The Perpetuation of the “Angry Black Woman” Stereotype in the Media
Where were you on the night of Sunday, April 20, 2014?
Like any diligent graduate student pining for the end of Spring Semester, I was procrastinating on Facebook. As I perused my FB Timeline, I came across a video clip that one of my friends had entitled “The Weave Snatch Heard Around the World.” The post had existed on the Internet for no more than 10 minutes and already had 250 likes.
Yes, I pressed play. My sister has her reasons for giving me the nickname of “Curious George.” As the seconds ticked away on the video, I watched Porscha Williams physically assault Kenya Moore on this past Sunday’s airing of The Real Housewives of Atlanta: Reunion. The video eventually turned to black and my feminist soul was ablaze.
Yet again, Black female women had been presented through the media as volatile and argumentative beings who thrive off of physical and verbal aggression. I do not add to the Nielsen TV ratings of shows such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop, or Basketball Wives with my views because I feel that they perpetuate the historical stereotype of “Sapphire,” a portrayal of the Black woman as irrefutably outspoken and eternally mad. You may know Sapphire by her modern-day, colloquial embodiment as the “Angry Black Woman.”
With each passing season of the aforementioned television shows, I secretly hope that the Black female stars of these small-screen features will have a pow-wow and stop signing off as yet another Sapphire on the substantial honorarium checks that they receive for each episode.
As a self-proclaimed 80’s baby, I distinctly remember my family crowding around our television to watch The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Claire Huxtable and Aunt Vivian exuded wondrous portrayals of what it could mean to be a Black woman in America. These Black female television figures showed me that not only could I successfully navigate a balance between a professional career and motherhood, if I chose to do so, but I could also effectively communicate disagreement and assert myself with others without necessitating a “weave snatch” or verbally assailing anyone with a pejorative term.
I wishfully hope that I am not the only person in the world who reminisces on the days of television where shows featuring Black females were not theatrical dramas with gossip and fist brawls as the centerpiece. Oh, the nostalgia.
My developing identity as a Black feminist psychologist has strengthened my views regarding what I interpret as beneficial or malicious portrayals of Black female-bodied persons on television, in movies, and throughout social media. I am a proponent of the notion that if I want to negate society’s damaging stereotypes of “Sapphire” and “The Angry Black Woman,” then I should first ensure that my everyday walk in life demonstrates that healthy expressions of assertiveness can dwell in the those who look like me.
Anger can be a motivating emotion, often stirring social change within the individual and a group as a whole. However, this feeling state should not continue to serve as a platform upon which society creates a one-dimensional painting of Black women.
Written by Ciera V. Scott, MS