“She’s so angry!”
“She’s too aggressive”
“She’s so loud”
At some point, every woman of color has heard this, either about herself or about another woman of color. Our first instinct is usually to turn up our noses, huff in annoyance, and give a mean side eye. I know because that was me.
I was so tired of hearing folks who had no first-hand experience of what it means to be a black woman, especially in the “west”, telling me who and how I should be. It was frustrating to spend so much of my time trying to be acceptable to men, society, and other women only to be constantly dissed and ditched by the same.
I can’t tell you exactly when the light bulb starting flickering in my attic. I think it was around the time that my father said to me, “everyone can’t be wrong, baby”. Something about those words nagged at the back of my mind (I side-eyed him at first) like a scratching cat in a metal box. Suffice it to say the scratching was loud and wouldn’t let up.
See, I had been through the ringer in relationships at that point. My relationships with men were full of toxic arguments, fighting, and constantly feeling abandoned. There are only so many times you can love and lose before you ask yourself “what’s wrong with me?” The worst part was that I had no girlfriends I could air my grievances to, because my connections with other women were non-existent. From the time I was a child, I could only remember having half of a handful of genuine girlfriends and most of them had moved on with their lives. So, that gave me all of the loneliness I needed to take a long, hard look at the what, the why, and how to fix it.
What I realized was that I was the total opposite of the woman I really wanted to be. Most women who find themselves in that space will realize the same thing. We grow up with this ideal image of who we will be – the husband, the house, the 2.5 children, the amazing business and freedom based lifestyle. And then reality hits you like a flatbed speeding down an empty highway. Sometimes the mere effort of grasping for that image in your mind, the fight to attain and maintain it brings up aggression you didn’t know you had.
Most of us never choose to be masculine. I mean, really. Who would want to be like a man other than a man? The truth is, the pain, the pressure, the constant battering on our souls, and that whole part about having to “be the man and the woman” hardens our hearts as we try to protect ourselves from the blows. Even watching another woman go through it can have an impact on how you show up.
Add that to the fact that the only images we’ve seen in the mainstream of feminine women are either damsels in distress, or vixens – and any woman who wants to be something more can feel forced into the box of being masculine to get there.
But is it working? Is it getting us where we want to be or are we just floating further away from shore as we’re trying to fight the tides?