The stereotypical Asian woman is riddled with intricacies and contradictions. (But also flat and static!) On one hand, we are the nerds who face social segregation, because we all are good at Math. On the other hand, Asian women are the trophies of Asian fetishists, because apparently, we are submissive, accommodating, and have magic vaginas. I would like to point out that it’s interesting that the stereotypes that Asian women are the polar opposites of the stereotypes that black women face. Black women are seen as angry, Asian women are said to be quiet, submissive. Black women supposedly possess excessive amounts of sexuality, whereas Asian women are sexualized in a different way. In a modest way. They are supposed to be slim, flat, and they aren’t outright sexual.
Any thoughts on the reflections shared in the quote? Particularly about the way asian woman stereotypes are juxtaposed to those of black women?
And that brings us into the messy reality that often someone’s politics and their kinks can be at odds. Does that make casual references to violent men and domestic violence okay? No. But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with feminist values who ascribes to them in every aspect of their lives. In fact, feminist theory is rife with internal conflicts over what attire, what jobs, what relationships, even what kind of political party affiliations are feminist. Like anyone else, Beyoncé’s feminism is tailored to suit her upbringing, her experiences, and her life. None of us are The Ultimate Feminist—in fact there is no such thing. So why do we expect a pop star to be a model of an impossible concept? Beyoncé is a human being with a messy complicated view of herself, her life, and society. In turn, our perspectives on her work and her feminism are complicated by our own biases and expectations. Beyoncé isn’t the only one whose life and body of work both embraces conventional feminism and flies in the face of it; that is true of all of us and it’s time we just accept it.
Pop culture feminism, albeit flawed in concept and execution, is nothing new. In fact, it is often much more accessible to young women who aren’t necessarily familiar with the history or academic theories of the movement. Beyoncé’s use of an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has given Adichie an unprecedented platform. Libraries are reporting an uptick of interest in Adichie’s books, and while it is too soon to predict the long-term impact, it is safe to say that at least some eyes will be opened. Does that mean Beyoncé is the new ideal feminist? Of course not. Just look at Jay-Z’s verse on Drunk In Love, in which he references Ike Turner and that infamous line “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” a reference that many will recognize from the abusive diner scene between Ike and Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” The song is clearly not intended to be a feminist anthem. If anything it is likely an exploration of sexual dynamics.
Marriages between black women and white men could be tolerated during slavery because they were so few in number and represented no threat to the white supremacist regime. After manumission they were no longer tolerated. In the state of Kentucky, the Supreme Court was asked to judge insane a white man who desired to marry a female slave he had once owned. Once slavery ended and whites declared that no black woman regardless of her class status or skin color could ever be a “lady”, it was no longer socially acceptable for a white man to have a black mistress. Instead, the institutionalized devaluation of black womanhood encouraged all white men to regard black females as whores or prostitutes. Lower class white men, who had had little sexual contact with black women during slavery, were encouraged to believe they were entitled to access to the bodies of black women.
Black women have been taught to be selfless and strong since childhood. We are reared to love our mothers, obey our fathers, care for our siblings, and be subservient to our men. Whether we want to or not, we are instilled with all the traits of dedicated caretakers, making us, as Zora Neale Hurston once said, “the mules of the world.” Such selflessness has taken a toll on black women, forcing us to compromise our sanity and overall wellness to appease others.
In clinical psychiatric settings, black women are diagnosed very differently from white counterparts who present with the same symptoms. For instance, black women have considerably higher rates of anxiety disorders than white women. Blacks are diagnosed with higher lifetime rates of simple phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Therapists tend to view African American women as anxious or phobic while perceiving white women who describe similar emotions and behaviors as sad and depressed. Black women are more likely to be described by therapists as hostile and paranoid, and diagnosis for black women is inclined to be more severe than for white women. In these diagnostic differences we see the operation of the social construction of black womanhood that disallows sadness. Therapists are less likely to perceive a black woman as sad; instead, they see her as angry or anxious.
The idea that black women must always be perfectly well-behaved — or risk shaming the community-at-large – is both unrealistic and unfair. We are fighting a battle that is unique to women of color in this country, and that is the duality of asserting our individual identities separate from stereotypical imagery, while fighting for the elevation of our communities as a whole. This places us in the precarious position of not being able to ignore the pervasive effects of reality television, while still recognizing that every, single one of these women has the right to present themselves to the world as they choose – whether anyone agrees or not.
on stereotypical imagery in shows like Basketball Wives & Real Housewives of Atlanta