Damned If We Do: On Black Women Standing Up For Ourselves

by Britni Danielle

Solange Knowles Fox News interview

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.

What gives?

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.

What do you choose? Have you been labeled “difficult” or “emotional” in conversations with men? 

  • mrs knox

    I would say that this applies to all women – as a white woman married to a black man, I think men on both sides dismiss me in this manner. My husband has even been told he should’ve married a black girl, because they “know their place” and are “less opinionated” I was offended for ALL women. If a man can’t handle you the way you are, then don’t need him anyway. period.

  • Lovher

    My husband jus recently started delivering wine to upscale neighborhoods and restaurants. Now, I’ve been told that I’m definitely not the norm when it comes to the stereotypical “black woman.” I’ve never had a fight, I am super polite and soft spoken. Very respectful. I cook, clean and take care of my home and do whatever my husband of 3 years asks me to do. When I recently had a disagreement with him, he said to me, “this is why black men like white women better.” Before my husbands job, his encounter with white women was slim to none. When he and I first met, he liked me because I had a sweet and appreciative nature that he told me was very different from anybody he had ever dated. I don’t think we can win. If my husband blatently can disrepect me when he knows that I am non confrontational about 99.5% of the time, then I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I wish that Clutch would stop posting articles like this. There are plenty of women who are like me, who come to this site to be uplifted and entertained. Every other day you are posting negative stories that cause women like me (even though this article does pertain to me) to have to defend ourselves from being typecasted by “men” in general. Whoever is going to love you is going to love you. Black gossip sites and others make it seem like NO black woman is EVER going to find her mate.

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle

    Very true, Mrs. Knox. Sometimes I have to shake my head, is this 2012 or 1952 when we were locked in the kitchen somewhere?

    Glad your hubby appreciates you & your voice :)

  • Ange B

    I agree with the idea that it does seem to be a problem for all women. There are always men who feel the need to shut down your opinion with the notion of “emotions”. Whether it be passion or anger or zeal it seems in any discussion with certain men they like to pull the whole “women are emotional therefore her opinions are not valid card”. I find it quite annoying. As a child I as lucky that in my family having an opinion expressing it was valued. As someone of Jamaican decent at least in my family the experience of discussions was encouraged even if you didn’t always agree and your gender wasn’t a dis-qualifier to an opinion.

  • Chillyroad

    Too many issues being muddled together in this article. I can give my opinion about the Lakers signing Dwight Howard and it has nothing to do with standing up for myself.

    We all need to remember that while we have a right to speaks, others have a right to ignore, belittle, even contend.

  • Keepitreal

    Wow, I don’t know what to say to you except sorry, you shouldn’t have to put it with such blatant disrespect. It just goes to show you being a pushover and a “yes sir, whatever you want sir” type of woman does not gain you respect or admiration.

  • http://elegantblackwoman.blogspot.com Elegance

    First off I think the reporters were very unprofessional and rude to speak like that on air.

    I think that women (and everyone) should consider the consequences of their actions more often. Everyone does not enjoy debates or having their opinions challenged. That seems argumentative to them. I feel that way when I like something and someone decides to lecture me about why that’s somehow wrong. There is no need to debate something that others strongly believe in or things that don’t really matter. Doing so may end up in arguments, no change in opinion, and bad feelings for no reason.

    People who need to convince others to change their views and need to win arguments are criticized because they are self-focused. The best way to get people to like you is to listen to them instead of trying to be the one talking all the time. If you want to get along with someone you let them talk. If you don’t care if you are liked then talk and argue all you want. Men get away with it more but argumentative men are just as unpleasant because they are self-centered, Instead of arguing with a man I just listen to them, let them reveal they are jerks, and then I know not to talk to them again. If we disagree on something important I just let him go instead of trying to change him.

  • Keepitreal

    it is quite unsettling especially the idiotic and grammatically incorrect “You mad” spiel used against women with differing opinions by both men and women.

  • Smilez_920

    It’s bad enough as a black woman in corporate america you have to watch your tone and not look emotional because you’ll either be labeled the ” angry black woman” or a bitch”. But now even with having a casual debate we have to take the same measures.

    I’m sorry but my father did not raise me to be meek. I was always encouraged to speak up, so I’ve never let any body male or female ” name call” me out of an opinion.

    What kills me is when a man gets in his feelings during a debate he’s considered passionate , when a woman does the same thing she’s ” in her feelings , bitchy, arguing etc…”.

  • http://www.ashleycford.com Ashley Ford

    I mean, she’s not saying men should go to jail for discounting a woman’s right to be opinionated, she’s just saying it’s a belittling response. Of course they have the RIGHT to say whatever they want, or even the RIGHT to ignore. T

    he thing about being a member of society is knowing the difference between what you have the right to say and what you should say. It’s also knowing why you think it’s okay for men to be opinionated and not women. And if you don’t think of yourself as believing that to be true, then asking yourself why your actions are inconsistent with you beliefs.

    Their is a higher level of humane thinking to be answered to here.This article isn’t about whether or not men CAN treat women this way, it’s about the fact that they do and there should be an awareness that having that right doesn’t actually make it right.

  • Z

    It was your husband that typecast and disrespected you not the magazine Clutch.

  • lovher

    i’m definitely not a “yes sir” type of woman by any means. I’m saying that since he has come into contact with other women of other races and maybe them treating him “nice as pie” while on the other hand having to deal with me and everyday bs that goes on with life, marraige and other things, he’s believing the stereotype that if I say something that i’m truly concerned about i’m being angry and unreasonable and the women that he comes into contact with would NEVER treat him like that because they “know their role.” No disrespect to mrs. knox. I know that ALL women have their gripes.

  • Pick your Battles

    It’s one thing to say what you have to say and keep it moving. It’s quite another matter to get up in men face with your head moving, finger pointing, trying to get your way or make your point thru force with the volume of your voice. Some of the strongest women I know remain a lady at all times, pick their battles and understand that sometimes adults are just not going to agree. They say what they have to say and keep it moving.

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    Interesting read. I find myself similarly stigmatized and I’ve long believed it was because people were unable have their ideas challenged, especially by a black man. I find that most people are unwilling to engage in discussions with individuals that don’t share their perspective. Being willing to engage in such dialogue has often gotten me labeled as being argumentative.

  • Starla

    If most men had their way; women mouths would be closed and their legs open. Whenever a weak man feels threatened he will always pull for the old “black women have attitude” trick. What does such a man tell another man who is intellectually superior to him? He says nothing! Likely change the subject, or walk away. Then again, he could shoot him for being too smart. At lest the writer is still alive..lol

  • http://theantifash.blogspot.com TheAntifash

    Love and can relate to this article 10 X over. My ex and I had BATTLES, and it would always end with “This is why I can’t see myself with a black woman/you…”

    I will say that I am learning to not waste my time and argue with idiots, because they will simply never get it (and yes I have to repeat this to myself daily).

    This post will get interesting…

  • http://twitter.com/KiaJD Nakia (@KiaJD)

    I’m confused here. While I sympathize for your home situation which sounds really hurtful after all you do for your relationship, I think you’re conflating the issues. I also take issue with a lot of what Clutch publishes so I get it. But the relation of the two things – 1). my husband disrespected me out the blue and lumped me into a stereotype that, through my actions, I don’t deserve; and 2). I have to defend myself against being typecasted by men … on this website for women… because of negative posts on Clutch?

  • victoria

    I think in this case you gave the guy what he wanted, an opportunity to point out that he still wouldn’t be with someone like you because you like to argue. He was propbably waiting all evening to state that. Some people can only carry a negative conversation.

    .

  • Lovher

    i’m not a pushover by no means. I keep it classy 100% of the time. Some battles aren’t worth it. I am an adult and don’t feel the need to argue over every little thing. My husband said what he said to me based on a stereotype, that black women are not easy to get along with. A lot of black men feel insecure when a woman is able to vocalize what she wants and what she stands for, but it comes off bitchy. Trust, I am seriously thinking about separating from him before the end of the year and letting him see if the stereotype rings true. Just don’t call me a “yes sir” type of girl. Because that I am not!

  • Z

    Telling women that they are angry, argumentative, not good enough, or that he’ll leave you for a white woman is a means of control. It’s an attempt to keep women, black women in this case, in their place. This is precisely why I stopped dealing with certain men.

  • E.M.S.

    Absolutely correct this applies to all women. More importantly however, labeling us as emotional and argumentative is a man’s defense when he feels threatened by female intelligence.

    If you want to be upset a man has accused you of this, be upset because he’s too insecure to respect you and fathom the idea you could be as intellectual as he can.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to all men, some of them do get it.

  • Yevi

    Wow! Did that Fox 5 News segment actually air? Those anchors were very rude.

  • Z

    The grass is always greener on the other side…or so people think.

  • EST. 1986

    I see this all the time on Black male centric blogs from men AND women commenters.

  • EST. 1986

    If you are being serious, then wow! Your husband has some serious control over you.

  • Do better

    WOW!!! What an interesting and insightful comment, my day just wouldn’t have been complete without your total DISMISSAL of the reflexive manner in which men disregard what women have to say! Many thanks to you, a man, for pointing out the fact that this female author’s opinion piece regarding her opinions being dismissed by men (just like you) should be ignored. The funny thing is you don’t even realize that you JUST PROVED HER POINT! Bravo!

  • Typecast

    Can I Live

  • http://gravatar.com/thisismyoyster Valsays

    As black women we occupy a different space in culture that is rife with stigma, shame and double standards. This is something I think we have all observed from middle school onward. The closer you are to fitting the white ideal (looks, demeanor, attitude etc) the more license you’re given to be outspoken and either be taken seriously or labeled as being “cute”. Let that opinion come the average brown girl, Before even making our points were dismissed as being angry, jealous, irrational, even our looks get attacked in efforts to silence us.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ rkahendi

    “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.”

    I don’t know… It seems to me this kind of statement is a non-starter. I mean, he obviously has not met most, let alone all, black women in L.A. So nobody with sense can take him seriously, in which case, it’s a waste of your energy debating him on the subject. If you’re looking for intellectually stimulating conversation, this is definitely not the way to go.

    “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.”

    He has every right to be with whoever he wants, but he seems to be assuming that you would want to be with somebody like him. Most people don’t go around assuming that everybody who talks to them wants to be their GF/BF or wife/ husband.

    My suggestion: Read Proverbs, chapter 26, verses 1 to 12 (the 4th verse is my favorite), in the New Living Translation of the Bible. You don’t have to be Christian/ Jewish to recognize that the ancient people encountered their fair share of foolishness: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+26&version=NLT

  • Treece

    I’ve said this once before and I’ll say it again: When in an argument/discussion/debate a person resorts to calling you crazy, angry, emotional, bitter, etc., it’s being dismissive. Dismissive because they have nothing else better and of substance to add to said argument/discussion/debate and they’ve now jumped to attempting to control the other person. Sort of like alpha dogs do to other dogs in the pack when they want to put them “in check”; bite them on the neck or something. But news flash (ahem): us be human beings. You cant just cut me off with a dismissive insult when you feel like I (a woman whom you consider subordinate to yourself) have “beat” you at an argument/discussion/debate. Or if you just feel like you’ve been challenged too much by someone with a vagina.

    I personally refuse to shut my mouth for anyone. And this is coming from a person that really doesn’t talk much in “real life” (meaning off line). I refuse to engage in foolishness with people who stubborn and pigheaded and waste my breath and my time. So men don’t often get the opportunity to fling some mindless, dismissive, overused stereotypical mess at me. Many times I just choose not to engage….

  • PB

    Because certain types of men think women are like children, and should be seen not heard. If you want to talk to a child go find a child (preferably your own) to speak to — I am a grown woman and will speak my mind every time, especially if you’re saying something blatantly ignorant.

  • jillybean

    I couldn’t have said this any better!

  • Nnaattaayy

    Excellent comment. Best solution I’ve read on this page so far.

  • apple

    why so many thumbs down for her? is she not stating a fact about the negative stories everyday? but its not just clutch, its on the black talk radio station i listen to daily, or black channels or anything abotu black peopel to the point i take breaks so i won’t go crazy thinking we all screwed…
    then again, when clutch does make positive articles they have like 0-5 comments on them so ….

  • apple

    heres the truth: alot of the time i am very nice to people or very passive when things happen because i dont want to be seen as the “angry crazy black woman” and have my concerns reject because of the stereotype.. sometimes i wonder if i weren’t black or if this weren’t our stereotype would i really be a nice person?

  • EST. 1986

    Because she said: “Every other day you are posting negative stories that cause women like me (even though this article does pertain to me) to have to defend ourselves from being typecasted by “men” in general.”

    How do the articles on Clutch affect one’s personal life?

  • leonard smalls

    It is arguably unnecessary to ALWAYS speak one’s mind. There are time when one needs to filter. The inability to filter WILL eventually lead to erroneous results.

    Carry on.

  • leonard smalls

    At least she’s in a relationship (may be not a perfect one) unlike a healthy portion of Clutchettes.

  • leonard smalls

    Preach!

    And I attempt to engage in all three when needed.

  • leonard smalls

    Interesting commment; however, allow me to ask what is your definition of “right”? Correct me, if I am wrong here, but the word “right” is a comparative term. As such, what are you comparing?

    Please note, I would never intentionally belittle or disrespect that special woman in my life. If I want/need her do something for me, there are other less intrusive means to coerce her to do it. Be not mislead, she probably does the same, so does that make it “right”?

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    “Don’t argue! You cannot win, you cannot beat a woman in a argument. It’s impossible you will not win. Cause men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing cause we have a need to make sense”- Chris Rock

    The golden truth.

  • CanV

    Is your husband African or American?

  • hmmmmm

    On the real men should never argue with women. Arguments are one step from a fight in the world of men. I dont argue with anyone who if it gets heated I can not defend myself. Soooooooo, I never argue with women. I will walk away from a woman in a snap seeking an argument as if she does not exist. I’ll learn from and debate with a woman all day, which means you make a case and I listen and then I am afforded the same respect. But argue? No use.

  • http://www.facebook.com/devan.townsend Devan Townsend

    Yes, men always make sense and the countless wars, genocide, pillaging, greed, and oppression as a result of that level-headed-ness and sense throughout history are a testament to it.

  • Rue

    “the fellow (who turned out to be kind of a douche) ”
    Hit a nerve, much?

  • http://www.facebook.com/devan.townsend Devan Townsend

    Way to deflect from the issue. The statement was about men and their supposed sensibility, not about works of art and architecture. And furthermore those things don’t balance out or make any of the things I mentioned okay.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    yup never argue with some one you cant punch in the face.

  • http://gravatar.com/cocovabarbie KemaVA

    Ooga Ooga!

  • Pilar Abril

    The way the male reporter kept deliberately f*cking up her name though and then called a her a “brat” like she was a child.

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