Black Women are Aggressive!
Written by: J. Stokes – November 22, 2016
You saw the title of this blog post, and then what? You instantly clicked to read, figuring you’d see the latest stereotypical rant about Black women being angry, unreasonable, and emasculating, right? Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but it’s not that type of blog post. However, we do maintain this idea that a number of Black women have been aggressive specifically this year in Hollywood.
First, let’s begin by expanding upon the word “aggressive.” One of Merriam-Webster dictionary’s (2016) several definitions of this word states that one who is aggressive is tending toward or exhibiting aggression. The word “aggression” is looked upon negatively, as many describe it as violent behavior or feelings. Being aggressive, on the other hand, does not necessarily mean acting violent. Merriam-Webster (2016) dictionary also asserts the word can mean “strong or emphatic in effect or intent.” Here, we use the latter definition to correctly describe some specific Black women making strides in both cinema and television. However, we will be limiting the scope of this post to Black women who have written, created, or managed the content we view on screen.
One may ask why it’s important that we celebrate prominent Black women in Hollywood as opposed to women of all backgrounds? A response to this question would be that it is dangerous to lump all women into one category, especially since subgroups of women have their own well documented struggles. Muhammad and McArthur (2015) have asserted “that White and African American females have different gender socialization experiences and as a result they develop clashing ideas and ideals about femininity” (Muhammad & McArthur, 2015, pp. 133-134). Looking at Hollywood specifically, it should be noted that only seven Black women have won an Academy Award in its 87 years of operation (while only 14 Black people have won an award in total).
Moreover, the majority of these roles were extremely stereotypical, or at least aided in the perpetuation of certain stereotypes associated with Black women. According to Muhammad and McArthur (2015), “stereotypical images throughout history have demonized and dehumanized Black women” (Muhammad & McArthur, 2015, p. 134). Moody-Ramirez and Scott (2016) furthermore purport “various mass media outlets have depicted black women as being overly independent both out of choice or necessity” (Moody-Ramirez & Scott, 2016, p. 56). Having more Black women in leadership roles, writing film scripts, producing television series, or managing casts could help remove certain stereotypes and give Black women on screen more diversity.
This is where our aggressive Black women come into play. The year 2016 has seen some phenomenal feats by Black women in film. Let’s begin with Issa Rae. Known for her YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl,” Rae launched her own HBO sitcom entitled “Insecure” this year. Some have called the show “revolutionary,” seeing that it is centered on an average Black woman’s life. Moreover, Rae has made history by being the first Black woman to both create and star in her own premium cable show. Speaking of firsts, this year Black director Ava DuVernay became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film having a budget of over $100 million. Known for directing the movie “Selma,” which she also made history by being the first Black woman to receive a Golden Globe nomination for best director, and the Netflix documentary “13th,” DuVernay teamed up with Disney Studios to tackle this all new venture. For more information, see the video below:
Within this video, there is mention of DuVernay collaborating with media proprietor Oprah Winfrey to successfully create and deliver this upcoming movie, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which is now set for a Spring 2018 release. It’s no secret that Winfrey has maintained a successful career in television and show business to date. Aside from owning her own television network, this year she has executive produced the TV series “Greenleaf” as well as helped create and executive produce the TV series “Queen Sugar.” Needless to say, Winfrey continues to make strides as a Black woman to create more opportunities for Black actors and actresses (her projects usually feature predominantly Black casts) and do away with modern stereotypes about Black people.
Last, but not least, there is television producer, writer, and author Shonda Rhimes. Known for executive producing hit TV shows such as “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Scandal,” Rhimes has managed to captivate many all over the U.S. (and possibly beyond). However, we have noted in a blog post once before, Rhimes’s portrayal of Black female characters has at times maintained certain stereotypes about Black women. Nevertheless, her ability to showcase Black female characters in high social positions, such as Criminal Law professor Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder,” is noteworthy. In their study of Black television characters, Tukachinsky, Mastro, and Yarchi (2015) found that “the prevalence of Black characters (i.e., the overall number of Black characters), and Black characters’ professional and social status had a positive and significant effect on attitudes toward Blacks” (p. 32).
Drawing to a close, it must be said that Black women are making their presence known in Hollywood. The year 2016 has seen many accomplishments, and one would hope that many more are to come. Indeed, people such as Rae, DuVernay, Winfrey, and Rhimes have had a strong impact in both movies and television. These Black women have asserted their aggressiveness through writing, producing, and creating as opposed to acting, which is arguably a passive role (that’s not a shot at anyone). As DuVerney has once asserted in an interview “It’s incumbent upon us, women film-makers, film-makers of color to track our own legacy.” So then, can we all agree to look at aggressive Black women as dignified individuals, or will stereotypes continue to shape our mindsets?
**Let us know what you thought about this week’s blog post? Do you have any questions concerning our take on aggressiveness? Please let us know and leave a comment down below!
Moody-Ramirez, M., & Scott, L. M. (2016). Rap Music Literacy: A Case Study of Millennial Audience Reception to Rap Lyrics Depicting Independent Women. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 7(3), 54-72.
Muhammad, G. E., & McArthur, S. A. (2015). “Styled by Their Perceptions”: Black Adolescent Girls Interpret Representations of Black Females in Popular Culture. Multicultural Perspectives, 17(3), 133-140.
Tukachinsky, R., Mastro, D., & Yarchi, M. (2015). Documenting Portrayals of Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20‐Year Span and Their Association with National‐Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes. Journal of Social Issues, 71(1), 17-38.
- Updated: November 30, 2016