D.L. Hughley thinks black women are the angriest group of women he’s ever met. Oh, and he’s writing a book that’s probably as unoriginal as he is, and those sentiments are probably laid out with more substance. But probably not.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this. He defended Don Imus when that dude called the women on the Rutgers basketball team out of their names. Bros before hoes, I guess.
Hughley is the latest example of a black man with a platform using it to chastise and generalize about black women for profit. While Hughley’s book is not strictly about black women or dating like the ones you’ve heard me rant about and those published recently by Ray J or Musiq Soulchid or The Very Smart Brothas, or the ones to come like the co-authored book by Tyrese and Rev. Run, it riles me for reasons I wrote about in Bitch Magazine for an article called “Ill-Advised.”:
The reason I am riled up about the runaway success of these books—why I refused to pay money to see Think Like A Man (besides Chris Brown’s casting)—is that the messages embedded within them demean the success of black women. Doubly oppressed by race and gender, black women continue to succeed academically and economically – but they (cue violins) are still stumped in matters of the heart. What, no celebration over the academic degrees? We didn’t get to learn how to read legally for centuries. Where’s the bestseller-turned-blockbuster about that?
Instead, popular culture narratives leveled at black women – particularly those penned by black men – are typically demeaning, snide, childish, humorous at the expense of successful black women…
These works debase black female readers by way of black male condescension. It’s a kind of intellectual bullying and a Catch-22: If they consume it, they are under black male control, if they dismiss it, they are fulfilling the stereotype of emasculating, hard-headed black spinsters who don’t know how to treat a man, which is why they can’t keep one.
What happens in the black community tends to set cultural trends. Maybe women of different races feel like this isn’t even about them, the same way that black men consider it quietly humorous to continue to support a guy like Hughley or name-the-relationship-expert-this-week. But women around the world who have been juggling successful careers while also trying to stay sane know that any woman who is deemed “too independent” — and God help her if she’s also unmarried — are implicated in these kinds of cultural narratives.
It’s not as sexy, I know, to say: I’m really sad. I’m going through it. I’m so disappointed. I’m so hurt. More convenient for marketing purposes to read melancholy as anger, to reinforce the notion that women of marrying age who are not coupled are inflicting it on themselves by being unjustifiably upset at the world.
The inability to see black women as capable of more than rage or sass, but also fully capable of being disappointed and hurt absolves black men who hurt them of taking responsibility for some of the pain that black women internalize. And hurt and disappointment turned inward, of course, turns into anger.
It took a lot of meditation, therapy and soul-searching for me to understand that as a survivor of trauma and stress, I carried the burden of not wanting to ever appear angry in public. Repressing my feelings led to a lot of darkness and ugliness in my life. God forbid, that on top of being successful and self-sufficient, I would also be pissed off once in a while.
I had to practice allowing myself to be tired, sad and/or angry. It comes with the territory. It’s called life. Anyone perpetuating the notion that black women or any women, really, are the angriest, ever, is untrue and unfair. It is just a disappointment, heaped on layers of other disappointments.
To add insult to injury, D.L. Hughley is not even funny enough for me to care about. The black men I count as my true friends know how to treat women, so this is not about them. I’m still allowed to be sad about and tired of the universal acceptance and passive invalidation of any defensiveness on the part of black women about old tired tropes of black-women-as-a-monolith-to-sell-products.
Kimberly N. Foster wrote thoughtfully about giving up the fight in defense of black men for For Harriet, which I totally get and can relate to. I’m at a point in my life where I am learning to surrender battles that are not mine, since part of what makes me gloriously happy is leaning toward my life’s purpose, writing, speaking and reading books that are not written by men who don’t know how to use their platforms for good and not evil.
The place where I get stuck is that I don’t think anyone wins when we only love the people who love us back. At the same time, we don’t have all the time in the world on this planet, so it seems wise to just ignore or give up on people who give up on you. I’m not an angry black woman as much as I’m a disappointed and weary one. Hurt, tired and self-protecting, maybe. But not angry.
There are more of us than any sound bite would lead you to believe.
I think it’s helpful to remember that our attention is our currency. I don’t choose to pay attention to the demeaning crap anymore, because it’s not worth the drama. It’s not exactly a boycott, and it doesn’t always feel as empowering as I’d like. But it is what keeps me moving toward happiness. And sometimes that’s all we need.