I’ve always battled between the idea of speaking out or keeping my thoughts to myself and oftentimes, I settle for the latter. On more occasions than one I’ve been told that I look intimidating and at first glance appear to be a rude or unapproachable person – these comments being made by people I had no previous encounters with. Nearly 100% of the time they discovered the complete opposite and swallowed their words with the “wow! You’re actually a really lovely person you know!” But this has never been enough to sweep the hand-full of preconceived ideas based solely on my appearance rather than my character under the rug.
“I consequently found myself looking for ways to live outside of this box – making a purposive effort to prove the world otherwise”
I’ve had chit chats with guys in the past, black men to be specific, many of whom expressed that women of other races were easier to date and offered a stress-free relationship, unlike black women who supposedly brought nothing but drama and ‘headache’. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a generalisation here, I am not saying that all black men carry this particular mindset. However, I consequently found myself looking for ways to live outside of this box as a result of these misinformed individuals – making a purposive effort to prove the world otherwise. Not necessarily with the intent of gaining male approval or acceptance but simply because I wanted no association with the negative perception and myth that all black women were overbearing, aggressive, illogical hot heads.
I began smiling unnecessarily nonstop to replace the apparent ‘screw-face’ so many people told me I wore and yes, my cheekbones did start to ache eventually. I was treading extra lightly and being overly polite, mastering the art of containing my thoughts, feelings and emotions to ensure I toned it down as much as possible. “It’s ok” became my go-to answer even when it really was not and I felt compelled to pretty much shut the fuck up amidst instances where I felt unfairly treated – keep quiet, get over it & keep it moving was the motto… Here I was, dumbing down my personality and suppressing my feelings through fear of living up to the stereotype – the angry black woman.
“I single handedly created it for myself, by myself and without an emergency escape route”
You could say I was now an expert at pretending like everything was cool and although I was triumphant in escaping the ‘angry black woman’ box.. I managed to exit left & subconsciously walk right into a new one. This box felt different though. It was lonely, isolated, invisible and ignored. To make matters worse, neither society, its standards or its stereotypes were responsible for placing me inside this box. I single handedly created it for myself, by myself and without an emergency escape route.
I felt ongoing thrushes of frustration and gradually detached from reality. Random outbursts towards those nearest and dearest to me even though it was never their fault. Damn, this was the person I played myself into becoming. I had no one to talk to (well at least that’s what I kid myself into thinking) and was mad at the world for not wanting to hear me out. Harbouring the misconception that I was being dismissed when really, I was the one dismissing myself. All this wahala to avoid being perceived as the angry black woman… you know? The intimidating chick with an attitude who also happened to be black? Yeah, her.
“nobody knew shit because I didn’t say shit”
Now to say precisely the exact time my turning point took place would be long (I’ll save that for another blogpost) but what I will say is I was fortunate enough to get my mind right with the support of my partner and family. I realised that this frustration through feeling dismissed was not only self inflicted, but unjustified because I wasn’t vocal about what I felt in the first place. I harboured everything and although highly blatant, I finally understood that nobody was psychic, nobody could read my mind, nobody knew shit because I didn’t say shit so what right did I have to be mad?
In the same breath it was important for me to reflect on this period of my life to analyse the underlying issues that provoked such emotions. Why did I feel like I no longer had a voice? I concluded that the angry black woman trope was just a negative label used to undermine and silence our views. The freedom of speech suddenly flies out of the window when a black woman attempts to expresses herself. She is characterised as hyper-aggressive and argumentative. Her voice is muffled and her feelings are reduced and mislabelled as having a tantrum or being difficult despite how politely and respectfully her opinions are delivered. In the eyes of the world, our opinionated = anger.
In 2015 actress Amanda Stenberg referred to the angry black woman stereotype as “just another attempt to undermine certain perceptive’s”. She went on to say “I have strong opinions, I am not angry” and I couldn’t agree more. Black women continue to be taunted with this label so that we internalise our pain and justifiable anger. From Jemele Hill to Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, all women who have been placed in this box in the attempt to discredit their views and concerns.
To worsen things, it’s hard not to miss how oblivious people are to the impact stereotypes like these could potentially have on us as black women. I happened to be one of those women who unfortunately allowed the ignorance of others to dictate my behaviour and subsequently who I evolved into. Honestly guy’s this shit really does play on the mental and simply isn’t fair but I hope that my experience can open your eyes to also see what I saw eventually.
Overtime I have become more confident in who I am and my beliefs. I respect my feelings enough not to lock them up stored away somewhere like a prisoner as if they do not matter because they very much do. I refuse to be blurred out and will continue to express myself the best way I know how. I have an opinion, something you too are entitled to irrespective of the colour of your skin. Set and enforce boundaries then be vocal about it when you believe they’ve been crossed. Speak up and don’t live your life trying to please others. It’s time to tap into your inner power and stand up to any attempt made to dim your light. Your opinions are valid & should not be reduced to having an attitude problem. In the case where it is, it is what it is… go ahead and let the ignorant betties continue to wallow in that mindset after all, who gon’ check you boo?