7.12.2014

Feeling Defeminized

Long time, no post.

Actually, I have had the idea for this post in my head for quite awhile but I haven't had the chance to write it until now. However, I think it's pretty timely considering the recent comment by Joan Rivers about First Lady Michelle Obama being manly and the fact that people actually believe clearly photoshopped pictures of her which claim to show that she is in fact a man (born with the name Michael) are real.

When is society going to stop perpetuating the absurd belief that black women have no right to be womanly? That we somehow cannot claim female as our gender even when our DNA says we are? Why, as a black women, do I feel that we are grouped into this category of not-quite-female but not-quite-male, as if we're some kind of alien being with some traces of female features but are "unpredictable", "scary", "ugly", "hypersexual", and "manly".

I feel the answers to my questions are summed up beautifully in the TransGriot article:
"If you have a group of women [white women] that you put on a societal pedestal as the paragons of beauty, fertility and the femininity gold standard that all women should aspire to, then it stands to reason that you would set up a group of women [black women] as the ones to not emulate." 
Hence, we are currently still at a point where black women represent this negative otherness. Unfortunately, I find that this is an idea which has been exported from the Western world. When I am out and about in Taiwan, I often hear comments which imply that I'm unfeminine and that the effort I spend on my looks is basically comical. Sometimes, I find that people attempt to discount my femininity by simply calling me a man. I'm no model but I certainly don't look male, haha.

But these comments are just ignorance, right? Lack of worldly experience. Fear of the unknown. Island mentality. Maybe. However, I believe a lot these mindset and comments are fueled by taught behavior, things that were learned from members of the Western world and taken to be truths. On several occasions, I have caught Westerners "educating" Taiwanese people about blacks. I remember a fellow American saying this little gem during one of the many times my hair has been a topic of conversation:

"They sort of just wake up without brushing their hair, that's what I heard."

Surely you said something in response, Nicolette. You reeducated those people. You threw them a glance in horror, didn't you?

Nope, I said nothing.

When we go abroad, why should it be our job to reeducate people? Did I come to Taiwan as a spokesperson for black people? I feel like I'm a living example of why all the things people say are not true. If a person or group of people do not want to throw away their ignorance, island mentality, or what have you and look at me as a person not a caricature, then I have no time for them anyway. I came to Taiwan to learn, and because I was interested in the culture (btw, being discriminatory is not part of the culture, as much as some people would like to think. It is an import, like Heinz ketchup or iPhones). Thankfully, I have met some wonderful locals who refuse to subscribe to the foolishness I described above. And I have been complemented on my looks before, which of course made me feel good.

All in all, I think as a black person, particularly a black women, it's important to not fall into a pattern or habit of explaining yourself to people. As long as the European ideal dominates in this world, you will always be questioned. Just be a living example of why the stereotypes aren't true and do you. Be what you want to be, go where you want to go, and focus on gaining experiences, not proving people wrong. 

"Being in Taiwan can make you feel so unpretty" a fellow black girl in Taiwan once told me. It can, but it's important to remember that it's not you, it's the construct around you.

22 comments:

  1. Dang.Dang.Dang.Dang.Dang. *Florida Evans voice*

    I feel like you've been reading my mind and heart. This has come at the right moment for me. I've been feeling down about something I heard someone say about my kinky hair. It really bothered me. I feel like it was starting to bother other parts of my confidence as well. *sigh*

    This last part:

    "As a black women ... As long as the European ideal dominates in this world, you will always be questioned. Just be a living example of why the stereotypes aren't true and do you. Be what you want to be, go where you want to go, and focus on gaining experiences, not proving people wrong."

    This is now my personal mantra!! Thanks.

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  2. Sadly that can happen in the US by your own. I remember when I first went natural. I heard snide comments from people you thought would understand. It hurt because I would expect if from someone nonblack, but from someone black it hurt. I felt they would understand more than someone who wasn't black.

    It isn't your job to educate people. As you said if they do not want to bother getting to know YOU as a person than don't even bother.

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    1. I know that Joan wasn't calling to call the first lady a Tranny. If you ever looked at pictures of her in her younger days..let's just say she wasn't nothing to look at. Supposedly, she had plastic surgery. What for? it didn't do much justice for her.

      Anyways, I get what you're saying about explaining your Blackness..especially in a country where lighter skin is more cherished than darker skin. It also doesn't help that some of the people asked a White person to explain who we are. My question that when it comes to that issue is ..respectfully..why on earth would some of those guys ask a White person( not knowing if there racist or not) about the Black diaspora? Sure, if you're in countries like the Canada, the US and Europe, a lot of different minorities are born and raised there,but when it comes to the experiences,history and culture it's not the same. That is like me trying to tell someone about Japanese culture and I have never been to the country ,nor am I Japanese? In this case, this person intentionally spewed racism to these people. Sadly, some of them may fall for those words.

      It really isn't your job to constantly educate people. I believe in evaluating one's character before their background. If they instantly came up to a White person without evaluating them and asked them about Black people, it really shouldn't be that hard to come up to a Black person in the same manner. They also shouldn't believe the very first thing that a person tells them because they could be setting them up to be used. Some things should be common sense. I don't have to know about ones background to know that there is good and bad people in it.It's just human nature. That is how I view all people. Unfortunately, for some people , the power of generalizations often dominates the truth for too many people.People are too busy looking for quick answers for questions

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    2. Lor,

      Yep..sometimes we can be our own enemies. Sometimes I find it funny that some of the same ones who claim to be proud of their heritage be the very ones who can be the harshest critics of your features. Light Skin and Long hair was the thing in my family and it can take a toll on you if you don't get away from that negativity. You look now and now you look at how natural hair ,bald, close crop and braids are the thing. Though I love seeing it all but a part of me wonder will it be permanent pride or is it just a trend?One can't claim their proud of themselves if they're too busy putting down the very things that make them unique and beautiful.

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    3. M,

      Yeah it hurt even today. Its like hearing your parents talk about buying pork chops to put around your neck so the dog plays with you! LOL

      I wonder about if this is trend also. I always say do what works for you, but do not put down others who do not feel the same.

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    4. @ M

      I know that Joan wasn't calling to call the first lady a Tranny.

      That's a transphobic slur, sweetheart.

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    5. Thanks for correcting me on that and to those who are Transgender. I didn't think when I said that. My intention was meant against people like Joan who attempt to use it to down Michelle and Transgender people.I have no problem with them at all snd never have.My apologies in case anybody from the transgender community looking on her snd just in general

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  3. Welcome back, Nicolette!

    All in all, I think as a black person, particularly a black women, it's important to not fall into a pattern or habit of explaining yourself to people.

    Oh girl, preach. Preach it loud, preach it proud.

    Why, as a black women, do I feel that we are grouped into this category of not-quite-female but not-quite-male

    The same reason Asian men are grouped into a category of not-quite-male but not-quite-female. *nods* Hence this blog.

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  4. As someone who lived in an Asian country for almost 3 years and I agree with 95% of your post. Even though you are not the spokes person for BW, when you go to another country for whatever reason, you are in fact a spoke person for BW because you are a BW. When the comment was made about not brushing our hair, it should have been addressed, because that person would think that it is ok to continue to spew ignorance about black people. You are doing right by showing, but you also have to show and tell.

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  5. All in all, I think as a black person, particularly a black women, it's important to not fall into a pattern or habit of explaining yourself to people.

    *rimshot*

    And I don't. I don't have time. I'm a professional educator, which means I get paid to educate students. I'm not doing this in my down time, especially when I ain't gettin' paid for it. It is one thing to point out the ridiculousness of ignorant statements, but quite another when the recipient of said ignorance can't or won't acknowledge your truth...and you find yourself constantly explaining or defending. Fuck all that.

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    1. and you find yourself constantly explaining or defending. Fuck all that.

      AMEN!

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  6. I feel so not feminine in Korea. Especially at work. My coworkers are petite...slim women with long hair and small feet and cute pink accessories and high pitched voices. I'm more "manly" or athletically built than most of the men I work with. So I think about this all the time. I'm trying to just forget it and do me...hard when my femininity is being questioned. But like you said Nicolette, its not me its the construct around me.

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    1. Your coworkers (male and female) are what I call fragile. They will break an arm trying to open a can of soda because they have no muscle tone! I am glad I have always worked around (or had friends) who were into sports. So being athletic was normal. I can understand though what it must be like over there where fragile is sexy.

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    2. Or here. The high-pitched girly voice nonsense is virulent over here. This is one of the new ways women appeal to me, by seemingly girlish and more importantly, harmless and non-threatening.

      And it's no surprise this phenomenon is occurring at a time when women are outnumbering men in corporate offices and college classrooms.

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    3. This is one of the new ways women appeal to *men

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  7. All in all, I think as a black person, particularly a black women, it's important to not fall into a pattern or habit of explaining yourself to people. As long as the European ideal dominates in this world, you will always be questioned. Just be a living example of why the stereotypes aren't true and do you. Be what you want to be, go where you want to go, and focus on gaining experiences, not proving people wrong.

    I like this statement so much because most shows catered to Black people, talk shows in some way always have Black people explaining themselves like we are from outer space. We don't need to represent a whole race let alone explain ourselves. I hope I never face a similar situation because I know I would get racist right back. I'm not saying its right, but some people need to realize racism will not be tolerated or responded back with explanations or silence.

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  8. If you have a "flat" chest and behind, thin lips, and no swag; then, I would call that an accurate description of a "Joan Rivers" archetype. I rest my case. People in glass houses should not cast stones.

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  9. "When is society going to stop perpetuating the absurd belief that black women have no right to be womanly?"

    When womanhood is no longer defined by eurocentric patriarchal standards and is no longer for the benefit of white men. Don't get me wrong, white women get a lot of perks from it but it was created to benefit white men. Since celebrating or exalting black women's beauty doesn't do anything for the white man's status, except possibly lose some if another man's woman is better looking than his own ( in a patriarchal society) therefore black women are cast as unattractive, manly non-women. In my opinion, they can have that standard of womanhood. I wish black women collectively would carve out our own standards that benefit us.

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  10. You would think common sense would tell people not to listen or ask people that are not black questions about black people cause they obviously have no clue what they are talking about but common sense is not common

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    1. It reminds me of that scene from 'Lord of War', with the two little Black girls looking at Nic Cage's character drunk as hell in the dirt.

      "Ask the White Man. He will know."

      Yes. The White Man knows all. Hence, it makes perfect sense to ask him about other races of people even when a member of said race is right flipping there. *sarcasm*

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