Cultures across the globe dictate that women should be docile, obedient, and the “fairer sex.” In America, women are also stereotyped when of a specific culture or race. Women of color often have it worse than the majority. African-American females are assumed to be difficult, loud, divas. Latina’s are feisty, great cooks who dance ’til the cows come home. Asian American ladies are petite, timid homemakers. But generalizations are just that – speculation. So let’s try to debunk the worst stereotype of them all – the “angry black woman.”
African American women come in every shape and size. And all complexions of beautiful chocolate, too. Taught to be strong and proud, we represent more than 13 percent of the female population in the United States. To me, being an African American woman is truly special. We bestow many admirable qualities, such as resourcefulness and hard work. However, popular culture pushes those aside and focuses on the negative stereotype of the “angry black woman.”
Both reality television and movies perpetuate what is known as the “angry black woman,” and lump us all together as loud and over the top. But the vast majority of African American women, including me, are the exact opposite. I am pretty reserved and low-maintenance. I also despise confrontation; it makes me really uncomfortable. Yet, I know that when someone meets me for the first time, more often than not, they assume I’m a typical black woman. That is to be “loud with [a] big booty,” said a newlywed couple from Texas.
“They’re confrontational,” the husband continued when asked what he thought of African American women. The wife jumped in to say that women of color have “lots of soul and can be kind of obnoxious.”
I had to chuckle. I do know African American women like this in real life. One of my Sociology college professors comes to mind. Professor Thompson is as shapely as a fig tree and laughs at her own jokes all the time. I also thought of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and VH1’s “Love and Hip Hip” and “Basketball Wives” as these shows oh-so-proudly display our “attitudes.” Is it any wonder that’s how we are imagined to be? I have met truly fascinating African American women who exhibit none of the portrayed characteristics that garner us this stereotype.
Still, the negative stereotype of the “angry black woman” persists. “They can be difficult and diva-like,” stated a man who wishes to remain anonymous. “I’ve witnessed a lot of [African American women] yelling.”
Even those who have never had a negative experience with African American women adhere to the stereotype. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” said McKenzie, a 21-year old from San Antonio, when asked about black women being angry and difficult.
The sad truth is that a majority of people believe in the “angry black woman” stereotype. Being a minority in two facets – race and gender – may tie in to how little we are respected and perhaps that is why we continue to be disrespected. The “angry black women” in this world (because there are some) may not feel heard. Feeling ignored may be what ignites their defensiveness.
Personally, I’ve learned to challenge this stereotype by just being me. That’s a poised and respectable southern African American woman (sans Cotillon).