I recently learned about the Carefree Black Girl (CGB), a movement driven by social media to represent the diverse beauty and eclectic joy that is inherent in being a young Black woman. The Carefree Black Girl is a welcome departure from the stereotypical representations we see of Black women and girls in the media, where we are often seen as anything other than joyous and liberated. I connected to the CBG immediately because of this.
For most of my adult life, I have been known as the Angry Black Woman. Many of my friends, both Black and non-Black alike, will often tell me how “sassy” I am, or how I can come off “too strong.” Often, I feel like this is their way of neatly packaging me within a label that is easily digestible for them because it suits a narrative of Black women that they are comfortable with. While my white peers who are equally as “sassy” are rewarded for their outspoken natures, at times I have been made to feel shameful for mine. I’ve wondered if I should be quieter, if I should censor myself, if I should hold back?
I am frustrated with seeing the same conventional Black women images regurgitated time after time: Sapphire (AKA Angry Black Woman), Mammy (AKA Strong Black Woman), and Jezebel (AKA Hypersexualized Black Woman). Even with new archetypes, like the Hood Chick or Diva, having developed during the last 25 years or so, these caricatures of Black Womanhood are inaccurate, hurtful, and downright dehumanizing.
Thus, the Carefree Black Girl has emerged to save the day. This got me thinking, “How else can we create alternative archetypes to represent Black women in the media?” Of course, it would be much better to avoid the use of archetypes. But as a lover of storytelling and media, I understand the cultural and psychological importance they have in getting people to connect to a narrative. However, I do believe it is time that we opened up how we portray Black girls and women in magazines, literature, TV, films, and music videos.
Below, I’ve decided to come up with a few alternative Black woman archetypes that I would like to see represented, along with the CBG…
We’ve seen the Black Woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which I’m all about! But this often places an unfair expectation on us. When will see the purposefully reserved (i.e. not forced into silence or invisibility) Black woman?
The Well-Balanced Black Woman
Most depictions of us make us out to be painfully unfulfilled or issue-ridden. Even if we’re the intelligent, career-driven, perfectly dressed heroine… we have a troublesome personal life or daddy issues. (I’m looking at you, Olivia Pope.) Will we ever be seen as whole and well-adjusted?
The Indie Black Nerd Who Is Not “Whitewashed”
In most TV shows and media, Black folks are depicted as “urban” (AKA white folks’ PC term for “ghetto”). If not, they are seen as whitewashed. However, most of the Black women I know do not fit into this stark binary. We have managed to still identify wholly in our Blackness, while having diverse backgrounds. I need the media to get hip to this.
The Black Holistic Wellness Guru
Mainstream media would have you believe us extra-melanin-endowed folks do not care about our health. This is untrue. I’ve seen countless images of white women who do yoga and eat kale and juice… but we’re still seeing played-out images of Black folks with their BBQ and fried anything. We do yoga and eat kale too!
The Not-Sassy Best Friend
Almost every white female on TV and in the movies has a sassy Black friend. How about we see a Black friend who is actually human and nuanced, rather than an extended punchline? Or how about we have more leading roles for Black women and then they have a non-POC sassy best friend?
The Black Woman Republican
Just kidding… As Stacy Dash proved, no one wants to see that!
Although these are my feeble (and humor-laced) attempts at generating some new representations of Black women, I am eagerly waiting for the day that we have diverse characters like those many white folks get.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Michelle Denise Jackson is a writer, performer, storyteller, and teaching artist from Southern California. She has performed her work in Southern California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. For more of her work, please visit michelledenisejackson.com.