Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is Life Really As Miserable For Black Women As Portrayed In The Media?

Misery, misery, misery.

That’s what’s playing at the movies these days for Black audiences and at the bookstores for black readers.

In recent movies the lives of black women are depicted as miserable. In Monster’s Ball Leticia Musgrove is abused by landlords, employers and taken advantage of by white racist guard Hank Grotowski, the man who was part of the team that executed her husband. In Precious, Clarice Jones is molested by her father and physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her mother. And in every Tyler Perry film women are routinely abused by their evil husbands. In the face of so much media depicting so much pain in the lives of sistas I have to wonder: Is life that miserable for Black Women today?

I know sistas struggle with racism and sexism and have their issues with black men, but almost every piece of media nowadays is so depressing regarding the state of black women. From Tyler Perry movies to books like Terry McMillian’s Getting To Happy, it’s like there’s a big storm cloud around sistas these days. I mean I can’t go anywhere without being confronted with the face of an angry sista frowning at me.

I know Zora Neal Hurston said “black women are the mule of the world” in her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, but seriously is life a constant state of misery for black women? Does it always rain in the every day in the life of a black woman? Do sistas ever experience sunshine? Don’t Black women ever SMILE anymore?

I mean, whatever happened to the strong independent black woman of 1990’s media? You know the “I’m every woman” sista who was proud of herself. The one who took responsibility for her actions. The one who took charge of her life. The sista who saw her mother’s bad situation and changed it by going to college and getting her dream job. The sista brothers to bring home to their mothers. The sista brothers wanted to marry. She used to laugh. She used to smile. She used to have a good time. When did she get so difficult? When did she get so whiney? When did she get so High Maintenance? When did she get so EMO?

I think the depictions of black women onscreen made a wrong turn was somewhere between Joan Clayton on Girlfriends and Patience Phillips from Catwoman.

I’d really like to see some balance in the depictions of Black Women onscreen in the media. Instead of these one-dimensional films featuring sistas as perpetual victims of an evil abusive black man, how about some stories celebrating the beauty of a black woman? Can we get a movie that celebrates the joy of being a black woman? How about a film where we see black women smiling, laughing and having a good time? How about a film where a black woman has a healthy relationship with a black man? How about film about a black woman who is loving, caring and supportive and KIND?

I don’t mean to plug my own work but I write those types of stories. I’d love to see a story about a happy black woman like Cassandra Lee at the movies where a woman deals her problems and works through her issues with the support of her strong black father and good friends. Or a story like All About Marilyn where a Sista takes responsibility for her own choices and decides to get out of a miserable situation and find her own happiness.

Seriously, if the Media insists on showing this misery, then they should stop showing images of black women as victims of evil black men and present a bigger picture to the audience that’s more objective. I’d love to see a story that allows viewers to come up with their own conclusions regarding the situations of these poor downtrodden black female characters. Along with the images of those violent abusive black men, show viewers how shallow sistas make the choices that lead up to that misery. Show the audience how sistas choose to be with toxic men in spite of numerous warning signs like explosive anger, drug problems, or mental illness. Show the audience how sistas ignored the warnings of family and friends and built worlds around these bad brothers. Show the numerous psychological reasons sistas to stay in these bad relationships like their own insecurity and their arrogance. Show how sistas use numerous manipulative stunts to keep a toxic man and how these efforts blow up in their faces. Then show the outcomes of those relationships at the end of the movie which are the miserable situations so many sistas wind up in. Then the audience can understand how like attracts like and how misery loves company.

And just like I’d like to see some balance in the depictions of black women in real life I’d love to see sistas put some balance and perspective on their realities instead of taking this slanted media as truth. Black women today are more educated and successful than they’ve ever been in the history of Black America. Sistas have tremendous power; they’re the breadwinners and heads of households in most cases in the black community. Who’s responsible for all their misery? Brothers? The White Man? God? Or is it them?

I’d love to see sistas in real life who play the victim own up to the fact that the “miserable” situation they’re in is the sum total of all their own bad choices. Own up to the fact that just like they choose to be in a miserable situation, they can use all the talents and skills and choose to make changes to get out of it.

Zora Neale Hurston may have stated that “black women are the mule of the world” but I feel she wasn’t just talking about abuse women suffer at the hands of men. When she compares black women to mules, it’s also because she probably observed how so many sistas are stubborn, headstrong, and arrogant. Like Janie Crawford, many sistas go their own way and wind up in a series miserable relationships and miserable situations because they refuse to listen to reason. And just like Janie they go after the materialistic Joe Starks, stale Tea Cakes, or are forced to settle for the sleazy Logan Killicks of the world because they’re so busy trying to please people that they don’t take the time to discover what’s valuable about themselves.

And just as we make our own misery, we make our own happiness. No one can stay a victim unless they allow themselves to remain in that situation. God gave us all free will; we all have the power to leave any situation and move on to build a better one. I wish Hollywood would understand this about Black women. I wish Black women would understand that about themselves.


  1. I loved how you portrayed the character Marilyn in All About Marilyn. I agree with your article that black women should be portrayed in a more realistic light in the media. There is just too much extreme out there. As far as life being miserable, again, life is what you make it; but I truly feel that black women by far have many more obstacles to deal with than anyone out there, in this country anyways.

  2. I stumbled upon your article this morning and felt compelled to comment. I absolutely love what you've written here and am sending you a cyber peck on the cheek :) I especially love the part about showing the choices the down trodden black woman made to get to where she is or the reasons she's chosen the abusive black man - again. I love that you're a black man and writing all this. I'm so tired of the cyber battle between black women and black men because it's futile. No one's getting anything out of it except divided, and that's a shame. I too wrote a memoir that shows just how bad a black woman's life can be. I started out with some cards stacked against me as did my mother. In my book I don't blame anyone or anything. I show how I made decisions to effect a better outcome for me in my life. Bravo to you, Shawn, bravo.

  3. Shawn, I'm sick of this. It's my second time trying to leave you a comment and having my ID rejected until I did i the hard way.

    You can dedicate this one to me:) As a race, we seem to adore reading degrading things about ourselves What purpose does this serve? There are always reasons.

    I write about strong black women and men, albeit mixed up. As a romance writer, I have alot of fans so I know they're out there. Like you, I'm shaking my head and will continue to write books like Dying on the Edge with the strong and the weak depicted.

    Carry on, my friend!

  4. Thanks for all the kind words.

    This is a topic that means a lot to me and I will be writing more about the divide between black me and black women. While I know Black men and black women have their struggles, we have to stop fighting and start healing.