Angry black woman
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The angry black woman stereotype is a trope in American society that portrays black women as sassy, ill-mannered, and ill-tempered by nature. Related concepts are the "sapphire" or "sassy black woman".
The stereotype has not been studied to the same degree as the mammy and Jezebel archetypes. Some scholars, e.g. Dionne Bennett and Marcyliena Morgan, suggest that the stereotype is less studied because researchers accept it as true.[unreliable source?]
Sapphire stereotype as source
The angry black woman trope arises from the sapphire stereotype, which claimed that enslaved Black women were aggressive, dominant, and masculine: "In antebellum America, the female slaves' chattel status, sex, and race combined to create a complicated set of myths about Black women."
Negative caricatures of black women historically justified their exploitation. The sapphire archetype painted enslaved women as impure, strong, masculine, dominant, and aggressive women, who drove their children and partners away.
Perpetuation and reproduction of the myth
With roots in slavery, the sapphire archetype was furthered replicated in films, shows, and literature by the early 1930s. Through these media and social platforms the stereotype was cultivated and sustained . Black women were perceived to be too expressive, more opinionated, harsh, have bad attitudes, loud, and generally negative and rude in nature. The 1930s radio show Amos 'n' Andy was particularly one of the first media outlets that reinforced the stereotype. In this production two white men voiced Black characters. Among those characters were Black women. The narrative of anger, assertiveness, and frequent emasculation was echoed with characters such as Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son and Pam from Martin.
Relationships to other myths
The sapphire archetype coincides with the mammy and Jezebel. All three of these archetypes uphold the angry black woman myth, but in different ways. In these archetypes, black women were characterized as caregivers, submissive, dependent on men, promiscuous, aggressive and arrogant. The reproduction of these archetypes in popular culture legitimized the dehumanization of black women. Gender Studies professor [Deborah Gray White] writes, "slave women understood the value of silence and secrecy... like all who are dependent upon the caprices of a master, they hide their real sentiments and turn toward him changeless smile or enigmatic passivity". In other words, slavery shaped how enslaved women expressed or suppressed their anger.
Black feminist response
The angry black woman myth also shapes how others read and interpret the actions of Black women. There are various sources, platforms, and mediums that Black women use to shed light on the impact of the myth. A number of Black women provide insight on how the myth is reinforced in the media, social spaces, and interpersonal interactions. Furthermore, Black women, whether if it's through activism, academia, art, dance, or writing validate, affirm their rage. Through such activism and discourse, black women have opened many conversations regarding the dismissal and scrutiny of their emotions.
Portrayals in the media
- Sapphire, a character in Amos 'n' Andy
- Aunt Esther, a character in Sanford and Son
- Bernadette, a character in Waiting to Exhale, performed by actress Angela Bassett
- Madea Simmons, character in Diary of a Mad Black Woman and other Tyler Perry plays and films
- 'Crazy Bitch' from The Boondocks
- Wilhelmina Slater, a character in Ugly Betty
- Rasputia, an obese and overbearing woman in the 2007 Eddie Murphy comedy Norbit
- Lakatriona Brunson from South Beach Tow
- Cookie from Empire
- Rochelle from Everybody Hates Chris
- Kelley, Blair L. M. (September 25, 2014). "Here's Some History Behind That 'Angry Black Woman' Riff the NY Times Tossed Around". The Root.
- Harris-Perry, Melissa V. (2011). Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-300-16554-4.
- Gray White, Deborah. Ar'n't I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1985). New York and London: W.W. Norton and Co., 1999.
- Naeemah Clark (November 10, 2013). "Find real African American women in a beauty salon, not on reality TV". Greensboro News & Record.
- Kretsedemas, Philip (2010). "'But She's Not Black!': Viewer Interpretations of 'Angry Black Women' on Prime Time TV". Journal of African American Studies. 14 (2): 149–170. JSTOR 41819243.
- Batengas, Edna (November 1, 2016). "Let's stop the angry black woman narrative". The Peak. Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University.
- Childs, Erica Chito (August 2005). "Looking behind the Stereotypes of the 'Angry Black Woman': An Exploration of Black Women's Responses to Interracial Relationships". Gender and Society. 19 (4): 544–561. doi:10.1177/0891243205276755. JSTOR 30044616.
- Horton, Kennedy (April 26, 2017). "The 'angry black woman' is a false stereotype". The Maneater. University of Missouri.
- Jones, Trina; Norwood, Kimberly Jade (2017). "Aggressive Encounters & White Fragility: Deconstructing the Trope of the Angry Black Woman". Iowa Law Review. 102 (5).
- Lorde, Audre (1981). "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism". www.blackpast.org.
- Pilgrim, David (2012). "Anti-Black Imagery: The Sapphire Caricature". Big Rapids, Mich.: Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University.
- Vanzant, Iyanla (September 8, 2016). "The Myth Of The Angry Black Woman". Huffington Post.
- Williams, Charmaine C. (2001). "The Angry Black Woman Scholar". NWSA Journal. 13 (2): 87–97. JSTOR 4316815.
- "Ain't I a Woman" (video), Kai Davis Poetry