article adapted from Anna Gibson for forharriet.com
A brilliant article by Bustle recently detailed 10 things that women aren’t allowed to say. The list was extremely relatable and recounted everything from “That’s sexist!” to “I don’t want to have kids.” However, because of intersectionality, there are many ideas and opinions that Black women are also told we’re not allowed to have. Below are ten of the things Black women are frequently told we’re not “supposed” to say, and why this censoring of our thoughts is not OK.
1. “I’m stressed. I need to take a day off.”
Even though Black women statistically have higher rates of hypertension and anxiety, we are often told to suck it up and go about our day. There are kids to raise, a family to feed, and a job to excel in. More often than not, our needs take a backseat. We end up over-extending ourselves, which leaves us ripe for burnout. Instead of trying to do everything at once, we need to carve out time for self-care. Perhaps we should indulge in a bubble bath after a hard day, or get a relative to take care of the kids for an hour or two. We need this as human beings. We weren’t created to be run into a rut.
2. “We need to see a family counselor.”
I remember watching the episode of How To Get Away With Murder, in which Annalise’s mother (played by the exemplary Cicely Tyson) practically spat at Annalise, “We’ve dealt with our problems on our own… We don’t need to go to some head-shrinker!” Distrust of medical institutions is nothing new to the black community. Many of us grew up in a family where we don’t talk about our problems with anyone, and going to a therapist is considered weak. In truth, it could be the very thing that keeps a family together, helps a marriage, or even saves a life.
3. “Black girls rock!”
For whatever reason, Black women loving ourselves seems to threaten everyone around us. You can see this everywhere from the #BlackLivesMatter movement—both in how it was hijacked by white people to say #AllLivesMatter, and how it leaves out Black women—to the Deadline Hollywood article which claimed that TV representation is becoming ‘too ethnic’. It’s imperative that we find creative mediums through which we can celebrate our beauty and ourselves. We need to support and celebrate Black women creatives and business owners.
4. “That’s racist.”
Obviously this isn’t something that Black women have to deal with by ourselves. However, it can’t be denied that we’re often accused of “pulling the race card” when we have very real concerns about the racial discrimination we face in our day-to-day lives. Despite this, we can’t just crawl into a cave; we have to make our voices heard. However, this can lead to a completely different problem…
5. “I’m angry about ________.”
In many cases when we do voice our concerns about an issue that affects us, we are often regulated to the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype. This can place us between a rock and a hard place in many social settings. On one hand, we want our voices heard; on the other, we don’t want to seem too “aggressive” or we’ll isolate ourselves from the people around us. This can make for a difficult social balancing act for us Black women.
6. “I deserve more.”
Black women are often regulated to one role and expected to play that role very well without being acknowledged for it or given the opportunity to show our many other facets. Maybe we find ourselves being a mid-level supervisor or manager for years as we watch our white counterparts glide up the ranks. Maybe we never get to voice our concerns or get talked over at the latest meeting. Regardless, it can’t be denied we often have to do twice the work of our white counterparts to get recognition or even respect.
7. “I love the skin that I’m in.”
Whether we’re dark- or light-skinned, we all have to deal with various forms of shadeism [aka colorism]. The brown paper bag test implemented historically demonstrates how much work we need to do to just be comfortable in how we show up in the world. Luckily, we’ve had movements such as #DarkGirlsRedLip and documentaries like “Dark Girls” to help us process our pain and find healing.
8. “I’m ready to take my sexual autonomy back.”
It’s estimated that 83 percent of Black people identify as Christian. Because of this, freedom of sexual agency is shunned. Whether it’s coming out as LGBTQA to strict religious family members, or deciding to practice a more sexually fluid form of polyamory, it’s often frowned upon for women to openly embrace what appears to be an often “uncouth” form of sexual expression. We’re making strides in this area, and a growing number of new blogs and Facebook groups are a testament to this transformation in our communities.
9. “I’m not having a good day today.”
This is actually very similar to number one on our list, however, it’s important that we recognize how Black women’s mental and emotional well-being is affected by our day-to-day lives. Black women have so much on our shoulders. We suffer from higher rates of anxiety, depression, and a number of other mental health issues. Given all that we have to deal with, safeguarding our mental health is key to our development. Luckily, there are a number of amazing resources to help us do just that.
10. “Black women should stick together.”
I know this one may seem like a no-brainer, but there are tons of people who seem to enjoy seeing Black women fight one another [including us]. This could be on websites like WorldStarHipHop.com or in the media where we see Black women shading each other every week on our favorite shows. We need to work on our sisterhood. These catfights are destroying our image and creating an environment of discord that’s tearing our relationships apart. Only by connecting with our sisters can we find diversity and healing in our communities.
11. “We need our men to do better by us.”
Anna Gibson is a Buddhist practitioner and journalist who hopes to provide a safe space for people to tell their stories. You can find her on Twitter @TheRealSankofa, or on Facebook where she’s hiding under the name Introspective Inquiries.
Too often are Black women blatantly ignored, deemed as unsavory and hyper-sexualized in media and even by our own counterparts. So sad! Also, I think we often forget that our fellow sister has real emotions and is allowed to feel depressed or angry or vulnerable or unworthy. Those things matter. This piece is just a reminder that, although we are super resilient, we can’t always be the strength carrying all the weight. We can’t always put a smile on and push through. But I promise you, once we get right within-whooo! these little hills we’re moving now will turn into mountains!
If nothing else, my beloved readers, I hope you related or at least learned something from this post. ❤