Black Femininity: Who Decides What?

I am glad this came up in the post from the other day, because it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed at length. I didn’t want to do it in that post (even though we had great opposing views) because I NEVER like going off topic in a post where the issue at hand is something that is putting African American black girls and women in jeopardy.

But you can’t open up that much room for discussion of an important subject and not create an opportunity to discuss it on topic…

 

One of the most hotly contested issues in BW-centric and BWE circles is black femininity and womanhood. You have differing schools of thought based on age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, class, education, and experiences.

 

I maintain that black femininity is under attack. The question is asked, “Well, what is black femininity?” The answer as far as I’m concerned is femininity in a woman who is black. But of course that’s far too simplistic an answer for such a complex issue….or is it?

 

African American culture, as much as it would like to believe otherwise, exists in the shadow of the greater White American culture. Certain activities, thoughts and behaviors, which logically cannot be claimed by any race, if they are approved of by “white people” become recognized as “white” or even “white’s only”. This was done first by white racists.

Out of hate and spite, they painted their faces black and pantomimed black men and women daring to act in a way that imitated polite (white) society. There were “hilarious” drawings of black women with too big red lips puckered and eyes closed, expecting a kiss from an equally dark and equally big red lip-having black man. The black male caricature recoiled in horror at the idea of kissing her. The pun is that this “ugly” creature had the nerve to think herself attractive and lovable to anyone…even someone white racists felt to be as ugly as she was. White racism reserved such attentions only for the white woman. And as I stated in the other post, the GAT-DL is a faithful student of white racism.

 

The darker you are as an African American black woman, the further you are from the white racist ideology as to what constitues a beautiful and feminine woman. Skin bleaching, hair dye and extensions, and blue eye contacts cannot give you the status afforded white women by white racism and by color-struck black folks. This created a lot of in-fighting among black women. Ugliness that has bled over into aspects of BWE. Whether some women in these circles want to admit it or not, the ugliness directed at black women by the BC has in some ways negatively impacted our ability to trust and communicate with each other without misgivings. Especially across class, educational, and color/shade lines.

 

And when you talk femininity with black women it can get tense. You get women who speak of resenting having their femininity questioned and an inability to be gentle and demure without not being taken seriously. Such women are expected to be violent at any second simply because of their race and skin-tone. You then get other women openly resenting talk of “old-fashioned” feminine ideals because they are seen as out of touch. And then you get black women schooling other black women on being beholden to white women and looking to them to define themselves in these BW-centric circles. The general census becomes that in one way or another, black women are NOT their own masters and they’re looking to everyone but themselves to define who they are.

The fun of defining yourself and your surroundings is having such a stable sense of self that when other people try and move you off-base in order to make their own ideas and sense of self make sense, you are not obligated to budge. If this thought process were carried over into the defining of black femininity, it really does return to that original definition: A black woman who is feminine.

Because you know what? YOU are ultimately the decider of what is or isn’t feminine as far as you are concerned.

 

And on that note, I’d now like to ask everyone to give their OWN ideas of what it means to be a feminine black woman. Where does your inner femininity come from? And if you are not a feminine black woman, what made you feel the freedom to reject certain definitions of yourself act accept others?

The floor is yours, and I look forward to your answers.