THE REPRESENTATION OF BLACK WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

I'm a black woman but that doesn't make me the the best friend, the funny friend, the funny fat friend or the friend who loves chicken. News flash, I don't even eat meat. Being funny just happens to be a coincidence heightened by past life trauma. Let me be the first to say, I am a fan of stereotypes being used in the media where necessary. Stereotypes can be comedic, they are funny, they make us laugh, what kind of world would this be if we couldn't laugh at ourselves. So I want to talk about this thing from my point of view, a black woman who has loved media studies, blogging and films since forever.

If there is a film playing on black stereotypes and the characters are being portrayed as such for the name of creativity, awareness and art, I am all here for that. I enjoy watching and being humoured by the stereotypical things we do in our households, the conversations we have with our peers, our slang and more. The thing about stereotypes is that they do not come from nowhere, we cannot be blind to the fact that who we are, the country we are from, the colour of our skin, the way we talk, our sexual orientation and so much more can determine a lot of factors that fall into these stereotypical categories.

For example, I'm sure the majority of black women reading this post has some kind of weird hair comment in their lifetime, especially at work.

'How did your hair grow so fast?' It's a wig, I had a bob yesterday Susan.

'Can I touch your hair? I love afros.' No Susan.

'Omg you've dyed your hair, you're so daring.' Same wig, different colour Susan.

'Is that your natural hair then?' Braids Susan, braids.

Does every single white person ask us these questions? Of course not but it is a funny scenario that happens all of the time.

Let's talk more about representation in films, my girl crush of life, Zoe Kravitz an interracial actress and musician has spoken about being put into categories in the industry because of the colour of her skin. For example, she is always put forward for black roles or the best friend as opposed to the main character or the girl next door.

In 2017 Zoe shared this post to her social media account.

It's a quote from the late Jean-Michel Basquiat and the post received a lot of backlash to say the least.

“I think I’ll go take a Black walk. And have a black talk. With my black friend. Maybe have some black lunch. Watch a black movie, sing a black song, smoke a black bong… then take a black nap in my black bed in my back sheets and have some back dreams. …..Happy to be be black. Just don’t need to say it in front of everything," she said with the hashtag #artisart."

Here are my thoughts, I'm a human. I don't take a black walk, I don't lay in my black bed and I don't drink black water. I'm just a human and I want my art to be perceived as art from a human to other humans. It can be frustrating being put into the box of a black artist but equally it is who I am and it would be naive of me to pretend that I don't see and enjoy the perks. I am thrilled when I see a company looking for young black writers or black artists, our art is perceived in a different way by black people, black creatives want to support other black creatives. When I was younger it meant that I out of a sea of many faces I finally felt like I had a chance at something so yes I am proud of being black and in some ways it does define me, but it does not fully define my identity or my art.

Zoe's words definitely do not come from a place of self hate and a neglect for her blackness but of a place of frustration. “I ask writers and producers: ‘Why don’t you have any black people in your film?’, ‘Why do stories happen to white people and everyone else is a punchline?’,” she told The Guardian in 2015. “What I’m finding is that a lot of people don’t see it’s an issue because it’s not their story, unless they’re black or a minority.”

She has also mentioned not being black enough for certain roles and because of her eccentric style being put into the 'black-hippie-alernative' role. Imagine being too edgy to be the 'black friend' and too black to be the main character. PSA, black people can be edgy, quirky, loud, shy, quiet, eccentric, laid-back or the loudest person in the room but it's not because we are black.

Being a black blogger which at some point will become a whole blog post in itself, is a title I wear proudly and it's one that makes all of the difference. Do I think I have to work a little bit harder because I am a black blogger? Yes. Do I think there's a lack of diversity within the blogging community and the media in general? Yes and it isn't about a lack of ethnic minorities choosing to do a thing, it's about the lack of ethnic minorities being chosen to represent the thing. Sometimes when an opportunity comes my way I hope that it wasn't given to me because they needed one black person to balance out the numbers, a thought that wouldn't have to cross the mind of the non ethnic minority bloggers.

Do I want to have to define myself as a black a blogger for the rest of my days? Absolutely not. I do not want to be chosen so the press days 'look' diverse enough. I do not want to be chosen to add some colour or 'Do we have enough ethnic people?', I want to be chosen because my work speaks for itself and because people enjoy MY content, not my skin colour.

It's a shame that in the world we live in I am aware that I'll have to work harder to get to the point where people will notice that I am a black [blank], before noticing that I am just a [blank], just a person trying to showcase her art. Obviously this is just a minor set back to the grand opportunities that are coming my way. To everyone who I have worked with or connected just through the love of the content, thanks for being a normal human being.

Shout out to The Real Daytime who started as a show with two African American women, one Vietnamese woman, one bi-racial (black/white) woman and one Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian woman. It feels good to watch a show and feel like I am watching me, I can relate to every single one of those women and not because of the colour of their skin but because they are real women, talking about real life experiences that we all go through.

So with all of this representation talk and me not actually eating fried chicken I thought it would be great to define who I am, myself. I like to think that I am a bit of everything in the world. I enjoy being open-minded, understanding and ready to learn more. Growing up in a Caribbean family meant that I ate Caribbean food, listened to Bob Marley, Busy Signal, Beres Hammond and more. I travel to Jamaica and celebrate Jamaican independence. I grew up stereotypically 'Black British' (full post on this here), but I also grew up listening to The Spice Girls, Destiny's Child and Queen like every other child from any cultural background ever. Fish and chips, sea side trips, loving London and other bits of British culture became my norm and I grew up choosing not to eat meat, choosing to wear what I want and choosing to be friends with who ever the hell I want to be friends with.

I'm black but there isn't one way to be black, there's isn't one way to be anything. There are black stereotypes that will forever live in me and I am proud of. I'm black and for that reason you assume I season my food, eat fried fish on Good Friday, carry take-away containers to dinner parties and was asked if 'I wanted something to cry for as a child' and you're absolutely right, but let myself and all other black women represent ourselves authentically. Because if we're being honest, some of you aren't even funny best friend material. We all have a different story to tell, we are absolutely not an army of black women, looking the same and living identical lives. I'm living for all of these black family focused films that show love and normality, black isn't a punchline or a trend, it's an amazing colour of skin worn as a badge of honour by myself and many other black women and men.

What are your thoughts on the representation of black women and other stereotypes in the media? Let's connect in the comments you lovely people.

Love, Shay.

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