Sunday, July 24, 2011

We Ain't Them

This isn’t the original post I had scheduled for today; nonetheless, I was inspired by a discussion over at Beyond Black & White revolving around this post.

I've posed this question to other BW as well. Instead of trying to analyze what other groups of women are doing well and how we can make what special about them work for us, why not focus on what makes us as BW special? Other groups seem to use people’s perceptions of them to their advantage. Instead of dismissing the stereotypes about BW and trying to mimic what works for other groups, why not embrace our stereotypes and make them work to our advantage? Of course, I’m talking about the good ones:

  • Our sense of loyalty. We know how to be there for our men even when the chips are down- we’re the original ride-or-die-chick (also see this post).
  • Our independence.
  • Our ability to work hard and overcome, even in the face of great obstacles. We don’t shrink under pressure.
  • Skin that DOES NOT crack and bodies that often DO NOT require surgical enhancements- when taken care of properly. We’re the originals in this department too {This is how I view myself by the way- as an original that everyone else tries to imitate}.

Many men already appreciate these qualities.

We can use the negative stereotypes to our advantage too. When people presume you to be one way (loud, aggressive, emasculating, etc.) and then you show them that you are not that way at all it puts them off balance and they have to readjust their thinking. This has worked for me professionally. If I had a $1 for every time someone has been surprised meeting me after exchanging only emails or speaking over the phone, I’d be able to retire.

Yes there’s something to be learned from observing others, but why not use what we already have to our advantage? What are some of your thoughts?

Have you bought your copy of the The New Dating Rules for Black Women yet?


Flaming_star said...

I love this post, it's on the mark. You know as a black woman, I'm proud to be one. I've learned how to be strong and vulnerable, tough and sweet, I've learned how to balance all the good parts of me that come from being a bw instead of moaning about them. It's helped so much in my relationship. I will never be other women, nor do I want to. If bw don't know, they should realize that yes all the things you said other women want. My high round muscular non-flabby ample butt ppl are going under the knife to get, my natural full lips, my shapely body, my skin that at the age of the 39 I'm still looking supple, young and good. I don't understand bw who are big on being natural with our hair can be so big on being artificial with who we are as bw. It don't make sense. My loyalty is one of my best features but I'm not loyal to anyone who isn't loyal to me. And I certainly don't do self-sacrifice. I think it's great to take positive things from other ppl and incorporate them into your life, positive attributes are great to emulate. But it's not a good thing to suppress the things that make you a beautiful black woman. It's one of the things that my fiance fell in love with, why would I change it or reduce it. And yes I love surprising ppl with my knowledge and experience, turning the idea of what bw are on it's head. It's always a surprise to them, that I can talk politics, law, economics, business, travel, books, and ideas and the looks are astounding to say the least but I want ppl to know bw are more than a forgone conclusion, we're diverse and have something to contribute. I'm not worried about the hoodrat, she's not me and I'm not her and that's not my problem.

Neecy said...

OMG thank you for discussing this Zabeth.

This obsession with doing what Asian women are doing is so borderline sad. Why can't Black women start recognizing our own strengths and stop thinking we have to twist ourselves into a pretzel to be like someone else we are not, and don't have the same experiences as?

There are men out there who really admire the qualities and looks of AA women. They may be in a minority now, but that number increases everyday.

BW have never self defined. We have always defined ourselves how others have labled us. Its time to take back our unique femininity and CELEBRATE it.

I don't want to be an Asian woman, nor do I want to do what an Asian woman does nor do i need a bazillion men of any race to want me b/c of my race or "perceived" qualities. This is no strike against them, but BW need to understand They are their own women with their own unique experiences and traits.

I don't need an entire group of men to see me as a BW that is special with good qualities, all I need is ONE.

Sherry said...

So common sense, and yet so powerful. Thank you!

Adrienne said...

Zabeth, You are so right. It was surprising how long the conversation about Asian women went on and on, obsessing over the tawdry details of irrelevant people from which little wisdom can be drawn.

I've lived and traveled in NE Asia for 3 years. And in that time, I can't say I observed much worthy of emulation--at least nothing that was specific to Asian women.

What some of the women there do is what anyone does if they're interested in making themselves more appealing. Accentuate their good qualities, and eliminate or downplay their flaws.

Asian women also have the additional blessing+curse of their specific culture's norms and expectations around dating, marriage, family, beauty, and what a girl should be like. I feel sympathy for some of my Asian friends for some of the stifling aspects of the culture.

I agree that a black woman who is pretty, courteous, cultured, marries well, and lives well is a living, shining contradiction to the virulent stereotypes against us. We can wield these qualities as an exceptionally powerful weapon because positives are often not expected of us.

However, striving for these positive qualities are something that most other women who have any sense are trying to do as well. I don't see this as being some kind of "special wisdom" from Asia.

That kind of thinking is still based in the camp of exoticism that upholds as "beautiful" or "hot", a lot of women who are, honestly, rather plain.

Her site is often interesting and enjoyable, but it's baffling that Christelyn would go there twice. She sometimes comes across as someone who is too heavily invested in what other people think.