A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Femininity Lost: The Story of the Black Woman (Pt. 1)

It had been my intent to write a post on this topic long before now. Life happened. The more that I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to write about it. That is, until I had a talk with a very close friend of mine. The conversation, centered around dating, was perhaps an eye-opening event for me. The question being asked was, “Is chivalry dead?” Being two women, it was a very one-sided conversation. Much was speculated on this topic but I left the conversation with my question,

“If Black men don’t have the freedom to be chivalrous individuals, what does that mean for Black women and our Womanhood?”

To some, these topics have nothing to do with each other. To me, they are the two sides of the same coin. Masculinity and Femininity. The duality from which all life springs forth. For every man who questions or laments on the fact that Black women don’t allow them to be chivalrous, there are many more Black women in the shadows who wonder why can’t they be free to express themselves as [other] Women.

The Historical Context

I recently read the book “Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture” by Sherri Parks (I suggest that you pick this up if you would like another viewpoint within the Black Woman/Femininity discussion).  It offered to me a counter-narrative to what’s presented in the popular media and even by close friends of mine. Once I finished reading the book, I took to Twitter to ask, “Are Black women capable of being feminine?” The answer, or the one offered the most, was that we weren’t. According to many of my followers, “Femininity is an European/male construct” and as such, we don’t fit into the mold because we are neither European nor male. The one thing that Parks’ book did for me was offer the evidence that I needed to stand firmly on my ground:

Femininity has always existed, and will continue to exist, for Women of Color, especially Black women.

So why are many of my Sisters still wandering around in a state of confusion?

The question, Ain’t (Aren’t) I a Woman? isn’t a new question. In fact, records show that Sojourner Truth asked this very question at a women’s convention in 1851. The point highlighted in her speech was that certain “privileges” are given to White women who don’t have to work (these privileges weren’t extended to Black women). Interesting point. Those who can wholly identify as feminine enjoy privileges that those who can’t do not (Did that make sense? I hope so. I’m not trying to confuse anyone here.).

And really, that’s what this whole discussion is about.

When I ask, “Are Black women capable of being feminine?” I’m really asking, “Are we allowed those certain freedoms that come along with being a woman?”

Thoughts?

To be continued….

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7 responses to “Femininity Lost: The Story of the Black Woman (Pt. 1)

  1. educationceo August 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Excellent! In order to begin to answer that question we MUST look at the historical context. Sojourner was on the money! Black women have never been treated as feminine, even though we birthed, fed, and cared for babies (many not our own because White women were too ‘fragile’) but we still do not have the same level of respect as other women. The current state of our culture just makes matters worse, with miscegenation and degradation of Black women, including such forms as Black men proudly stating that they don’t date Black women because they are not feminine enough! See, this could go on and on because it’s both cyclical and circular…I guess the dialog needs to start somewhere!

    • Miss C. Jayne August 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      I love the points that you’ve made. I definitely agree — this started long ago and we are still dealing with the effects of it today. I always wonder what does it mean for us (as Black women) when so many of us believe that we don’t have the right to be feminine? It’s just a horrible cycle.

      Also, there are two more parts to this. I just didn’t want a super long post. =)

  2. Jackie August 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Sojourner Truth was born a slave. Slaves weren’t allowed humanity much less femininity. Her point was valid then.

    Black women today have the freedom to be as feminine as they so choose. There is absolutely nothing to constrain a black woman from being feminine now. The key is choice.

    • Miss C. Jayne August 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

      I agree with your statement concerning slavery and humanity. I disagree with your point about Black women and femininity today. I’ll be continuing this topic though, so I hope that you come by to see exactly why I feel the way I do.

      Thanks for the comment.

      ~Miss C. Jayne

  3. Keemy August 10, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Well, I do believe that femininity and masculinity are social constructs depending on one’s society. IN few societies women take on the more dominant role while the men are submissive. I do not know what it is to be a woman but I know what it is to be a man with feminine attributes. The pressure to play sports and talk a certain way about certain things still ails me but not like it used to. But for those women who want to be what is understood as feminine…why can’t they? What’s holding them back? Is it the lack of men who are willing to stand up and be MEN. Or is it the feminist movement which seems totally against men and any help they/we can offer. Hmmmm…good question.

    • Miss C. Jayne August 10, 2010 at 9:37 pm

      I like your take on this. However, I think it’s simpler than that even. It’s not about men not stepping up and being men or women refusing the help of men. I think it’s just what we’ve been led to believe. But I’ll be going more into this topic and skimming over the historical record (if you will) as it relates to women, especially Black women, and femininity.

      Thanks for your comment! xoxo

      ~Miss C. Jayne

  4. Tina December 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    What a gem to come across. I’ve been pondering about blackness and femininity due to the experiences I’ve had as a black woman living in Canada. In many or most ways, it’s very similar to America in that respect. However, I am not “African-Canadian” – and by that I mean that I do not come from a line of people who have lived in North America for centuries. My family emigrated from Africa two decades ago.

    So there are two different contexts in which I’ve experienced my femininity being portrayed. In my East African culture, we are viewed as women. Our femininity is never questioned and I have never been made to feel like less than a full-fledged female by people from my culture.

    I understand the complex that many black men in the West seem to have about dark-skinned women (and their own darkness), perceiving dark-skinned women as being less feminine, loud, uncompromising, and demanding. And I do believe that is due to their semi- or sub-conscious association of dark skin with unattractiveness. People who have stigma against dark skin tend to associate it with often the most negative qualities and this association is automatic. In order to explain their preferences for lighter skin individuals, they provide stereotypes of people with dark skin. But if they delve deeper and honestly, they will find that their preference is due to a more complicated issues.

    That said, where I live in the West, I often am made to feel like less of a woman but not usually by black men, it is often by non-blacks. In fact, I am often made to feel more feminine when around blacks because, despite whatever issues some might have, they still do not perceive other blacks as being entirely “other”. Since they come from a family of black individuals and grow up around blacks they are still better able to understand the individualism and worth that black individuals have.

    Meanwhile, many whites I’ve been around seem almost horrified by the idea of people being in interracial relationships (especially if the black individual is dark-skinned) and don’t seem to be aware of their often stereotypical and racist views they have on blacks. For example, my cousin and her (non-black) friends somehow got onto the topic of black women. They spouted racist nonsense and did not even seem to realize how offensive their statements were.

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