I don’t date Black women is a statement I’ve heard more than once in my life. Fortunately for me, I am a Black woman, and it’s both disheartening and nice to know that I am disqualified from pursuing anything romantic with a man who likes to contradict himself by flirting with me in the first place. It actually saves me a lot of time and emotional labor–except for when they come back. They always come back when they need healing or after they’ve been disappointed by other women. Apparently, I’m a strong Black woman, and men really think I can fix them and give them the self-love they are lacking. What they fail to realize is that I don’t need any more weight. The world is heavy enough for me. So, thank you to every man who has ever told me that they don’t date Black women–I really hope you heal from your own ignorance or self-hate.
The world is so heavy that it challenges my perceived femininity on a daily basis. Every day, I am faced with the decision to be considered an “angry Black woman” for simply speaking from a place of authority or knowledge or to hold my tongue and remain docile. Yet when white women speak their minds, they are applauded for being assertive, expressive, brave, or helping to dismantle the patriarchy. When it comes to me, not so much; I’m a problematic naysayer. I’m either considered angry or bitter, depending on the day. To that point, I have long felt excluded from feminism, simply based on the fact that I am Black and feminism does not take my intersectionality into account.
As a Black woman, the manner in which I show up in the world has to be much more calculated than my non-Black friends. I’ve always felt the need to straddle the fence when it comes to masculine and feminine energy, simply as a means of protection. When a sense of protection or safety is not provided from men in my life, I reverse engineer masculinity as a way to protect myself. The reality is, I use masculine energy as a shield, and my femininity as a weapon. No wonder I feel like finding love is a constant fight.
My most organic femininity is preserved for those I feel safe around–typically family and friends. When it comes to my dating life, being feminine is a product of my vulnerability. Unfortunately, many men actually don’t make me feel safe enough to be vulnerable.
What is Black femininity?
Well first off, it cannot be defined. That’s where society went wrong. So, let’s start with the basic definition of femininity.
fem·i·nin·i·ty | \ ˌfe-mə-ˈni-nə-tē \ : the quality or nature of the female sex : the quality, state, or degree of being feminine or womanly (Merriam-Webster)
I identify as a woman. When it comes to how I define Black femininity, I can only speak from my personal and cultural experiences. Society has long equated femininity with submission to men, which feels absurd in 2021. Unfortunately, this feminine ideal is deeply rooted in American society. From women fighting for voting rights, civil rights, and even autonomy over one’s own body, it’s apparent that to exist as a woman is to feel suppressed and controlled. Couple being a woman with being Black and you’ve added in an additional struggle–systemic racism.
WE ARE NOT THE SAME. OUR STORIES ARE DIFFERENT. THEY ARE COMPLEX AND UNIQUE TO US.
How Black women express femininity has less to do with society’s definition of femininity and more to do with our personal journeys and actual survival. Our intersectionality results in added layers of discrimination and a total lack of protection from society. This is made apparent to us from an early age. Many of us are taught to be independent as a means to survive and thrive. The notion of being one’s own provider borrows concepts from traditional masculinity and teaches us that Black women, unlike other women, need to master both femininity and masculinity as a way to overcompensate for the anticipated lack of a men in our lives–whether that be a father figure or romantic partner later in life. This notion is where we see the beginnings of the problematic “strong Black woman” trope.
Another problematic phenomenon is the lack of innocence associated with us from an early age. Oftentimes, little Black girls are robbed of their innocence the second their bodies start to develop. As a result, the importance of modesty tends to be overemphasized to us, and the idea that our natural bodies are socially unacceptable enters our subconscious.
Many of us struggle with these dynamics throughout our lives. We’ve long been fetishized, sexualized, or completely overlooked. The fight isn’t over for us. Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and many other Black women who’ve died in the hands of police officers or in the hands of doctors after giving birth in hospitals are not mere martyrs. They are me. They are my mother, my aunts, my female family members, and my girlfriends.
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” – Malcom X
The truth is, we deserve better. We deserve authentic love and affection without having to navigate societal qualms about who we should be. We deserve respect. We deserve to be our own version of feminine without being chastised. But why is it that when we display our innate femininity, it is somehow vilified? We’re considered sluts or “thots” for embracing our sexuality, asexual “mammies” for taking care of our families (and everyone else), gold diggers for valuing financial stability when seeking a partner. A lot of these tropes are dated and invalid, yet they still play a major role in how people perceive Black women.
The fact remains that when Black women do the exact same things as other women all around the world, it’s somehow deemed unacceptable. Quite frankly, people need to get over it.
I don’t get to choose how the world sees me. All I can do as a Black woman is continue to show up as my authentic self, whether or not people view me as “feminine” enough. It’s not my job to make men, or people in general, feel comfortable at the expense of my survival and emotional well-being. You want me to be softer? Then respect my womanhood and take it for what is—a product of oppression and an unapologetic expression of self-love and preservation.