I love a good debate. I love to pick apart other people’s points, state my case, and vigorously argue my point of view, hopefully winning someone over to my side.
If it doesn’t happen, so be it, but I love to exchange ideas with others in a respectful way. But debating others—as a black women—is a risky proposition.
Recently, I got into a conversation with a guy about relationships and marriage. We were in mixed company and the fellow (who turned out to be kind of a douche) began the conversation by stating that black women in L.A. can’t cook, don’t know how to run a household, and therefore will have a hard time getting married. As a black woman from Los Angeles, his assertion quickly caught my attention.
Despite informing him that his stance was a bit unfair because he couldn’t possible know all of us L.A.-born black girls to know that we all can’t cook or run a household, he stuck with his point. After going round-and-round and calling him on his B.S., the brotha hit me with the “Why you mad?” argument, and said that although I may be able to cook and run a household, he still wouldn’t be with someone like me because I like to argue.
While he’s right in one regard—I have an opinion and I like to share it, especially during conversations—he said it with such disdain that it was meant to sting and silence me.
This is not the first time this has happened. In conversations about sports or politics or music or social issues, I’ve noticed that when I’m speaking with men and share a different opinion, they don’t take too kindly to me—a black woman—presenting logical arguments and calling them on their assumptions (or false arguments). I have also noticed that when a man (usually a friend) makes the same point as I do, he is seen as thoughtful, whereas I’m seen as emotional and argumentative.
Recently, Solange Knowles briefly touched on this double standard in an interview with the Guardian. Reminiscing about her infamous Fox News interview in which she told a reporter she didn’t want to speak about her brother-in-law Jay-Z and was called irrelevant and rude, Solange noted: “If I was a male rapper responding in that way, it would have been no big deal. But when a black woman stands up for herself suddenly she has an attitude problem.”
And she’s right. I’ve witnessed men have fierce debates, but when it’s over, they walk away still respecting one another. But let a woman jump in the mix and she is often labeled difficult, emotional, and angry—the double standards are astounding.
So what are our options? Merely stay silent and refuse to engage, lest we get called argumentative and combative, or speak up and risk being ostracized?
I choose to speak up, because for every man who is threatened by a woman’s opinion (even when conveyed with a smile), others appreciate it.