"How Do You See Me?” The Portrayal of Black Women in Media

Radia Davis, IUP 

I’m fly. I’m vigilant with the way that I walk, talk and act. I take great pride in the different ways that I style my hair and the different types of clothing that I choose to wear. I see people stare at me until they finally decide to compliment me. “Look at you, looking like the ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ or ‘Yo, you look like you belong on Love & Hip Hop, mixing it up with Joseline!’’

 I understand that the point of these “compliments” was to be funny, but that message was not received by me, nor any other black women as so.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta made its debut on national television in 2008. The original cast being: Lisa Wu, DeShawn Snow, Kim Zolciak, Sheree Whitfield and NeNe Leakes. This show was praised for its constant entertainment that was given to viewers week after week. Showcasing constant physical and verbal fights, untrustworthiness between friends, gossip, a new level of bragging and many other factors that play a major part in making  reality television what it is. When someone compared me to a real housewife, my mind automatically reverted back to the arguing and the fighting,  back to the plethora of gossip that is highlighted in every episode. My mind automatically reverted back to the sides that are being taken from members of the show or society shows black women going against each other. How can I take that as a compliment?

Another reality show that took off from the very start is the “Love & Hip Hop” franchise. The most popular branch is “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.” The original stars of the show were Erica Dixon, Rasheeda, Karlie Redd, K. Michelle, Mimi Faust and Joseline Hernandez.

I remember watching this show and being utterly amazed. I was astonished at the fact that a woman would publically broadcast that she was sleeping with a man that had a girlfriend and a child at home--which she was aware of. I remember watching an episode and seeing a woman fighting another woman who was supposedly sleeping with her baby’s father. A woman throwing a drink in another woman’s face and then proceeding to hit her with any object in sight.

When you compare me to these different shows, you’re insinuating that I’m angry, filled with drama, and that I’m a fighter in the sense that I like to stir up trouble even if it doesn’t pertain to me. Sir, I get that your “compliment” was meant to be funny, but I’m still waiting on the hilarity in your statement.

On the other side, there are people out there who could argue and ask how can black women be angry at any race for comparing them to the foul behavior that is displayed on any form of media outlet, depictions of black women as ratchet, unruly, distasteful, and outrageous. Women are willing to proclaim their business that should be private for personal gain and for the “root of all evil,” money. I took great pleasure in encouraging their behavior and it didn’t bother me until I was compared to that.

So how do you see me? How do I see myself? I don't want to be compared to the barbaric acts on television and I don't want you to compare me to that as well. How can we break this ideology that all black women are the same? Just because a woman is selling herself for her own personal and financial gains, that automatically makes me accountable? I don't think so .

I could list many different factors about the questionable acts that women display on television, but why would I continue to feed your mind with these ill thoughts? Just because the bad is displayed in greater numbers doesn’t mean that there isn’t any good.

Phylicia Rashad, ‘The Cosby Show’s’ as Clair Huxtable, was a boss. She was supportive, loving, fun, confident, brave and many other characteristics that deemed her as the black society’s ‘mom’. Not only was she all about her husband and family, she was a go-getter all by herself. Her husband wasn’t the only one making powerful moves and the one with a dominant profession. Clair Huxtable was an attorney, dedicated and determined. This is me.

 Ava DuVernay is an African American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film director. Not only was she nominated for an Oscar for her first movie, The 13th,  she is also the first African American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe, another boss. This is me.

Issa Rae is an African American actress, writer, director, producer, and web series creator. Many may know her from her web series, ‘Awkward Black Girl,’ but as of now, she is heavily known for her dominating show, ‘Insecure.’ Issa Rae is too a boss. This too, is me. So, try to compliment me again. “Look at you, looking like Clair Huxtable making moves and focusing on your studies,” or “You look like you belong on a show that shows empowerment of black women.” Why yes sir, I do.