I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about my personal experience and journey growing up as a young Black Girl, and maturing and evolving into a “seasoned” Black Woman. I’ve had the pleasure and, thanks to the Universe, sometimes chance opportunities to meet, work with and for, and just generally be surrounded by such a rich, dynamic, powerful, intelligent, creative, innovative, fierce and truly diverse group of Women over the past 40 plus years. These are the Women whom I’ve been able to learn from, laugh with, debate with, cry with, date, love, be loved by, listen to, be listened to, bite my tongue while listening cuz I can’t talk back cuz I was raised right, be mentored by, be coached by, be accepted by, to just BE.
Being a Woman means you got a lot of expectations/standards/stereotypes being placed upon you by men, other Women, and the world at large. Some of these (in my opinion) are reasonable, realistic and go without saying, others not so much! And of course, everything totally depends on the Woman and the myriad of factors that come with who she is ethnically, culturally, what generation she was born in, where she was born, etc. In other words, we Women are totally unique and can not be held to any particular standard- there is no “One Size Fits All” when it comes to us!
Now when it comes to being a Black Woman, well, everything gets multiplied times 2! For example, there are stereotypes that we’ve all been conditioned to not only believe in but to perpetuate and pass on to our children. And what has happened as a result? We are raising an entirely new generation on the same dogma and propaganda that has us in a constant toxic loop. The sad reality is often times Black Women are especially placed with the burden of being too “strong” to experience pain—despite being more at risk of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How many times have the following statements/commentary been made in reference to us Black Women?
*Being called hostile for standing up for yourself * *Being told that you’re too blunt or being thought of as aggressive* *Being socialized to constantly apologize and be the “bigger person”* *Being over sexualized* *People surprised at your ambition and intelligence* *People put off by your independence*
In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges facing all Women in the U.S. today is the lack of faith and belief in Women as leaders. This is especially evident in the realm of politics. While Women have maintained the highest office of leadership in Liberia, India, the UK, and countless other nations, the same cannot be said for the U.S. and regardless of what folks say, what it comes down to is a belief shared by many that even given a Woman’s experience, education or abilities, the perception that Women are less qualified and less competent than men still permeates throughout society.
Too many folks have bought in to the concept of patriarchy and what’s happened is that those same people and many others have been convinced that a strong and intelligent Woman represents a problem; a disruption to the social order rather than an integral part of it. Biased media coverage of Women politicians—stories that focus on Women’s fashion and looks at the expense of their ideas on policy—underscores this point. It is therefore no coincidence that the U.S. is completely behind the rest of the world when it comes to electing a Woman as president.
The one thing that must be said is that simply identifying as a Woman does not preclude you from bias or automatically mean you’re free from responsibility when it comes to oppressing others. Some Women are fortunate to sit in a place of Privilege, and too often those who do, fail to acknowledge it and many adopt a sense of Entitlement. Instead of empowering and uplifting, some Women will at times stifle and hold down those who aren’t as fortunate. We all need to be self aware and recognize the unconscious biases that we might have against other Women based on their race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, physical abilities, body type, and socioeconomic background.
Particularly Women of Color, we gotta check our own unconscious biases and uplift the voices of other Women of Color in our field who are facing additional biases in the workplace. We know that Unconscious biases oftentimes lead to systemic discrimination and it’s up to each of us to do what needs to be done to Address this issue. And I suggest starting with checking your own beliefs and encouraging the discussion of biases in your community, workplace, and home when you notice a lack of inclusivity and diversity.