Black Women's Health and Happiness

Insights into physical, mental, and spiritual health for women of color.

Are Black Women REALLY “As seen on TV”?

Fact v. Fiction: Black women are more than media images imply

If the only things I knew about Black women were from what I saw on TV, in movies, in videos, or from what I heard on the radio, I'd think that my Black "sisters" were all loud, crass and unkempt. They are all mean just because they breathe. They know nothing about loving someone, being kind, sweet, gentle, caring or sensitive. They disrespect themselves, their men, their communities and anyone they see, and they can't get along with anyone. They never learned to use a comb, or either don't have need for one. They are all whores and gold-diggers. They have no class; they always show their ass. They can't speak proper English. They all have babies out of wedlock. The only sense of humor they have is when laughing at stereotypes of themselves as portrayed by the likes of Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. They don't smile, and they are all angry...all the time. Dang. Who the heck wants to deal with, work with, love or marry someone like that?

But before some of you--that includes gratuitous rhetorical agitators, racists, and yes, some Black men--jump on that bandwagon and start posting replies stating, "Yea, that's how they all are," I wish to give you some facts about Black women...real Black women.

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This is only a partial listing of accomplishments and acknowledgments. Citations for these facts are given in the book, Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell. [The barrage of negative media images are part of the "hell" I refer to in my title and in the book. The foreword was written by Denzel Washington's wife, Pauletta, a musician and actress in her own right, and the book is endorsed by TODAY Show contributor, psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere; Ob-Gyn, Dr. Kenneth Edelin and others.]

Although you'd never know it from looking at TV, millions of Black women are cherished, beloved wives, and loving, appreciated mothers of articulate, intelligent, non-criminalized, well-groomed children.

Black women outnumber Black men in many financial indicators, including college graduation and entrepreneurial efforts. According to US Labor Statistics, US Census data and National Education Association data, more Black women enter and graduate college than Black men: Black women comprise 71 percent of Black graduate students, compared to near 29 percent of Black men. This is causing a huge inequity between Black women and men concerning educational attainment, language skills, earning capacity and social status. Instead of taking the path of least resistance, "sisters" press on and study to show themselves approved for the task at hand.

Despite the stress on Black women's lives, according to the CDC and HHS, Black women have one-third the suicide rate of White women who, reportedly, benefit from "White privilege," higher marriage rates, access to money, inheritances; many don't "have to" work, etc. So...Black women are subjected to much more social stress, but have one-third the suicide rate? Are we a formidable lot of women, or what!? Strength. Courage. Determination. Fortitude...all good things.

Black women hold very prominent corporate positions--some even as CEO or president--in such companies as UPS, Target, Xerox, Target, GE, Proctor & Gamble, CNBC, numerous institutions of higher learning, and many own their own businesses, some netting millions of dollars each year. It's doubtful that any would have climbed the corporate ladder or be able to keep their jobs if they "acted a fool" or "showed their be-hind" with their staff, superiors, vendors and professional colleagues.

Black women are the backbone of their churches. Barna Research reports that Black women are the "most faithful" demographic. One must consider where the Black church, the Black child, and the Black community would be without the stick-to-it-ness of Black women.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School released a study entitled, "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness." In it, researchers examined women's happiness over a 40-year span. They found that White women were less happy, while Black women were slightly happier than they were in 1972.

Some found this statistic surprising--that Black women were happier--in this day and time, but the reasons might be clear: Black women have always carried a heavier social burden, so many of today's "new" challenges really aren't new to them. As educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities surfaced, many took advantage of them and have done exceedingly well, even as many would-be suitors and husbands fell by the wayside. For White women, many of them (some for the first time) face new challenges of having never married, living unmarried with children, higher divorce rates, having to make it "on their own," and even physical challenges, with the increasing obesity rates in all women.

Most White women don't age as well as Black women, so, as Americans are living longer than ever before, many Whites feel more pressure to continue to look youthful, while "Black don't crack," and as a result, many women of color arguably handle menopause and aging a lot better than their White counterparts.

Despite decades of having their natural features mocked, modern-day Black women realize and appreciate their natural-born beauty features; this, as other women spend millions each year to get what occurs naturally in Black women: rich-toned skin, full lips, round derrières, voluptuous bosoms. I could go on and on, but time doesn't permit.

Now, these accomplishments of millions don't excuse the Black girls "gone wild" antics of the women we often see on TV, in movies and in videos, and I make no excuses for them. See my previous posts; and in my book, I step on some sisters' toes for their public conduct and how it does reflect on others, including impressionable children of all races.

To the delight of some, and the disgust of many, America is currently getting its fill of the bickering, conniving, catty, back-stabbing, aggressive Black women on "Celebrity Apprentice" and some of the "Real Housewives" shows. But don't be fooled. This may be how some women behave, but it is not the norm. Nor is it acceptable to the masses. How I and others wish the media and TV/movie producers (including some Black men producers who love to dress up as women; and yes, including Oprah, who rarely gives positive voice and/or visibility to Black women she doesn't know or aren't already celebrities) would promote a healthier, more wholesome image of people of color. And more, how some women wouldn't even think to have such negative traits of themselves be broadcast for all to see. Some things are worth more than money.

In closing, okay. I admit it: Sometimes I am an angry Black woman...but not for the reasons, or in the way, you might suppose. I'm angry--"pained" is a better word--that the media is ever quick to shove such negative imagery down our throats, but rarely allows a similar amount of time for positive images of Black women, nor allow time for issues important to our health and well-being.

In recent weeks the networks spent hours of time on Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, but, even in the month of April--National Minority Health Month--didn't allow one mention (that I've seen) toward the subject. But we keep stepping. Many are living well, and others aspire to do just that!

I will follow-up with other posts about this topic, including excerpts from my book, Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell: The Black Woman's Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness. In the book I delineate how such imagery affects social acceptance, and in turn, marriage statistics, psychological stress and Black women's physical health. This book is more than just medical information; it is sexology, sociology, psychology, dashes of pop culture and hefty doses of personal responsibility. (Did you know that the brain 'lights up' in the same areas when one experiences social pain/rejection as it does when one experiences physical pain?) Even if you are not Black, get a copy today so you can join the conversation and can see what social factors affect Black women's lives. In the book, I have a "Societal Stress and Black Women's Health ‘Rejection Connection'" flowchart [in color]. Seeing the information from a perspective other than what you see in the media might help you to recognize, and hopefully encourage you to help mitigate, some of these social stressors affecting Black women's lives. Not everything is as it seems.

Be Healthy, Be Blessed...and make sure you are Living Well!

Copyright © 2011 Dr. Melody T. McCloud

NOTE: FYI: I'm rushing right now; this post will likely be edited/shortened, and others will be added to aid the conversation. IF you post a comment, please remember to be respectful. You may disagree, but being disagreeable, rude, crass, inappropriate, etc., will not be tolerated on my blog. Your post will be removed if deemed inappropriate or on-its-face, nasty or vile. We can have a respectable conversation about the topic. Thank you.

 

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers.

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