“I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything?” – Beyonce.
I chose that quote from the queen 1. Because she’s the queen and 2. Because before Black women that are not Beyonce can just be a woman without labels, America has to look past our labels: “Black” and “woman”. Within the last year, I have been introduced to a host of new terms and buzz words related to the Black community and Black individual’s place in society. Intersectionality is one of those words that resonates deeply.
To be both a woman and Black is one of the best examples in defining this term. What stands out the most regarding female identity in the Black community is that the experiences of these individuals working to identify themselves in both spheres, ultimately leads them back to the stereotype of a Strong, Black Woman. Stereotypes don’t always have to connote negativity but they can certainly bring pressure. For Black women, the pressures of greater American society are to not be perceived as angry or too aggressive and to be the backbone of the community. At what point are Black women allowed to decompress and unpack, seeing how these jobs that were assigned through history don’t have that in the description.
Black women also face the juggle between loving their Blackness and indulging in “European beauty standards”. But who is to decide what is beautiful to a woman but the woman herself? The movement to go natural is about a Black woman’s freeing choice to be versatile. While some see it as Black women loving their Blackness and their roots in the most natural state, others can say it’s simply about wanting healthier hair.
This year is about humanizing Black women through voice. It started in 2014 and momentum is only getting stronger. Establishing a voice means that Black women have to be comfortable in their own skin, for some it’s easier than others and that battle is a part of being human. It also means that they need support, not just from other Sisters but from Black Brothers too.
Being in the Black community can be hard, for lack of a better term. It’s full of kinship if you are part of it and there is an inherent beauty birthed from a history of struggle, a spirit and energy. This history has produced a lot of confusion as well, and a confused sexualization and understanding of the identity of Black women. As you will hear any educated Black woman state, there is a long list of Black women that have been at the forefront, the middle, and in the background doing their part and more to uplift our community though. Most mainstream school lessons that cover the history of Black Americans emphasize male leadership and voice, with the exception of Rosa Parks, and it’s a common story that most Black Americans learn anymore extensively than that until the get to college or they learn on their own.
This is a problem.
One woman I spoke with said, “I often think about what would have to happen if the movement were to accept a woman being the ‘face’. What does she have to look like? Does she have to be like a man? How does she become powerful?”. This question spoke volumes to me, and should for you too.
This Civil Rights 2.0 we’re in the beginnings of is answering that question. We see women at the forefront of this coverage every day, at least on social media, and because of these female leaders there is more space for what messages are central to The Movement. It’s not solely about race anymore; it’s about gender recognition and respect as well. Black women are not asking to take the place of men in these discussions, but they are showing without telling that they are just as powerful as men and can lead just as effectively.
But leadership without support is not possible, and Black women want that. One of the advantages that this Civil Rights 2.0 has is that it isn’t the 1960’s and there is space encouraged, if not flat out created, for Black women, but there are still some things don’t translate into greater American society. Another young woman I spoke with stated that she feels like if you’re complexion is darker, you’re accepted and loved for it but that same love isn’t experienced by those women that don’t have that “advantage”.
The women I talked to also grew up in predominately white neighborhoods so their experiences are more than likely different from other Black women but it does not change the fact that they are Black women and spoke on what they see and feel. I make this point because there is no stereotypical Black woman anymore. Yes they are strong and always will be, but they have voices, names, and stories. There is a beauty in intersectionality. As different as Black women can be from each other, they all are united under the understanding that in our society they have to navigate their identity because the oppressive experiences they have, whether they are blatant or underlying, are a result of them being a part of two subcultures that America can’t get it right for.
This piece was originally featured at misslaurenhailey.com/real-life