The last few weeks have been heavy on all of us but undoubtedly for some more than others. The fight for black lives matter movement must continue yet we must acknowledge that the fight for supporting and care for black women that are often at the bottom of society must also continue. What about the black women constantly fighting against racism and the patriarchy? Is there space for us to stop and heal?
Unfortunately, the fashion industry has not been a place black women have felt seen or heard and has hugely contributed to the insecurities many of us have. We have to create spaces that acknowledge the damage and hurt black women have endured and allow space to heal and all of us to do better.
Black women have fallen prey to being culturally appropriated within the fashion industry while often getting refused a seat at the table that they built. More has to be done to support black women in the fashion and beauty industry.
here are a few ways the fashion industry and all of us can support black women.
The fashion industry has often played on stereotypes characterising black women as animalistic, masculine or overly sexualised compared to their white counterparts. The modelling opportunity is given to black women often fit into one of the typical stereotypes of black women or play into tokenism. Placing black women in these boxes Is another way to silence us. We are not 1-dimensional people we are multidimensional with a variety of different characteristics that deserve to be showcased.
Seems pretty simple but not enough people are willing to just listen without judgment and without feeling attacked. Refusing to hear peoples concerns can have deadly effects to not only on their well being and sense of value in society but also their health. Due to the “ strong black women” stereotype, doctors often fail to listen to the concerns of black pregnant women and fail to treat them to the extent women of other races would be treated, leading to black women being 5 times more likely to die from childbirth these shocking and disturbing results must shock us into realising the effects stereotypes and not listening can have.
Dismantle the strong black women narrative
We can all start by dismantling the strong black women narrative that assumes black women are “sassy” “attitudey” intimidating and all the other negative assumptions within this age-old narrative. These assumptions often provide a way to silence black women when they choose to speak out about injustice, racial or misogynistic abuse. Instead of listening, black women are labelled as difficult or divas in the workplace. This often places black women in a position to have to put up with racial microaggressions as well as misogyny. Many black women in the fashion and music are now speaking out about this and have had enough of having their voices go unheard.
If you see a situation where a black women’s voice is being suppressed speak up your voice makes a difference.
These are just a few of the tragic experiences faced by black women in the workplace so many more go unheard or simply cannot afford to speak out in fear of losing their job.
Stop expecting too much from black women
Although I’m all for black excellence. As black women surrounded by many amazing black women, I sense an overwhelming feeling of pressure due to the expectation flying at us from all sides. There seems to be no room for failure amongst black women. Yet we all know success and excellence comes with a line of failures that have been acknowledged and learned from. We need to stop expecting black women to hold the whole world while people are throwing stones at us.
Most black women have been told they have to work 10 times harder to get to where we want to be as well as hearing from a young age they have to be more mature and sensible than their brothers. We’ve also heard the comments coming within the black community regarding black men wanted to date white women but settle down with black women who will cook, clean and bear children. We should be well-spoken but not too well-spoken then we’re trying to sound “white “. Passionate but not too passionate then we’re aggressive. Fun but not too fun then we’re “ratchet”. Cultured but not too cultured then we’re ghetto or “fresh”.
These expectations of black women are too much, we have to humanise black women. Women’s rights activist sojourner truth worded this issue perfectly in her speech in 1851 and it seems alot of the things she said are still relevant today.
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?