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?