So, last week, on the last week of Women’s History Month, some folks over at Media Takeout decided that they were going to make Ashanti the butt of their jokes. In case you missed it, a screenshot of what they posted to Instagram is below.
Aside from the fact that this is a disgusting display of toxic masculinity rooted in patriarchy that would believe a woman’s whole self should be dedicated to belonging to someone in order to be considered someone of worth, I do want to have a real discussion about this. I especially want to talk to the self identified women who see this, laugh, but in reality take this to heart.
This society, has much to offer, but also lots of ways in which it needs to grow. I once said that I was all for the coming Ragnarok that would shake things up and change this country to be as inclusive/integrative as it pretends to be. This meme, to me is a direct reflection of where the problems are and needs to be fixed: it’s a display of sexism and racism (internalized or not).
Black women have been consistently told since the times of slavery that they hold no worth twice over. First they hold no worth in a place which reveres men. Secondly they have no worth in a world that favors whiteness. When you are both Black and female, you are, in many ways, considered to be at the bottom. Never mind the hierarchy that exists in Black spaces related to colorism and texturism. The context of skin tone and hair texture matter, but I want to speak about Blackness and Womaness in a larger context for right now.
Black women are constantly under attack. We are under attack from the “mainstream;” whiteness who seeks our erasure. We are under attack from non-Black POC, who aspire to whiteness and would do so by stepping on us to be considered further removed. We are also under attack from other Black people, especially Black men, who seek dominance and an equality with White men, to rule over women, not to seek true Black liberation.
I am sure that coming from a self identified Black Woman who is a Sex and Relationship Therapist by education, skill, and trade, this all seems strange and out of the realm of what I should be talking about on this blog. But I am dedicated to speaking about Black womanhood, in all its forms and the impact on the psyche.
This meme came out and some really did think it was funny. Someone obviously thought it was funny enough to post. I am sure others commented. And if I know human nature, someone was offended and was told they were taking it too seriously. That it is a joke. The thing is though, womanhood, Black womanhood specifically, always seem to be the ass of someone’s jokes. Black women, who may have initially been offended, are often asked to re-evaluate their feelings to know that they are taking it too seriously, that it wasn’t intended to be harmful. BUT IT WAS! And I for one am tired of hearing/seeing people say that the way Black women feel about a situation is over done or outright wrong! This can make it so hard for people to express themselves without doubting the very emotions they experience on a day to day basis.
The problem is that when we are constantly seeing displays that tell us Black women are without worth, or that something must be wrong because we don’t have (or maybe want?) children and/or a man, they are attacks on us as people, on our womanhood, and on our choice to live our lives as we deem fit. These seemingly small instances that tell us to examine our lives and see if we measure up to the expectations others have for us. When men focus on what they want for themselves, they are not told they are being selfish or that they have been devalued. They are not told to hold back because they will not be able to find a mate depending on their level of success. This message is reserved for women. This is why I focus on Black women and their self-esteem and self love. It can be hard to have good self-esteem and to love yourself when you are told that you have no reason to be happy with who you are. This is the reason so many are hurt on a day to day basis; why women stay in relationships that don’t work or are abusive financially, emotionally, or physically. We are scared to be alone. We have been taught to aspire to be chosen by someone. We have been taught that who we get is reflective of what we deserve. We have been taught that being in a bad relationship is better than being alone. The underlying message not often said aloud is “You have no value except that which you receive by having a man” or “You--the person--have no value, only your vulva, vagina, and uterus” All of this to say that proximity to a man who wants to be with you and and give you children is your true worth. IT’S NOT!
You are a human being. You get to decide what you want for your life. I am not saying it’s easy. I am saying it’s necessary. People who are trying so hard to tell you what you SHOULD do with your life, are often threatened by what you can and have already achieved. Black people are often told that they need to work twice as hard to get half as far. And Black women are certainly achieving. We are the frontrunners for acquiring advanced degrees, starting up businesses, and Melanin Magic-ing all over the place! That doesn't mean we don't have desires, but we don't have to be defined by those desires. But in all this negativity, what can you do?
1. Acknowledge. Acknowledge that if you have watched ANY American TV shows, grew up in America, etc. that you have received messages about your worth, value, and potential, as a Black woman. Acknowledge all the microaggressions and misogynoir that you have endured thus far.
For those who aren’t Black women, consider that you have received the same messages--evaluate how you think about, talk to, and talk about Black women and women of color.
2. Educate yourself! Seems silly, but I really do think that knowledge can be a form of power. Be more acquainted with words like “gaslight,” “microaggressions,” misogynoir” etc. This education also asks you to take stock of what has been said and done to you. To learn how to identify and recognize when it is happening to you. But more than that, for you to determine the best way for YOU to deal with it when it comes. Holding on to the hurts that come your way can provoke feelings of anxiety and depression. They can spiral out of control and have you doubting your worth and your self-esteem can suffer. So, how will you let go?
For those who aren’t Black women: think about what you may have said that came out like a backhanded compliment. Think about what you may have done that would qualify as a microaggression, misogynoir, etc. How will you check yourself (or people around you) in the future? How will you progress in your journey. Do you even want to?
3. Start or continue your healing process. This part is vital. Synthesizing the information you have, starting the process of self love and appreciation can take you far in life. Maybe you will take the journey alone. Maybe you employ a coach or therapist. The choice is really based on what fits for you. If you are looking for a therapist, Therapy For Black Girls is a great place to start, since they have a national directory. If you want to work with me specifically, you can do that by clicking HERE to get on my schedule or click HERE to schedule a free 15 minute phone consult. Just know, help is available to you.
4. Acceptance. Accept where you are in the process. NOT the B.S. that people will say and do to you on the daily. You don’t need to accept bullsh!t. Accepting who you are will change your outlook on many things BUT, it will require the work of up keep. Just because you are liberated on a Tuesday, doesn’t mean you won’t fall prey to some of the same thoughts and actions on Friday. Each day you must choose your path and battle it out. Some days you will be too tired to fight, and that’s okay, too.
The Doc's Recommendation:
We need to call out every instance that is an attack on Black womanhood. We have already had enough ‘jokes’ that are in poor taste. We have already seen the various and sometimes dire consequences of this way of thinking and this toxic masculinity based patriarchy. It's time for change. Time to start with the person in the mirror.
Let me know how you feel below in the comments section.