HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Race & Ethnicity » African American (Group) » Unbreakable or The Proble...

Tue Jul 22, 2014, 01:41 PM

Unbreakable or The Problem with Praising Blackgirl Strength

( I'll probably post this in HOF as well, but I felt it would resonate here, I would welcome and appreciate any feedback)



It has been almost three years since we learned the name Amber Cole, a fourteen year old blackgirl who was secretly recorded while performing fellatio on a former boyfriend. Images and taunts spread quickly as the video went viral and commentary about Amber’s agency, privacy and sexuality sparked controversy across the interwebs. There was slut-shaming, blaming, and judgment of Amber and her family (especially her mother) with little mention of the three boys involved (the boy receiving oral sex, the boy recording it on his phone, and a third who watched in the background). In my gender class we discussed Amber with empathy and understanding, attempting through our closed door discussion to make sense of the thoughtless and cowardly ways people were vilifying her, defending the boys involved, and seeking a scapegoat. There were several claims in online discussions that Amber should have “known better,” that she was just “being grown,” and “where was her mama at?” It seemed inconceivable to consider Amber’s vulnerability, not only as an impressionable young woman, but seemingly because she was a young black woman. My class discussed the racial implications of Amber’s situation and how her race (alongside her sex and age) colored her as anything but a victim, regardless of the laws of consent (for sexual engagement and being filmed). We opined that perhaps if Amber were a white girl there would have been more sympathy, less visibility. Stereotypes of blackgirl hypersexuality made Amber fair game, it seemed, and despite possible hurt feelings and embarrassment, she would “get over it.” She was black so she was strong, right? The pseudo-remedy for being bullied, shamed, and mocked in real time and online (to the extent of being included in the Urban Dictionary) was changing schools and a short lived twitter campaign. Not so much. The scars left from the trauma she experienced by being betrayed and parodied had to leave her broken and emotionally distressed, strength be damned.

It has been about three weeks since we learned the name of another blackgirl whose image and identity has been hypersexualized and ridiculed online. Jada is a 16 year old rape victim who was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party. Within days graphic images of her before and after her assault went viral on social media with memes and videos being made mocking her unconscious body. In a brave and admirable response to being bullied Jada, with the support and encouragement of her mother, has used social media and television interviews to speak out against her attack, her alleged rapist (who continues to mock her online), and the countless cowards participating in attempts to demean her and her character. Jada has said, “There’s no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.” Jada is amazingly resilient and initially I was impressed with how seemingly effortlessly she could recount her rape without emotion during interviews. But then I thought about myself at sixteen.

While I join others in supporting and celebrating Jada’s bravery I worry that being proud of her stoicism is an improper response to the trauma she has experienced. Jada is 16 years old and not only has she been raped, but publicly exposed, outed, mocked, teased and threatened. Rape victims are usually afforded privacy and time in which to process the trauma. Jada, however, has been put in a public spotlight and interrogated about an event with consequences that far exceed the immediate backlash and immaturity of peers. Perhaps instead of being proud of her for being strong we should let her be visibly devastated, distraught, shocked, and inconsolable. Maybe instead of being impressed that blackgirls can withstand so much suffering and become role models for strength, we should be concerned about their emotional wellness, their vulnerability, their humanity.


I am not always strong. When I hurt, I cry. I sob deeply and from my belly releasing heartbreaking wails and screams until I feel more empty than sad. There is nothing wrong with feeling pain and expressing it but society doesn’t let black victims mourn, society doesn’t want black people to feel. We are made to believe that our feelings are dangerous so we suppress them. We are told, repeatedly, even amongst ourselves that we are nonfragile so we think we must live up to those expectations.


http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2014/07/22/unbreakable-or-the-problem-with-praising-blackgirl-strength/

14 replies, 1806 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply Unbreakable or The Problem with Praising Blackgirl Strength (Original post)
ismnotwasm Jul 2014 OP
libodem Jul 2014 #1
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #5
libodem Jul 2014 #7
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #8
libodem Jul 2014 #9
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #10
libodem Jul 2014 #12
1StrongBlackMan Jul 2014 #2
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #4
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #3
1StrongBlackMan Jul 2014 #6
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #11
ismnotwasm Jul 2014 #13
JustAnotherGen Jul 2014 #14

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Tue Jul 22, 2014, 03:32 PM

1. It is also posted

In the sexual survivors group as well.

HOF will give it the exposure it deserves.

She is a strong and brave young woman. She has stood up and remained in control of the narrative surrounding her assault and subsequent exposure.

This is the scary time when some of us would rather die, by taking our own lives, because of the utter shame. This a happier ending.

You go, girl!!!!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to libodem (Reply #1)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 06:39 AM

5. It's buzzfeeed - yeah I know - but this is what Ism is getting at here

SBW ='s Strong Black Woman

The SBW is an attempt to subvert negative stereotypes of black women: the Mammy, the Jezebel, and the Sapphire, as outlined in Patricia Hill Collins’ seminal work Black Feminist Thought (PDF). In basic terms, the Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire achieve satisfaction by serving white people, indulging her own sexual appetites, and emasculating men, respectively. In contrast, Strong Black Women have no needs. It’s dangerous — and dehumanizing — to have such a narrow view of the black woman as a source of support while expecting her not to need any herself.

Giving black women superhero qualities is an overcorrection that’s simply limiting in a different way.


We do have needs.

It's okay to cry.

The hypersexualization of black woman - as well as rapes during the Jim Crow era - and having to 'take it' - i.e. no day in court, it was expected, go forth and 'sow your wild oats young white man' -

This is an over correction. And it kind of makes it seem like that treatment is okay -because we are strong and can get by.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #5)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 10:10 AM

7. The reality of it is hard to take

But it is interesting to digest and hopefully learn from.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to libodem (Reply #7)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 10:16 AM

8. But who learns?

I would hope that the black community - America in general - would not hold it against another black teenager who would experience this and say -

I hurt. Leave me alone. I'm not a symbol.


I.E. I hope she wouldn't be dismissed because she's not living the 'ideal' or what is accepted in America.

That teenage girl too: She is smart. She is pretty. She matters. <--- It's a nod to all of those 'strong women' in The Help (movie I detest!).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #8)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 10:34 AM

9. I read The Help

And liked it so much better than the movie. I had read Cane River just before so in a way they fit together. I'm better for the experience of both books. There was such a strong theme of 'knowing your place' and not daring to speak up or speak back. We get a little of that as children and as women. I do my best to develop empathy and put myself into their place to imagine how it feels.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to libodem (Reply #9)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 12:12 PM

10. I didn't like the book or the movie - The Help

Cane River I enjoyed - because it exposed so much truth about colorism in America.

That's really just in the experience of black folks - but it showed how it developed. It was more than just house v. field slaves - it was an experience of have/have not and a certain degree of mobility in America.

The Help - I've ranted enough about it on here. I'll save everyone that. I just remembering feeling terribly hurt when they were the 'next big thing' at DU. And The Help didn't really tell the truth. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry was written how many years ago? And it better exemplified to me - the stories handed down as part of our oral traditon of 'this was the reality of Jim Crow'.

My husband is really on me to write a non-fiction "The Real Help". But - I should write from today's perspective of having a ton of knowledge on the Dominant Culture - while the dominant culture has ONLY stereotypes of me. I.E. Very little is known about the secret inner lives and relationships with ourselves and others of black American women.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #10)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 12:54 PM

12. You should write it

I'd love to read your insights. I didn't like the poop thing that happened in The Help but the emphasis of demanding separate rest rooms as a theme was probably pretty true to life. I sweltered with them over the ironing board on those hot southern summer days. And the whole nanny culture. I can imagine the little kids loving the women who cared for them. I think that those relationships must have helped move Civil Rights along.

Speaking not nannies that was another good book. It was more of a classist look at American culture. These were New York pent house families. What I took away form that is they did not respect the bonds that develops between people. They fired the nannies at will.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Tue Jul 22, 2014, 06:37 PM

2. I am completely bouncing back and forth ...

 

about this. On the one hand, her standing up and taking control of the horrific act(s) both during and afterward, is a wonderous and powerful thing, for a person of any age. On the other hand, as the OP indicates, she's a kid ... she shouldn't have to be strong or a symbol of strength for others.

Either way, I weep for her and growl at a society that tells our man-children, that sh!t is okay!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #2)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 06:36 AM

4. And no black woman

Should have to be a strong symbol of strength for others.

That's not who we are.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 06:33 AM

3. This says so much

rape victims are usually afforded privacy and time in which to process the trauma. Jada, however, has been put in a public spotlight and interrogated about an event with consequences that far exceed the immediate backlash and immaturity of peers. Perhaps instead of being proud of her for being strong we should let her be visibly devastated, distraught, shocked, and inconsolable. Maybe instead of being impressed that blackgirls can withstand so much suffering and become role models for strength, we should be concerned about their emotional wellness, their vulnerability, their humanity


The 'strong black woman' stereotype is just that - a stereotype being fed to us to replace all of the other ones.

Why does SHE have to be the model of strength?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #3)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 07:14 AM

6. Wow ...

 

I kept feeling that I was quite making a connection here ... I got it now.

The 'strong black woman' stereotype is just that - a stereotype being fed to us to replace all of the other ones.


People use stereotypes as a way to not have to engage in another person's authentic self. Our (society's) pushing the strong Black Woman stereotype is not about our engaging Black Women; but rather, our absolving ourselves from actually having to engage her, by addressing the bad sh!t that we do, and worse, allow to happen ... and still worse, encourage.

Thanks for helping me close a connection.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #6)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 12:13 PM

11. This is my hope for your daughter's generation

actually having to engage her

That they say over and over and over again- You don't know me. Here is who I am. This is my reality. This is my life experience.

Now - let me tell you something about you - because you are prominent in my culture and we know far more about you than you do me.


I hope when she's 80 - her voice 'just is' and nothing is expected of her except to live out her last years in peace and happiness.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 02:37 PM

13. Thank you for the discussion

Intellectually, I'm aware of the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype, but of course I can't experience or internalize it, but increase my awareness. Remember the book "The Myth of the Black Superwoman"?
That was my introduction to this concept. Look at this 3 year old Ms. Magazine article about THAT particular book. That the book was book was controversial is an understatement.

Black History Month: The Myth of the Black Superwoman, Revisited

In January 1979, you might have walked past a newsstand in New York City and noticed the piercing brown eyes and free-flowing hair of Michele Wallace staring you down from the cover of Ms. “Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman … the book that will shape the 1980s” read the cover, in stark white text.
In the magazine’s excerpt from the then-about-to-be published book, Wallace explained the myth of the Black Superwoman: A woman who has “inordinate strength” and is “stronger emotionally than most men.” The Black nationalist movement, she said, viewed women as “one of the main reasons the black man had never been properly able to take hold of his situation in this country” and how “the black man has not really kept his part of the bargain they made in the sixties” during the fight for equality. The book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, went on to include a separate essay on “Black Macho,” a term that encapsulated the anti-intellectual impulse within Black Power rhetoric.
Back in 1979, you probably would have been stunned by this text, and you wouldn’t have been the only one. Wallace’s book led to debate about the role of Black Macho, the relationships between African American men and women and the place African American women held in the fight against racism and sexism. In honor of Black History Month, this groundbreaking book and the aftermath of its publication are well-worth revisiting.
In a 2009 post on Wallace’s blog, she explained the circumstances behind the publishing of the excerpt and book. On one side stood her anti-feminist, but otherwise supportive, editor at The Dial Press, Joyce Johnson, who “all but breastfed [Wallace] through every stage of the writing and the completion of the book for publication.” Wallace explains:

She and the others opposed the use of the word feminist in connection with the book, on the publicity materials, on the book jacket, and in every aspect of the packaging or promotion of the book. Feminism they said would kill the book because feminism was finished and done with.


I

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #13)

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 04:00 PM

14. Thank you for the reference

I need to find a copy of this book.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread