Friday, June 21, 2024

Stereotypes hurt self-image…

February 11, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( As a sociologist and feminist, I am aware of the nuances involved in interpersonal relationships, namely the particulars of how race and gender shape our behavior and perceptions. In short, I understand people. I do not, however, understand the backward ways that some folks think.

I’m referring to a conversation with members of Facebook. A post of a recent Chico State grad titled, “Top Ten Reasons Why Black Men Don’t Want to Date Black Women,” which included the following:

    • Black women make black men feel underappreciated, unwanted, and irresponsible.

    • Black women are too aggressive, no longer patient in waiting on the pursuit of a man.

    • Black women are strong headed and too independent

    • Black women are masculine, in that they are controlling and like to run the relationship.

    • Black women expect too much; they are gold diggers.

    • Black women are hot headed and have bad attitudes.

    • Black women stop caring about their appearance after a certain age.

    • Black women are not as sexually open as other races, especially in regards to oral sex.

    • Black women are no longer empathetic to the black man’s struggle in white America.

    • Black women do not cater to their men.

Of great concern to me is a) that this list was used in a church by a pastor to “empower” black women and b) the individual who posted it is a young African-American female who thought it was funny and true. As this is the time of the year our nation has agreed to focus on black history, I should probably discuss all the ways black women have had to be aggressive and fight back to gain respect, refuse to be invisible and so on.

But I would rather focus on the significance this list holds for black women in contemporary America. I asked the online community to consider how funny they would find this list if it were written or spoken by a white man, and its focus was on black people as too aggressive, with bad attitudes, who fail to cater. Most members of the Chico community would be outraged by such insensitivity – especially if that white person used church time to spew such garbage.

As I said, I understand people; I study them for a living. As a professor, I’m always seeking ways to make course material relevant to people’s lives. I insist, therefore, that no one should be able to leave college without taking a sociology, multicultural and gender studies, or women’s studies class. I imagine some young black women have accepted that they are this list; but in the social sciences, we expose oppression for what it is.

I decided to create my own list.

    • Black women should never attend churches where pastors say foolish things that impede their emotional and spiritual growth. Nor should anyone.

    • Black women know within their heart of hearts that there is nothing wrong with them and therefore should refuse to embrace patriarchal/racist notions of who they are.

    • Black women need not lower their standards to find companions. If a man can’t handle a woman having a voice, a brain and self respect, then he’s not worth your time.

    • Black women who spend their days “waiting on the pursuit of a man” may find themselves missing out on amazing journeys around the world, protests and rallies that incite change, the healing effects of yoga, candle-lit baths, journaling, mind-blowing documentaries, nurturing flowers from bulb to bloom, spiritual leaders who ought to be taken seriously, volunteer opportunities and true love that may come in the form of loving a woman.

    • Black women who don’t understand linkages between sexism and racism should explore the complex and compelling theories of third-wave feminists.

One would think in a time when blacks have made so much progress, these harmful – and ridiculous – stereotypes would have gone out with the jheri curl. Having spent much of my 39 years living in mostly black communities, I know these stereotypes dictate, to some degree, how black men and women think of themselves and each other.

I think it’s important to view stereotypes as encompassing racist, sexist and classist attitudes, in order to understand just how “smart” the patriarchy has gotten. Third-wave feminists have strategies for unpacking the multiple intersections of racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism.

I urge black women to borrow from and develop more contemporary conversations on life and begin to “talk back” when their television, church leaders and even professors attempt to force a view of the world upon them that they know is disempowering and wrong, because this is a new black history.

Written By Nandi Crosby

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