If you’ve never heard of British pop singer, Lily Allen you might want to check her out. Her songs are catchy, topical and normally quite humorous. About a year ago she received some criticism over her depiction of black female dancers in this satirical video as promotion for a single from her latest album, Sheezus. I began thinking about Allen’s feminist video again in the aftermath of Kayne’s latest asinine antics. The problem that critics had with Allen’s “Hard out Here” video is that it is impossible to make this kind of sexism look any more ridiculous. (Funny how most critics have let rap music videos with hyper-sexualized images of black women go largely unchecked for decades, but I digress.) No matter how hard it is being a female pop singer on TV, it pales in comparison to working against these awful stereotypes of black women in the real world.
Let me get real here for a moment, it’s not like we don’t know how the media comes up with some of these negative images of black women. Back before the Northeastern part of the country was being held hostage by a polar vortex, I had stopped for gas in my neighborhood and I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation this ABW was having on her phone. I couldn’t help but overhear because she was swearing like a sailor telling her “baby daddy” that he wasn’t shit and wasn’t ever going to be shit. She was precisely the eye-rolling stereotype with a bad attitude that any reality show could ask for. I’m sure these are the kinds of black women that all of the hipsters in my newly gentrified neighborhood are noticing, not me, the self-respecting, middle-class black woman quietly pumping gas in my car. All I could think about was Wanda Sykes’ bit about her dignified black mother telling her that, “White people are looking at you!”
Perhaps my presence has gotten a little more notice since I created a fan page for Leona’s Love Quest. I’ve been spending hours combing the internet in search of some positive news to share with my fellow “dignified” black women. One encouraging trend is that the hourglass figure seems to be making a comeback in a major way. It was a long time coming with the popularity of Beyoncé, J-Lo and Sofia Vergara. Now it seems like every Hollywood starlet on the red carpet has been trying to jump on the bootylicious bandwagon. Unless there is some new kind of magic that targets fat loss from around your waist and moves it directly to your ass, some of these women have enhance their figures artificially- and this includes some of us black women! I’ve been following the fan page for Black Women Losing Weight, which frequently features black women who have sometimes 100 pounds or more, accompanied by their “before” and “after” photos. However, I’ve noticed that curvy women with a very small waist compared to their bust and hips will get a lot of praise. A black woman with a straight or athletic build will most likely get at least a few comments telling her that she is getting too thin and needs to stop losing weight.
So let me get this straight. If I lose weight and my figure doesn’t look like this:
It’s because I’m trying too hard to look like this:
OK, sure. I may have to sacrifice a little bit of curve if I shed a few pounds, but it’s not like I can create ones that were never there. Oh well, moving on.
One of the articles I shared on my fan page from Buzzfeed, How I Rebuilt Tinder And Discovered The Shameful Secret Of Attraction by Anne Helen Petersen, showed that a fabricated profile of a black-ish woman received the highest number of swiped “yes” ratings with an 89% swipe! The majority of users identified her as either “mixed race” (48%) or black (40%). Yay!!!
I almost felt good about that until her results were compared with another woman whose race was undeniably identified as black (97%) and received only a 43% swipe-yes rate:
Surely there are additional differences between the two women to be taken into account here, but these results do suggest that many men are still using stereotypes or the paper bag test as the measure of a black woman’s attractiveness. Personally, I’m still wondering why my mystical, high-yellow, man-magnet powers have never kicked in. I suppose I am also too identifiable as black.
Of course, this experiment doesn’t address the ageism any woman over 30 has to deal with. Christian Rudder’s research revealed in his book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) that, “For every 100 men interested in that 20-year-old, there are only nine looking for someone 30 years older.” So if you’re over 30 and not interested in settling down with a man nearing retirement, you might just be shit out of luck if you’re looking online. Not even white women get a pass for this one. Not long ago Interracial Dating featured a very attractive blond woman in one of their ads who was may have been approaching 40, (Dang, I wish I bookmarked that photo!) and I didn’t have to scroll down very far before I saw the comment, “She looks old.” I mean damn! Did he think every photo this company chose to use was supposed to be catered to his personal preferences? I guess if he had his way, every single woman over the age of 30 should just roll over and die. Plus, I know I am not the only woman who tried interracial dating websites like these only to find her inbox flooded with emails from black men or non-black men who were all about living that thug life with their black queen by their side because DBR still comes in all colors.
The truth is Beyond Black and White is a safe haven for most of us. I didn’t even realize the necessity for a community like this until I found it. There is a level of support here for black women of all age ranges and viewpoints so long as we can agree to disagree. So if by now some of you were thinking, “Damn Leona! What happened to your positive, upbeat perspective you gained at Matthew Hussey’s retreat?” don’t worry; I’m still hanging on to it. I only want to acknowledge that a lot of us here have been putting in the work; we’re keeping our options open, getting healthy, becoming our best selves and at times it doesn’t feel like we’re making one damn bit of difference. Even my attempts at self-improvement have a funny way of making me focus on my shortcomings when I fail to adhere to my rituals. Creating change isn’t easy, especially when I am constantly being bombarded with new standards, statistics, or evidence that keeps trying to make me feel “less than.” Just read this comment in response to a recent article about white privilege in the New York Times:
I graduated from engineering school at that same time as a fellow student who is black. Our grades were about the same, she’s a great person and a pleasure to work with (we did a couple of demanding projects and presentations together as students), very smart, very personable, very polished, and quite good-looking. After graduation we went out job hunting for the same kinds of jobs with companies of roughly the same size. I’ve always felt that we were equally good engineers, but that she’s much calmer than I am and that she’s probably easier to be around day after day. I was offered a job after every interview, while it took almost a year for her to receive an offer. I never worried about how my blue eyes and light brown hair might be perceived when I arrived for an interview with yet another all-white firm, but I know she thought each time about the reactions she might get. This was to me a very clear example of how people are given advantages or held back by the biases of others.
I say we take some time to air our grievances without letting it defeat us. Self-love may be the only key to rising above all the negativity out there, but it’s not keeping me very warm during these cold, winter nights we’ve been having in the Northeast. Do you need a moment to vent? If so, I am here for you and I’m giving you full permission. It is hard out here for a bitch, Lily Allen, and it’s even harder for a high-quality black woman.