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Published on December 10th, 2009 | by thevyne


Are Black Women Really Intimidating?

If you are an intelligent, professional , single or “spoken for” black woman, chances are, you have at some point been referred to as “intimidating”. Whether it was the reason for the surprisingly negative performance review you received at work, the excuse your non-brown co-workers gave for not befriending you right away or the ever popular (and my personal fav – NOT!) unequivocal reason that you are still single. No matter the specifics of the justification for the label, it all speaks to the same stereotypical impression that black women are somehow more intimidating than any other group of women. Even our first lady Michelle Obama could not escape the intimidation label during our President’s campaign for office. Surely you remember the ridiculous caricature of her on the cover of The New Yorker as a gun toting, afro wearing, finger pointing, super black panther from the 70’s. If that’s not enough, then surely you have heard the whisperings from some black men about the reason they choose to date women of other races.

A sociologist might argue that the association between black women and intimidation stems from the deliberate attempt to reverse the roles of black men and women during slavery. A time when black men were emasculated and black women were stripped of their feminine characteristics in the eyes of the masters and later in films, a la’ Hattie McDaniel in “Gone With the Wind”. Clearly we are far from the days of slavery yet this perception of black women as intimidating continues to perpetuate itself be it in pop culture, politics, music, movies or any other facet of life. Could it be that where there is smoke, there is fire? Are black women really intimidating or is everyone else super sensitive? Share your story of “intimidation” and let us know what you think.

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4 Responses to Are Black Women Really Intimidating?

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  2. Velour says:

    I know what you mean. I’m a Black woman and I’ve had this experience. Even if others around are upset and screaming at you, you still have to maintain your calmness and try to hide signs that you’re upset, too, because others will ONLY remember that YOU.

    This happened to me in college. There was a middle aged White woman secretary who got a nasty attitude when I came to have her supervisor sign something for me. That was the last day to have it signed, and her supervisor was out, and she didn’t feel I should be there “at the last minute.” She didn’t know the details, though; they were extenuating circumstances and I was only supposed to share that with her supervisor (who did sign it after knowing the circumstances). The secretary put up a terrible fuss at the top of her voice, criticizing me for waiting. I responded after repeated provocation, but never raised my voice. Yet, I found out later that two White professors nearby had said I was yelling. They didn’t even say SHE was, too, from what I heard – just that I was. This woman’s terrible attitude and rudeness were overlooked due to positive stereotypes about White women (and maybe also the fact that she was in more of a position of authority), and even though I am naturally shy and quiet, I still triggered stereotypes about loud, angry Black women in others.

    My fiance is White, and one day when we were in Manhattan together, a Black man standing outside the store tried to give my fiancé a high five, saying, “I’ve got to hand it to you. I bet she’s really difficult to deal with. She’s real bossy and controlling, right? Tries to run everything, right? Gets an attitude when things don’t go your way, right?” He kept on and on, getting louder and audibly more desperate until we got into the store. My fiancé just looked through him and didn’t respond. He and his father shook their heads and said “What an idiot” before moving onto other business. See, that Black man thought my fiancé would fear he was in for a difficult relationship and get scared and leave me after hearing these stereotypes about Black women. What he didn’t know is that we’ve known each other for 8 years, so he knows my fiancé knows me inside out. Anyway, that guy looked embarrassed and avoided our eyes when we got out of the store, because he didn’t get the confrontation he hoped to provoke ME into to prove his racist point. What a fool.

    All types of people conspire – particularly some non-Black women and some Black men – conspire to keep these stereotypes about Black women alive because it benefits them. It’s unfair to have to take extra special care, but in the US, it’s an unfortunate reality that we have to walk on eggshells so as not to arouse others’ ignorance.

  3. jetara says:

    Loved this! I hate we get labeled angry, intimidating and other labels because we decide to use our voice.

  4. SweetAsAGrannySmithApplePie says:

    I’m a 50 year old black woman and have had to deal with this sort of label most of my adult life! It’s crazy. I’m not at all intimidating. That’s a word hurled (along with rude and judgmental) when someone doesn’t agree with someone else and they want to be passive aggressive. As for the single Black men who use the excuse that we are ‘too intimidating’ in order to date other races, what I hear is? I want a woman who will take crap and come back with a smile…and I say fine, you’ve just saved me the trouble of having to dump your sorry butt! LOL

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