Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Black Women, When You See Your Image on Television, Do You Like What You See?

Sorry for scraping from the bottom of the sewage pit for this one, but this has been on my mind. I despise nearly all of Black pop culture and therefore I, for the most part, avoid anything that may be related… except when I am trying to make some sort of social point or highlight an issue…. which is what I am doing here.

Black women, when you see your image in media, particularly on Television, do you like what you see?

Over the Spring and Summer I was able to catch a few episodes of “Reality” programs that - to put it nicely- show the worst examples of black women. I am not an avid Reality TV watcher…or even an avid TV watcher in general, so I only caught a few episodes of some of the worst offending programs - watching them out of curiosity more than anything else. But it doesn’t take an avid viewer to see how bad the images are. I raise the question above because I have been left scratching my head at the absence of an uproar on the part of black women against these images. I wonder if the silence equals acceptance of the imagery and of the reinforcing of the stereotypes that we are all aware of. In fact, beyond what is mostly silence… I have read/heard black women doing more to praise these characters than challenge them, or the stereotypes they perpetuate. Even if some of the images are true (and some are considering these are programs following women who are “supposedly“ being themselves) it doesn't mean other black women shouldn't challenge them.

There have been a rash of programs launching over the last couple of years that are not flattering to Black women, or Black Americans more generally. This caught my attention because in the background of this buffoonery, we have had the ongoing debate about single black women and the difficulties of finding partners. So this presented an interesting contrast that jumped out at me. The whole time, I am thinking to myself…. well these programs are not helping you. That makes the silence of black women all the more baffling.

Four programs stand out (but certainly they aren’t the limit): 1. The Real Housewives of Atlanta; 2. Basketball Wives; 3. The last Season of the Celebrity Apprentice; and 4. The Braxton’s.

The women in these programs always seem to be shining examples of the kinds of women who I would want to run away from as fast as I could. I would want nothing to do with them. I surely wouldn’t want any of them to be the mother of my children. That’s something that hits me right off the bat. Each show had various levels of ignorance and crazy. The worst display of the whole angry, loud, rude, abrasive, aggressive black woman had to be the Celebrity Apprentice, with “NeNe” Leakes, and Star Jones. Off the charts crazy. What’s sad is that I can’t call it a twisted and completely unfounded stereotype because I have seen this behavior first hand… repeatedly. My problem with the entertainment industry is, there seems to be a pattern where they are making Blacks look like beasts across the board. Where is the balance? There are plenty of smart, (brilliant) black American women who do not behave this way. Yet they choose to put a former adult entertainer (yes NeNe Leakes) in the spotlight. No uproar on the part of the masses of black women. In fact, we basically get the opposite. NeNe Leakes is being embraced by black women (at least by the establishment). She has been chosen as a featured speaker for Essence Magazine's annual festival. In so called “Black America” that is one step short of an NAACP image award. Dr. Boyce Watkins made some really great points in his commentary on this subject.

The other programs are just as troubling in their own way…although more subtle. The Basketball Wives appear to me to be escort service girls and gossip queens or a combination of both. Few real, genuine marriages exist in that world. They are essentially Gold Diggers who openly auction off what they have between their legs. Shallow, hollowed out trophy women (who aren’t even good at being that).
With The Real Housewives you basically get the same deal. The lives of all the main characters seem to revolve around money/financial status, and there's a constant competition to see which “diva” can outdo the other in the level of gluttony, stupidity, and arrogance they can display. The Braxton’s are only slightly more tolerable. Throughout the first season, we saw the example of the loud mouth, the annoying “diva”, and the gold digger. Once again, everything revolved around financial status. Toni Braxton herself, although the most tolerable, was not immune from spreading these negative images. I saw these women denigrate men who did blue collar work - labeling such men as losers who weren’t good enough. I saw these women denigrate a man who wanted to play an active role in raising his children. I saw a woman separate from her husband..a man who appeared to be an upstanding, decent guy who was guilty of falling on hard times. When he was employed and had a writing gig he was alright. But as soon as he fell on hard times…his wife leaves him. (not shocked… but unfortunate that this is becoming more of the norm…another incentive for me not to ever want to seek marriage… for what?). What a great lesson to teach to young women/girls - leave your husband when he loses a job, falls on hard times, becomes disabled and when he needs you most. I guess these kinds of women expect the “commitment” to marriage to flow one way (from the man) as opposed to both ways. It was no surprise that the most sane sister seems to have been the one from Maryland who doesn’t sing and is the most quiet of the bunch. If these are the Braxton “family values” then I am so glad I have a different set of values.

The moral of this, and probably the most tragic part is that young women/girls are watching these programs… getting their cues of how to behave from these programs… getting cues on how to be women and partners from these programs and from these characters. They emulate what they see on TV, and what they hear and read. They are influenced by hip hop culture more than their counterparts of other groups. This is why I say… Black culture (modern culture) is dead. It’s a rotten shell of what it once was. Yes, other women behave this way… true enough. Women in general are a little crazy (not all of you of course). But I see it in higher concentrations among blacks. It gas a bigger doubt about it. In the general culture… there are plenty of positive images to go along with the sludge. There is more of a balanced picture. This isn’t the case in so-called “Black America”.

And it’s not just the reality shows… you have Beyonce and Rihanna (considered Black royalty) who are like social wrecking balls to the psyche of black women/girls in this country. I am glad that I don’t identify with or recognize this culture. If I ever have a daughter… she will be in private or parochial school (or the best public school I could find) and sheltered from the madness of this planet as best as possible…and BET won’t be allowed in my home under any circumstances.

What can explain the silence of black women? Is this the image that they want to see? If you are a black woman… do you like what you see when viewing black women on TV? Is it the right reflection of you? Why are these negative characters embraced so strongly by so-called "black culture"?

This doesn’t really affect me directly… most readers probably know my dating preferences.. but it is still a troubling social problem that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.


dorothy charles banks said...

Reality TV is painting all women, no matter their race, with the same broad brush. These media created women with the perfect makeup, flowing hair extensions, pretty clothes and shoes, and cars represents endless glamor and high living that viewers of these shows sit home and dream about.

I think this is why so many younger women seek their reality show fame om YouTube. I don't think you will hear African American women complaining about the images on reality TV, because that is where they want to be, competing with other divas to get their 15 minutes of fame and fortune.

Paradigm said...

I wrote something but I guess I lost it. To be blunt, black families are under attack by black people. Yes, other races this and that but that's their problem. I'm talking about OUR brotha's and sista's. This is insane. And to have these woman praised is mind blowing. But black people are running in droves to do just that and will get fighting mad if challenged on it. Your right AI, I'm done too. I'm not completely willing to give up on black culture as a whole (my inlaws just came back from New Orleans and said it was incredible the way we acted with peace and love, can't wait to go next year) but in part? Absolutely. It doesn't represent the values I was taught by my mother and father or grandparents and I won't legitimize it even though others do. Take care man.

The Angry Independent said...

Dorothy wrote:

Reality TV is painting all women, no matter their race, with the same broad brush.

Yeah... but I notice that black women are getting a few extra layers of paint. I just see it as more of an accepted norm for black women.

"I don't think you will hear African American women complaining about the images on reality TV, because that is where they want to be"

Unfortunately this is true for a large portion of the people who follow & support this kind of entertainment. They want to be what they see. It's a frightening new norm.

We have gone from eras when young women wanted to emulate class... like Diana Ross, Lena Horne...and even when I was a young man you had Lisa Bonet. These are examples of graceful and classy women who didn't have to trade-in their sex appeal to maintain a certain level of respect.

Now you have generations of young women who are dying to emulate and support characters like Beyonce, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian (and that whole brand/ilk). They bring with them a different, and far worse, set of values that are detrimental to the communities who support them, especially impressionable women who worship them.

The Angry Independent said...


"to have these women praised is mind blowing. But black people are running in droves to do just that and will get fighting mad if challenged on it."

That's probably the most bothersome part for me. Where is the outcry? There is none. The Beyonce's, the Rihanna's, and the reality show divas are absolutely worshiped by a huge segment of black women under 35... all the way down to girls in the 10y/o age group. Terrifying.

Recently saw 2 video clips that had me scratching my head about black folks and black culture...(won't post them here... plenty of trashy gossip sites have posted the videos). One was of Bishop Eddie Long receiving a huge bundle of cash from a church member... this was AFTER the allegations of molestation/sexual coercion. The gesture appeared staged...but nevertheless... the crazed reaction from the crowd was not. There is a certain level of blind allegiance that plays a role in black culture.

The second clip was of a 15 or 16 (?) year old black girl fawning over Chris Brown at one of his recent concerts. Now what kind of parent is allowing that???? There is no honorable value system that is identifiable with black culture as a whole anymore. And that is all related to the non-reaction of blacks to seeing themselves degraded & mocked on screen on these various programs.

In my head I try to separate Black legacy/heritage (the positive aspects of black life that have been left behind over generations so that others could benefit) from the current culture (a culture of Sex, bling, sports, money, hip hop, the Beyonce/Jay Z archetype, an era promoting the thug, out of wedlock households as the accepted norm, women trading in their bodies, souls, and human dignity as just a part of life, and a culture where having brains and wanting education = being corny/less appealing...etc etc etc). But I have to admit... it is getting harder for me to separate things. I try not to let rage cloud my vision.