She’s Gotta Have It: A Lesson in Black Womanhood
My watching of the 2017 She’s Gotta Have It is virginal and pure as the driven snow...well as pure as I am capable of, as a person who reads too much..not just books, but also into situations and people. BUT I come untainted and with no comparisons, eye rolling, or teeth sucking with the nostalgia of someone who has watched the original who can’t let go.
Just to be clear, this ain’t my brand of poly. I am not here to discuss her selfishness or other issues, but the lesson i gleaned in watching the first 4 episodes. That’s all :)
Watching tv is not a passive activity (at least not when I do it) especially not where it comes to the inclusion of people of color. I note who is included, how they are included, why they seem to be included, and the ways in which that inclusion plays out. This time around, because it seemed to be so Blackity Black Black, I simply focused on the narrative and how the story was conveyed, not so much on skin tone and hair texture. I must say, as someone who did NOT binge watch every episode (yet), I am very much drawn to the narrative! I am proud to see Black folk, as a person who is Black. I am excited to see a woman of color, as a Black woman. I am especially overjoyed at the No Fucks Given narrative in telling the pure unadulterated truth where it come to intersectional showing Black womanhood, love of self, finding one's way, daily life, and even seeking help with a Black therapist who doesn’t come off as unethical! I feel like I am #winning! Without further ado, here is the lesson I gleamed in watching the first 4 episodes.
Lesson: A Black woman will never just be a Woman.
A Black woman, no matter her position in life, can try to be herself in the moments when she is alone, but the instant anyone is welcome into her loving bed, she become fodder for societal expectations, often through the white cisgender heteronormative male gaze (cishet gaze). I say cishet white male gaze for many reasons. Male Gaze because she is looked at as the object for sexual gratification, as most women would say they are seen. Indeed, she is seen as an object to be worn on the arm as an adornment. As a thing to be used for sex. Cishet Gaze: because of the sex she should be having and the arms she should be adorning are male arms. Because there is a threat to male ego and manhood to see women fellowshipping together. Because women together, who are same gender loving, are still made to have their relationships compared to heteronormativity, because being lesbian, bi, pan, etc. sexual, doesn't save you from having people, with the cishet male gaze, wanting to see you have lesbian sex with another woman for their gratification. Because even in those moments, your sexuality and body still don’t belong to you. White Gaze because she is Black. Because there is an automatic juxtaposition on the Black body to be compared to White people, to be known as inferior and have to make up for it with the aspects of appearance that can be changed. To have to prove oneself better, because stereotypes flourish on bodies of color. So, again, being seen through the Cishet White Male Gaze, and all it means to be seen as inferior based in race and sex and to know that the cishet white male gaze is not relegated to white men alone.
All the messages of white womanhood imposed on black womanhood, while being given a few sexual tropes from which to choose-- mammy, jezebel, sapphire. A black woman is never just a woman. If she refuses to perform womanhood the way it has been packaged for her, she won’t win. She isn’t free to have the sex she wants, with whom she wants, when she wants without constantly being questioned, side eyed, or cajoled both by the lovers she takes and the friends she has. Policing how we express our sexuality is as much a part of Black culture as shea butter and coconut oil. When she is unyielding and won’t do what she has been taught; when she is obstinate and stubborn, refusing to play the role written for her, she is an object both of loathing and of intense desire. Her simple refusal to commit to hetero-monogamy and be with the ONE person (read MALE) she is OBLIGED to be with, makes her questionable but also sparks an intense desire. That refusal, attitude, expression, and freedom is seen as a threat, and the need to subdue her becomes stronger in those who want to possess, cage, and own her.
She is at the intersection of blackness and womaness. White people would deny her blackness, but so would black males. There is an idea that black men only want to be with black women in so far as the “dangerous curves” her body can offer. The desire to be with a black woman seems almost entirely sexual attributes that can be utilized for male pleasure, with either an ignoring or an exotification of her skin. The idea being that it's nearly impossible to be both black and attractive. So if you are attractive, you must not be entirely black OR you are some type of exotic exception to the rule. The second those attributes of sexuality and beauty may be hinted at as not being theirs to possess, she goes from an object of desire to a Black Bitch (re: sexual assault). This is the story of many Black women who are accosted and assaulted in the street and told they should be flattered by the approach. That she is a Black Bitch and not just a bitch is very much indicative of what else is really being said. The fact is that by racializing her bitchness due to her audacity to not watch for ashy assed fuck boys, the naming of what diminishes her value must occur. Calling her a Black Bitch is to say not only is her womanhood under attack because she won’t acquiesce but also to say she is less woman because she is Black, which is ironic, because is this not the same thing the slave master already did? In classifying the Black woman as an able body capable of the work of a man and labeling her sexuality as overdone to the point of masculinity, have black women not already been robbed of their womanhood, for which they have fought and continue fighting to get back or define in our own terms? What other reason is there for racializing her bitchness? The attempted devaluing is meant to put her in her place while establishing a hierarchy. Remind her of her inherent lack of desirability due to her race (re: Blackness) and sex, while re-establishing dominance over her by reminding her that her body is for the taking, and though Blackness may be a common denominator, the everpresent penis marks him as conqueror, not the conquered.
Gotta thought, opinion, or question? Let it be known in the comments below!