“How to spot a black woman”

As a black woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, I am aware that I have to navigate a number of obstacles in a society dominated by both Western and male narratives about who and what I should be. In many ways I have been set up to fail miserably at this script, and as such it appears I am caught between a rock and a hard place. Below is a snapshot of some of the more trivial everyday stereotypes faced by black women in the UK. However there are many more which have far-reaching impacts.


Black women are sexy

As a black woman, I am expected to be innately sexy. Apparently full lips, large hips, breasts, buttocks, thighs, and exotic chocolate skin make us ripe for objectification. Good enough to wank over in porn and music videos, but not good enough to “wife”. Unfortunately for me though, I didn’t get the breasts and butt, so for some I am a disappointment as I am not “black woman” enough.


Black women are highly sexed and promiscuous

As a black woman, sometimes I have to be careful of ethnic tourists, you know, those guys who just want to sample something different before they return to their “real lives”, because they heard that black women have voracious sexual appetites and that Chinese women will “love you long time”. Those fetishists who tell me that they are attracted to me because I am black, and find their own women unappealing. Those who claim we are so fertile and point to the phenomenon of single black mothers as proof that we just can’t keep our legs closed.


Black women are unfeminine

It’s funny how unrelated our supposed sexiness is to our femininity. How thick solid bodies can be at once built for sex but not for delicate treatment. How we are painted as “strong” matriarchs but at once hard and masculine. As “independent”, brass-necked and inflexible, as survivors and at once aggressive fighters. Black women have to fight against objectification, and at the same time for the right to be viewed as feminine, even by their own communities. Unfortunately, we are pitted against Western ideals of femininity and beauty, which are unattained by few without resorting to unbeweavable lengths.


Black women are materialistic and ostentatious

As a black woman, it is often expected that I should be the life of the party, dressed to the nines, dripping in costume jewellery, cracking jokes and shaking my (insignificant) butt for other people’s entertainment. There’s often a sense of disappointment when it turns out that I am not the second coming of Beyonce, or Chris Rock in drag. It’s annoying when some people assume that we are with our partners for their money or possessions, because obviously we couldn’t possibly attain those things for ourselves. To me, this is simply an indirect acknowledgement of the structural and social barriers which might prevent black women from attainment. More hurtful still, is when some black men assume the same, and promote the myth of the materialistic black woman as the reason for interracial love.


Black women are loud and aggressive

It hurts when there is a discussion or disagreement and it is expected that as a black woman I am likely to “overreact”, perhaps shout or threaten instead of making a cogent argument. Am I seen as so incapable of reason and intelligent dialogue that I must resort to animalistic behaviour? Related to this is the assumption of a “ghetto mentality” – because according to the media I am part of a feral underclass. It hurts that if I raise my voice for any reason it must mean that I am angry, or if I am indeed angry that I must suppress my feelings so that I am not viewed as the “angry black woman”. Truthfully, we often have a lot to be angry about, but we have a dignity, pride and social intelligence derived of “double-consciousness” which allows us to be like water, instinctively adapting to any environment and challenge.


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