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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Softer Side of Black Women

There’s a Black woman we don’t see in American media. She’s the kind of woman guys want to date and the best friend girls want to hang out with. The kind of woman that makes people smile and want to know more about her. She lights up a room with her presence, energy, and charisma. She’s charming cute and playful. 

She is the Soft Black Woman.

I feel in the media we only see one or two sides of the Black female experience. It's usually the “Strong Black woman” and her “downtrodden miserable experiences.” or the "Ghetto girl" and her "loud mouth, belligerence and bad attiude."

Because these stereotypes are so popular in American media and correlated with the definitive Black female experience, readers rarely get to see the softer side of the Black women. The loving side, the playful side, the friendly side, the flirtatious side. The woman who likes ribbons, and bows wears pink, and is cute and sweet. The feminine female who has fun with friends or on a date. The girl who makes us laugh, the one we want to take home to mother, the one men want to marry. The Black woman we love and want to share our lives with.

I feel we rarely see this softer side of Black women in media because racists want us to see White women as the ideal beauty and the feminine female. In institutionally racist America It’s not considered acceptable for Black women to be presented as a feminine female because they fear most of America will consider a Black woman to be sexually attractive and desirable. And the racists who run Madison Avenue and Hollywood don’t want a Black woman to be presented as sexually attractive and desirable because they don’t want to offend the millions of White females out there who they make their money from.

According to Madison Avenue and Hollywood, White women are supposed to be soft, gentle, dainty, and sexually attractive to the world, while Black women are supposed to take on the stereotypical traits of the emasculating Sapphire, the whorish Jezebel, or the asexual mammy. Unattractive, unrelatable and undesirable in American society.

And that’s the way it’s been since the Antebellum South.

I have to ask: Why aren’t most Black women challenging these images of themselves in the media? Why aren’t sisters trying to explore their softer sides? Why aren’t Black women trying to present themselves as softer, gentler, and kinder? Don’t Black women see themselves as cute, playful or flirtatious? Don’t they see the positive aspects to soft feminine traits? Or have they been brainwashed to see this side of womanhood as weakness?

I feel it’s time Black women in America started exploring the softer, gentler, side of themselves.. I’ve always thought Black women should play up the things that make them a woman, what makes them attractive and what makes them desirable. Every woman has something about them that makes them stand out. But most Black women don’t bring that part of themselves to the forefront. Instead, they take on the identities formed for them by Madison Avenue and Hollywood.

As a writer, I’ve been making efforts to explore and present the softer side of Black womanhood in my writing. Since The Cassandra Cookbook I’ve been developing female characters who are cuter, more playful flirtatious and more desirable; girly girls. Women men want to date and girls want to be friends with. I feel by presenting the softer side of Black women in stories, it’ll inspire other Black women to start exploring their softer sides and learn to value what makes them attractive and desirable.

Moreover I feel writing the softer side of Black women will allow readers to be able to connect with characters, identify more strongly with the experiences of women in the stories and relate to them as people on a human level.

 I really want to see more black women take time to explore their softer sides. Sistas need to realize that they can be soft and  gentle too and that there's nothing weak about it. 


  1. To my thinking, Shawn, you have done many, many gorgeous blogs, but this is one those that surpasses just about all we read about race and racism. It is acute, knife-edged, with Solomon-like wisdom, and profound knowledge of our United States, as well as the broad world we live in.

    Both of us could go into the many reasons why the problems in this blog persist, but the outstanding thing to my mind is how passively we Black females accept this. I must say that today's African American romance writers do refute these lies, but nowhere else in the literature do I find it being done.

    Please keep on striking a blow for freedom. I'm old, and I've said since I was a juvenile that regardless of how you feel about interracial marriage and mixing, the fact remains that until Black people are considered good enough to marry, we will have no equality. How smart and sly to do this by undermining our attractiveness and our worth.

    Kudos to you, Shawn, for being brave and speaking out about this. God either made us all, or he made none of this. I believe it's the former.

  2. Me again. Could we have a few more dozen blogs like this from you in the coming weeks?

  3. I love how men, instead of our moms and aunties, always have advice for us. Clearly, you are the perfect species...*insert sarcastic laugh here*

  4. I think you might like to read this in response to your question. And instead of standing behind your blog and lecturing black women, why don't you visit sites like Clutch Magazine or Madame Noir or Very Smart Brothas and engage black women in this conversation?