Note: Let’s be nice and respectable. Just to be safe, people with low self-esteem and self-worth issues, feminists, and people who don’t like me should skip this post. This post is not for little Black girls either 😉
Some women have “it” and some just don’t. By “it” I mean the motivation, willpower, and means to become women who everyone admires, emulates, and reveres as “the best when compared to the rest”. These are the women who respectable, successful, and admiration-worthy people of all races hold up as examples of the type of woman or Black woman they wish all Black women could be. Let’s call her “Kerry Gabrielle Michelle.” Kerry Gabrielle Michelle has the femininity of Kerry Washington, the beauty of Gabrielle Union, and the intelligence, success, and nurturing qualities of Michelle Obama (please don’t make this a colorism debate). Substitute Kerry Gabrielle Michelle with Condoleeza Janet Sanna, or Diana Naomi Oprah, or Zoe Nia Claire (Huxtable) or WHOEVER you want…focus on the IDEAS please not the specific examples, don’t be so literal, use your imagination! To some the mere thought of trying to become Kerry Gabrielle Michelle causes outrage. How dare someone suggest that there is an ideal Black woman who is better than others, all women are equal! Who decided on the qualities this woman should have? This is based on the White patriarchy and puts undue pressure on women to live up to an unattainable ideal! Why strive to be an ideal, you are perfect just the way you are! You must have low self-esteem if you feel the need to achieve some ideal, what’s the matter with you? Well you see, if you have these reactions, you obviously don’t have “it”. You don’t have the motivation, willpower, or means to be the best when compared to the rest. Some women don’t want to be commoners…they want the throne.
Let me explain, some people are just better than others (i.e., above average) in ways that improve their quality of life and keeps them happier than other people for longer periods of time. These better qualities allow them to do better in school and at work, it gets them better treatment from others, they are looked up to by others, and they are put in positions of power and influence. Being better often makes their lives better. The key is that they are better in the eyes of people who matter to them, especially those who have the power to improve their lives. Some people are lucky and they were born better. For example, some people are born leaders who have charisma. Others are born so beautiful that everyone assumes they have other good qualities due to the “halo effect“. Others have skills and talents that are above average that allow them to enter high paying professions or become leaders in their industries. Some people were just blessed to be born into families with the means and connections that allow them to achieve whatever they want in life even if it isn’t deserved. These people are LUCKY and they have PRIVILEGE because they were either born with skills and revered qualities or born into families that paved the way to their being better than the rest.
So, for the rest of us who are less lucky and privileged…we have to work and maybe work really hard to be the best. That’s the reality for most people. When one of us average people has “it” we are motivated to work hard to achieve the status of the lucky and privileged people mentioned above. We are willing to do what it takes to achieve the best status and life. We do not settle and accept our lot, we want what they have plain and simple. On the other hand, those without “it” will accept their lot in life, won’t try to improve, and believe that they can never become better than the rest. Maybe they were born with this mentality but I think many have learned to think this way. Of course let’s just excuse those who are extremely poor, abused, barely getting by etc. because I don’t want this to turn into a debate about those issues. I’m ONLY talking about women who could be way better if they wanted to and have the time and means. Actually, some self-improvements can be done for free or very cheaply (e.g., reading a book or blog), or they may be attainable if women diverted more of their time and money towards these self-improvement goals (socializing and networking instead of watching reality TV).
Acceptable Changes: I think that in many Western countries some forms of self-improvement are accepted without question and no one implies that a person has low self-esteem, self-hatred, or they are fake for making those improvements. For instance, it’s acceptable to go to school, get job training, start a business, seek a promotion/raise, lose 10 pounds, take medicine or improve one’s health, wear nice clothes, get one’s hair cut and styled, wear some makeup, socialize, get a loan, learn a language for work, travel, seek a nice home in a nice neighborhood, go to church, date, get married, have kids etc. ALL of these are OPTIONAL things that people choose to do because they feel they are rewarding in some way (for this article let’s ignore people who get these things by accident). No one assumes a person has low self-esteem, self-hatred, or is being fake when they make these changes. But many of these acts are following social norms and conforming to ideals about what people are supposed to do.
Unacceptable Changes: In contrast, there are things that people with “it” are willing to do that are not accepted in the same way as the actions above. For some strange reason, if you actively try to improve in certain ways or actively achieve certain life goals people will say you have low self-esteem, hate yourself, your’re a fake or that you are crazy. For instance, some people frown upon seeking therapists for life problems in favor of figuring things out yourself because “that’s what adults do”. Others frown on online dating, singles events, reading relationship books, or socializing for the purpose of meeting a partner in favor of “letting the universe bring you a man”. To them, learning is fine to get good grades or a job but it’s desperate if you do it to get an above average man. Everyone wears clothing and having a personal style is appreciated my many, as long as you are not dressing to attract/gain acceptance from other above average or important people. In that case people will say, “you should be dressing for you not to look a certain way to appear high class or attract the men you want”. Learning a language is fine, but learning to speak proper English so that you sound educated is wrong. Traveling for fun or to see another culture is fine, but travelling to find a man is desperate. Changing yourself to become more acceptable to people with power and influence is considered fake and ridiculous despite the great advantages this can bring to one’s life. Any woman attempting to be more feminine in order to attract men or gain acceptance must be a misogynist or a submissive religious nut. Trying to conform to beauty standards is almost seen as a mental illness even though women have been doing it for centuries, everyone is more attracted to beautiful women, studies have shown attractive people tend to be treated better, the media promotes it heavily, and stores are filled with beauty products.
The difference is that people often make the Acceptable Changes because they are considered normal or the opportunity arises so they take it. Or they are those LUCKY people who who don’t have to work to get great things in life (they don’t recognize their privilege) so they think it’s weird that others have to work so hard for the same things. One has to consciously think and plan a strategy to achieve goals before they make the Unacceptable Changes. It takes research about what works, deciding to do things for different reasons than other people, spending time on things other people don’t, and using willpower and purpose to achieve a goal rather than just letting things happen, or waiting for the universe to make it happen. Many people think this planning and goal setting is unnatural and therefore wrong because it’s just too calculating for them. They think there are certain things people don’t have to work hard for (again their privilege may be showing). That’s because those people don’t have “it”. They are the kind of people who won’t work hard to achieve things, just accept life as it comes, and expect to be given what they need by chance or divine intervention. You know you are talking to one of these people because as soon as you mention your plans they say “that’s too much work”, “just pray for it”, “or I don’t have to do that so you shouldn’t have to.” People with “it” make life happen, they don’t wait. They are open to doing something new or different to achieve their goals.
As a Black woman you will receive STRONG opposition from WOMEN when it comes to changing your public image to appear like Kerry Gabrielle Michelle (again, please don’t make this a colorism debate). If you mention wanting to do things to appear smarter, more successful, more respectable, or better than you really are people will think you need therapy. They ignore the fact that many successful, above average people (including Kerry, Gabrielle, and Michelle) work very hard on their image and created a public image to achieve their goals. Above average women go to etiquette school, life coaches, therapists, personal stylists, and even church to become better people. Models and actors exercise and eat healthy to maintain their figures and they have personal stylists. Celebrities and wealthy people wear neat and clean clothing that is often tailored to fit them perfectly. Other people go to voice coaches and learn how to speak properly. People get braces and whiten their teeth. I’m not going to criticize Black women for using relaxers or weaves anymore because they are just trying to be what they think is attractive. You can learn how to dress, walk, speak, and interact better with others. There are so many self-help books and videos out there to deal with any problem of self-improvement issue you have. You can be WAY better than you are. What’s stopping some women from being better? There are many excuses but people with “it” easily ignore these excuses because they want to be the best so badly they are willing to remake themselves into something better. The ends justify the means. They believe that the means will get them what’s important, the happy life they want, so they don’t blow a gasket at the idea of getting a makeover and learning how to get along better with others. They have their eye on the prize and to them, all the excuses are just noise.
Here are some common excuses I’ve heard Black women use when when the idea of improving their image comes up…what’s your excuse?
I shouldn’t have to improve my image. People should accept me just the way I am.
Society is the one that needs to change not me.
This is excessive. I’m not a celebrity so why should I have to work so hard on my image?
Where do we draw the line? What if people go overboard and start getting plastic surgery, starving themselves, and bleaching their skin to look White?
Looking feminine and learning etiquette is just acting White. Black femininity and etiquette is different.
This is dangerous and it will make people have low self-esteem and not think they are good enough.
Who defines what the ideal black woman is? If there is no agreement then what do we strive for?
You are blaming the victims of racism and sexism and putting the onus on them to change.
This is just being fake, you should always be yourself because the real you will come out sooner or later.
What’s wrong with Black women the way they are?
White women don’t have to do this so why should Black women do it?
All those celebrities look good to the public but they really aren’t like that. They have all sorts of issues that they keep hidden so they really aren’t that perfect. Don’t ever try to look like celebrities.
It doesn’t matter what individual Black women do, the media has to change because they are always showing the negative stereotypes.
It won’t make a difference anyway. Racists will still think Black women are horrible no matter how good they look or how nice they act.