I will let you in on a little secret: I am not what you would call a fighter. The only time I ever threw a punch was when I was six-years-old and this boy simply would not leave me alone. He insisted on bullying me whenever he got the chance. In that situation, it turned out leaving it to the grownups solved the problem in the end and that person did not bother me anymore. So I learned very early that often violent problems have a non-violent solution.
I also learned, within my home, that I wasn’t expected to go around fighting. I was expected to apply myself to my studies, go to college and have a non-problematic life free of fisticuffs. I did not need to holler. I did not need to mean mug. And I did not need to be coarse or hard either for my own safety or to assert how “real” I was.
I had a cousin who I thought well of, despite how different we were in nature. She was actually bragging to me about all the fights she got into. My reply: “I’d rather the Lord fight my battles.” She was unimpressed. At first this bothered me, because I wanted her to like me. But as I grew older, I realized that being uncouth and violent in order to represent myself as an African American woman wasn’t something I ever wanted.
I like being soft spoken. I like flowers in my hair. I like people complimenting me on my lady-like and gentle manner when I’m in the grocery store. And I always notice the people who do so that are black tend to be my parents’ age or older. Somehow, it’s strange, particularly among younger black people, to see a young black woman not be hardened, or uncouth, or unwelcome to vulgar advances. To demand to be treated like a lady is unheard of among this crowd.
I actually made such an observation, only to have it said,
“Black women can’t be ladies…they’re black.”
There seems to be two minds at work towards chipping away the gentle feminine nature that black women are as entitled to as any other woman. First, the sad and untrue belief that we are less than women. The lie that we as human beings hold no real value and should be treated as cheap and abusable. Second, there is the fact that the environments of many black women do not provide the ability to be gentle.
“All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy, I had to fight my uncles. I had to fight my brothers….A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men” – Sofia, The Color Purple
Whether it’s having to fight the sexual advances of trusted and not-so-trusted males or fight jealous de-feminized black women over some useless two-timing black man, the fact remains: Too many black women have become deprived of their femininity and told that it’s not for them because they are black. Duped into thinking this to be true, they then laugh at the idea of trying to be gentle. In their minds, that’s for white women (though many non-white women are extremely feminine). These black women and girls cherish their “street cred” too much to try and carry themselves any differently. Unfortunately, this image has done serious damage to them in the wider world. It’s reached the point where a black woman is considered a tough tongue-lashing, neck-rolling she-male on sight.
And the biggest slap in the face of all is despite contributing to these circumstances, the same cast of characters at fault for this development now gladly stereotype black women as coarse, hard, emasculating, and markedly unfeminine.
Why You Have The Right To Be A Gentle Feminine Woman
To some people, you are a hardened, non-feminine creature and a workhorse until proven otherwise. And even when you’ve attempted to establish you’re anything but, the stubbornly unconvinced may try and use situations and circumstances to “test” you. To bring the “angry strong black woman you REALLY are” to the surface.
African American women*, you have the right to bypass such persons and such tests. You have the right to seek out loving persons who will protect and care for you. You are entitled to be with those who allow you to not be strange for reaching for flowers rather than the weave of some woman who needs to be taught a lesson “for thinkin’ she cute”.
Being a gentle woman is not something that must be withheld from you or seen as not for you because of either the self-hatred of others or a widely encouraged misconception. Do not let it be so. Do not be afraid to be soft and gentle. It is your right to be so.
*I am speaking mainly to African American women in this situation; this seems to be a line of thinking unique to our ethnic group. I could be wrong and non-African American black women are free to correct me in this regard.
Have you been confronted with the “strong angry black woman” stereotype? Have you had others try to force it on you if that is not you? …Are you an angry strong black woman, and if so, what benefits do you feel you gain in this role that would be lost should you surrender it?