This blog is about self-improvement not criticizing Black women's behaviour. It's about improving myself so that I become a better woman. It's about becoming the highest-quality woman, despite my upbringing or lineage, and attracting good, successful men of any race.
Remember when Being Feminine and Girly was a Black Thing?
When exactly did Black women start embracing the "strong, hard, independent Black woman" instead of the "feminine, delicate, elegant Black woman"? I know that during slavery Black women could not afford the same clothing as White women and they had to do hard labor, so let's just focus on after slavery. During those times there were surely poor Black women and those who were "better off" in their communities. Again let's focus on the women who were "better off" and could actually afford to choose their clothing (even if it was of lesser quality than the clothing White women could afford). Many of these women may have actually sewn their own clothes but they would have had to purchase the fabric. These women dressed very similar to White women at the time. I don't know for sure, but they may have added their own unique flare to the styles, but they were very feminine, elegant, and beautiful. I do also notice that they attempted to style their hair like White women which is unfortunate, but they probably needed to in order to work and fit in at the time.
So there was a time when Black women and White women followed the same fashion trends and dressed in a similar manner! When did this stop? Was it in the 60s when Black women started wearing afros? During the 60s and the civil rights and feminist movements Black and White women wore pants more often and embraced the sloppy hippie look. Both looks could be feminine or masculine at times. Was it the 70s? I think the Black disco queens were quite feminine. I don't think it was most of the 80s either because there were many Black female celebrities (e.g., the Pointer Sisters) who dressed in a feminine manner that was quite similar to the style of White celebrities.
There have always been subcultures who had their unique styles but I'm talking about mainstream fashion that was worn by the masses and then promoted by fashion designers and brands. Often times a musician would have a style, fans would copy the style and attitude of the musician, and eventually the mainstream would embrace the music, style, and attitude (or an actress would star in a big movie and fans would copy her style seen in the movie and in public). I think that the point where Black women embraced hard, edgy, defiant, masculine styles and mannerisms was the 1990s (because they liked them, not because they had to)! Prior to the 90s there was not much of a difference between Black and White female fashions, at least one did not seem more masculine than the other. The 90s saw hip hop culture become mainstream and "urban fashion" was born. Urban female fashion was hard, edgy, overly sexy, or a female version of MEN'S fashion (in fact, when I was a girl I just wore my brother's old clothes). The sexy part was similar to White women's fashion but the hard, masculine part was unique to urban fashion (well actually White women had punk fashion that was hard and masculine but all White women were never pressured to dress punk. White people had many other styles that they chose from so they did not limit themselves to one style). By the 90s many Black women had also accepted feminism and along with that many rejected anything that was traditionally feminine (e.g., learning how to cook, sew, knit, and act like a lady etc.).
Celebrities who embraced urban fashion included Mary J. Blige, TLC, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt & Pepa, Aalyiah, Brandy, Monica, SWV, Xscape, and many others. When you think of these women, when they were most popular they tended to wear over-sized clothing that often looked like men's clothes and in their videos they rarely smiled and often looked unhappy. These were the women that Black women everywhere emulated! Some celebrities like En Vogue dressed in a feminine manner but they also had a hard edge sometimes. Fortunately, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey appeared "nice" in their videos as did some other pop and R & B singers (both women were accused of acting "too White"). This was the time when hardness and attitude crept into the professional personas of Black musicians and it was rare to see a Black musician who appeared sweet, soft, or down to earth without a chip on her shoulder. This was also echoed on television shows where elegant women like Claire Huxtable were replaced with loud, obnoxious caricatures like Gina on the Martin show, and numerous characters on In Living Color and Saturday Night Live (remember Ellen Cleghorn and her character threatening to cut everyone?).
Some may argue that the world always thought that Black women were unfeminine compared to other women and the change in fashion would not have made a difference. I just don't believe that! I think that if Black women had continued to choose mainstream fashions (and attitudes) instead of urban fashion then we would look no different from White or Asian women and perhaps today we would be regarded in the same manner. Look at how people react to Michelle Obama. Some still hold racist views and claim that she is angry and militant but sensible people can see she is very feminine, a caring mother, and a devoted wife, and that she dresses the same way they do (or the way they aspire to dress). Many Black women CHOSE to appear different and rejected anything that was overly feminine by calling it "White" and embraced masculine, oversized clothing as being "Black". We also did the same thing by calling good manners, speaking softly, becoming educated, reading etc. "acting White" even though these things were once cherished in the Black community! Instead we chose to follow the uneducated, criminal rappers and their hard, defiant, hyper-masculine attitudes. We followed these men in an attempt to "keep it real" and show our loyalty when we would have been better off following the fashion aimed at women in general! Part of this may have been an angry rejection of anything associated with White culture but I don't think it has helped us and it has only marginalized us further. It didn't work so what's the point holding on to it (the same goes for Black men acting hard because it has backfired)? Black women today need to realize that Black women were not always hard! Even in the face of blatant racism during Jim Crowe many women still carried themselves with more dignity and appeared more feminine and gentle than women today! I really think it's time that we went back to the old ways and rejected urban fashion/attitudes/mannerisms in favor of feminine, mainstream women's fashion/attitudes/mannerisms. That's exactly what I am doing!