Coffee Rhetoric: Arn't I A Woman Pt II

February 16, 2008

Arn't I A Woman Pt II

I happened upon this article entitled, "Not Woman Enough" over at racialicious, written by a contributing guest writer who calls herself Tami. Tami, a Black woman, questions her femininity and ponders the inner workings of White privilege (particularly of the white, patriarchal variety ofttimes with very narrow views of beauty and intellect)- after a White male colleague (unconsciously?) makes her feel inferior and less alluring than her White female counter-part and co-worker. The writer hit on a number of very relevant points and raises some interesting questions about the de-sexualization and fetishization of Black women... How we can't be beautiful (to them... as if it matters) sans a long list of prerequisites or unless they're trying to meet their "I've never had sex with a (insert race) girl before" ethnic quota. So we fall under their "to do" list. Some Black women may try to assimilate completely, by engaging in damaging behaviors such as, pouring bleach on their heads, slathering on the wrong type of make-up, wearing painful and cheap looking weaves and wigs that contradict their ethnicity, and rubbing dangerous skin lighteners on their persons. I don't think the writer is seeking validation from her white male counter-parts nor is she speaking from a particularly vain view point. I think she is simply tired of being invisible and seen as less than. Sometimes that experience has nothing to do with aesthetics, but can be on an intellectual level as well. One would have to be living at the opposite end of the spectrum, to truly understand where she is coming from. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Today I was reminded of my place in the female hierarchy.

I was in an impromptu meeting with a 50-something white man and a white woman who is my age, when this exchange occurred:

White male: The only people who liked that design were under 28.

White female: Under 37…I loved it.

Me: Yeah. Me too.

White male: (to white female, pointedly) Well, YOU don’t look older than 28.

White female: (to me–maybe attempting to soften white male’s comment) You don’t either.

White male: (eyeing me) Mmmm…I don’t know about that.

It is peculiar–in my experience, some white men don’t relate to black women as women. On more than one occaision, at more than one job, a white male co-worker has made comments to me that violate society’s codes of chivalry. What gentleman comments on how old a woman looks? This is not the first time the man in question has made a subtly derogatory comment about my appearance. I have also noticed how his eyes slide distastefully over my natural hair.

When I began typing this post, I worried that I was overreacting. In the re-telling, the offense seems so petty and maybe subject to interpretation. Maybe it wasn’t about race at all, maybe my co-worker simply finds me haggard looking and is surprisingly untactful. So, I called up a good friend–another black woman–that I can always count on for wise counsel. She understood exactly what I meant about the peculiar state of non-femaleness black women sometimes occupy in the mainstream. It is the weird flip side to the stereotype of the wanton black sexual temptress.

Read the rest of the article here and visit Tami's Blog and PLEASE read this post (something Black people do, and is at the top of my list of pet peeves!), while you're over there...