On social media, cinema, and television there are a number pages with black men dressed up as black women, acting out typical stereotypes of black women. In these re-enactments of black women they are seen beating or yelling at children, fighting, cursing, or nagging. It seems as if black men use this form of entertainment to get out some of their grievances about black women or questions they have about the reactions of black women.
The older black woman, the insecure black woman, and the black mother are the most common ones portrayed on social media, cinema, and television.
The older black woman narrative typically involves black men acting like their grandmothers and primarily with this role, black men give them the role of a bible toting church old lady. The old lady relates to someone in their church or an older grandma.
Before social media blew this stereotype up, comedians Rickey Smiley and Steve Harvey used two old women characters in their standup, Sister Bernice Jenkins and Sister Odell. The men both dressed up in old church women’s Sunday clothes as well as gray wigs and through these women they made jokes about homosexuality, cheating, infidelity, abusing children, mental illness and a number of other serious issues in the black community. While it was meant for laughter, the older black church woman plays on the how the black church condemns these serious issues and at times don’t allow a space in the church for these topics to be discussed.
Although a conversation may be opened up about those taboo topics mentioned above, it comes across as a joke or this “laughing at our pain” narrative that comedians sell.
On the Blameitonkway Facebook and Instagram his charter “TiTi’ shows how insecure he may believe black women are. In one video “TiTi’ makes her man change out of his tank top to a shirt that reads “Look Away Hoes”. There are a great deal of videos similar to this with black men dressed as black women who are insecure over themselves or the men that they are in relationships with.
This insecure black woman narrative is a tool of white supremacy that allows women of color to be seen as oppressed. If black women are seen as insecure then it makes society believe that black women aren’t comfortable in their skin which makes it easy for black women to be told to straighten their hair, bleach their skins, or marry out of race. While this simple video is just a one minute laugh, it eludes to bigger issues in the black community.
This also shows that black men see these insecurities, but it still doesn’t answer how these insecurities affect the relationships between black men and black women. Again these skits bring attention to these issues, but because it’s presented in a joking manner it’s not considered to be a real issue.
Lastly the black mother narrative is one that is very near and dear to black men. Black mothers are known for having a firm hand with black men starting when they are young. Black mothers see beatings and aggressive yelling as a way to of enforcement to their young black boys. This is not parental dominance, but the dominance that I as your black mother am stronger than you as a black man.
It is no secret that black mothers are known for beating their children when they are out of line. It is common to hear comedians joke about beatings with slippers, bedroom shoes, switches, extension cords, hell even an iron. There are these constant images of women of color as beaters, yellers, and overall angry women inside and outside the black community.
Tyler Perry’s Madea character is seen throughout his movies and plays threatening children, being violent, or aggressive. According to an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry was sexually assaulted by black women and black men. Perry may have channeled these emotions when he decided to be the Madea character in plays and movies. Maybe this character helps him cope with that tragedy, and maybe that’s why Madea is an aggressor who in some ways protects people. You know maybe Perry wanted a Madea to protect him when he was molested…
Abuse opens up a space for other women or men to come in and dominant the lives of black men. Dominance is one of the most strategic tools of white supremacy. It creates this power struggle between black men and black women while real issues in the black community are ignored. Hallmark can make a Happy Father’s card for mothers, but I bet Hallmark can’t tell us how black men have historically been ripped away from their families through slavery and mass incarceration. Instead they sell cards to keep the sides on opposing ends.
Black women take an even bigger hit, because society sees these re-enactments of us as aggressive, overbearing, strong, black women. When you (Black Men) get on stages or onscreen and portray us as nothing but nagging, bitter, lazy, aggressive, abusive, but sometimes “strong Black women”, you help take away our voice in the greater public sphere. My Sistas and I are more than this, and while we understand that this may be the best way to let out your grievances against abuse or neglect, we can no longer be the ass of your joke. We have to work together and openly talk about abuse, neglect, homophobia, mental illness. We cannot afford to keep “laughing at out pain”.