My Struggle With Ugly Black Woman Syndrome
On my day off, I decided to catch up on Season 2 of Being Mary Jane as I prepare for the new season to begin next month. I watched the episode where Mary Jane decided she wanted to change her approach to her talk show. She wanted to focus more on Black issues, starting with beauty standards for Black women. There was a scene in that same episode when she and another guy, a White man, were waiting in the parking lot for an empty spot. Mary Jane had pulled into it before the guy had a chance, and he was so angry that he called her a “Black b***h” and an “ugly monkey.” What I found to be interesting was that our MJ was more concerned with the fact that he placed emphasis on her being Black more than anything else. “I can’t just be a regular old b***h, I gotta be a Black b***h?” It didn’t matter that he called her ugly; it mattered that he called her ugly and Black, which, to her, meant that she was only ugly as a result of her blackness.
In that same episode, MJ had landed a coveted spot on primetime television interviewing a best-selling author. She had just taken her weave out the night before, revealing a beautiful afro, when her stylist canceled on her. In a panic, Mary Jane called for backup because she could not be seen on national television with her hair like that. In its natural state, that is.
Mary Jane and her experiences with her racial and beauty identity got me to thinking about all the times my blackness made me self-conscious. I thought about all the times where being Black made me feel unattractive and vulnerable. For example, walking into an event or social gathering and immediately noticing you’re the only Black person. Interning for an important beauty magazine and realizing that even as an intern, you’re the only Black person on staff, surrounded by tall White women with long hair and fancy clothes. It’s logging on to dating sites and apps and realizing that most of the men — Black, White, Latino and other — prefer White women.
We get comments such as “You’re pretty for a Black girl.” “You’re nice for a light-skinned girl.” “Are you mixed with something because you have long hair to be just black?” “Why are you always angry?” Race, and our womanhood, are constantly being thrown in our faces as constant reminders that can make us self-conscious. Even the media has a way of reminding us that we are at the bottom of the totem pole. Centuries later and we’re still dodging racial stereotypes associated with Black women that make us out to be unattractive. We’re angry, hypersexual, we emasculate our men, we have daddy issues, we have standards that are too high, and so on and so forth. After hearing this for so many years, tell me, does this sound at all appealing? While there are so many movements blossoming to celebrate Black womanhood, there is still a sense of vulnerability or self-consciousness that comes with being Black and a woman. I’ve often wondered if it was because I’m Black that I didn’t feel appealing at times? Dare I blame society, or was it because I needed to work on something more internal? As backward as it may sound, while I’m proud of my blackness, at times, I also have an undue awareness about it, and I know I’m not alone.