source.

    That said, if a Black Male does want to portray a woman in literature, what’s the best way to do that?

  5. missyjustice says

    Personally I would like to see more legitimate and honest representations of queer black womyn. We are so invisible in our communties (both queer and black). It’s upsetting to say the least.