Recently I was asked the question: “Is it harder to be a woman or to be Black?”
What does it mean to be a woman? When I think of what it means to be a woman, I think of all of the hardships I have faced, and that of women in general. Being a woman has equated to being succumbed to gender norms that are perpetuated through our media, our environments, our communities, and our workspaces…that objectify us and attempts to define femininity as spineless, mellifluous, diffused. Being a woman has consisted of being portrayed as incompetent, unapt, inferior.
The perpetual seclusion of woman has inevitably forced women to combat their place in society with new formations of rhetoric that exemplify their participation and placement separate from men. Women have had to create, sustain, and practice their own discourse of political involvement and activism in order to reconfigure the social norms that should be contested. To be a woman is an attempt to shape and maintain a positive visualization of oneself as “imperfectly perfect”, recognizing that the current woman does not have to be that of popular culture’s image, but is the everyday woman that is the epitome of flawlessness and is capable and competent of anything the male does too.
What does it mean to be Black? When I think of what it means to be Black, I envision, I feel: exhaustion. Being black means surviving in a world that situates you in last place. Being black means enduring the systems and institutions that force you to work harder, smarter…maneuvering in a way that makes you stand out, that makes you seen through the hyper-invisibility that casts over you. Being black is being ostracized within the color spectrum when you are a shade darker than the acknowledged tone. Being black means being killed while doing nothing wrong. Being black means maintaining the ability to love and transcend negativity to passion. Being black is the will to be better than the biases and Americanized, sensationalized, accessorized, & glamorized thoughts that have come to “define” the Black culture. Being black is having the ability to preserve the richness and history of one’s Blackness & culture.
What does it mean to be a Black Woman? Being a black woman is hard. It’s constantly fighting to prove yourself to a world that is harsh and unforgiving. It’s constantly overworking, overtaxing, overloading, in order to be seen in a space that has underwritten your ability and intelligence. It’s constantly trying to suppress the negative images that stigmatize you: “a black woman is always strong, a black woman is always angry, a black woman is always outspoken...” Being a black woman is relentlessly combating the westernized beauty barriers that are endlessly thrown your way: you’re not skinny enough, your ass isn’t far enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, you’re skin isn’t light enough…So to answer the question, “which is harder, to be a woman or to be Black”, I’d argue that the hardest fight is to be a Black Woman. We carry the plight of the world on our backs: for our men, for our children, and for ourselves. We are the foundation of every movement, we sustain every good and bad thing for our communities.
“Black women are the mules of the earth.” Black women are the Queens of this earth.