bitch is the new black

While I am tired of the stats, studies, and magazine articles that sentence successful black women to a life of spinsterhood, I know a number of these “surveyed” women: educated, attractive, employed, well-heeled, single and searching. The desire for love and a partner is nothing to scoff at and Helena Andrews, author of Bitch is the New Black discusses candidly the loneliness that some single black women feel as well as the steely exteriors they put up in order to shield themselves from racist work environments and a taxing dating world. The “mask” Andrews talks about reminds me of the “culture of dissemblance” Darlene Clark Hine details in her brilliant piece “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women.” While I am not equating rape and the threat of rape to singlehood and potential loneliness, both examples speak to the ways that black women have cultivated exterior appearances to hide the emotional tumult that sometimes rages inside.

While I haven’t yet read Helena Andrews’ book, which she describes as a black Sex and the City meets Bridget Jones’ Diary, I have been working on and longing for more books that look at the lives of urban black women (or Sistas and the City). Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes is set to produce the film version of Bitch, which I hope will not merely be Sex and the City in blackface. I watched the exploits of Carrie, Miranda, Sam and Charlotte as faithfully as most of my black girlfriends and even empathized with some of their experiences but black women have our own stories and not all of them are about “triumph and strength.”

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About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

8 responses to “bitch is the new black

  1. Jennifer, thanks for this. Lots got lost in translation in that article and that (horrendous) video. Neck rolls are never OK.

    My book is about the loneliness single and successful (black, purple or plaid) women feel but don't want to give voice to. And it's hardly about finding a man. Singledom is simply a symptom of something much larger. We “keep it moving” from college to career to condo and then what? What's next?

    I believe that black women especially rarely get (or give themselves) the chance to slow down and reflect. Society tells us we are nothing if not “strong” so how then can we ever give in to feelings of weakness? In “Their Eyes Were Watching God” Janie's grandmother, Nanny, says “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so far as Ah can se.” That was true post-slavery and it's still true post-feminism.

    My “bitchiness” is like an urban armor and despite its many chinks I still wear it. And so do many women.

    When I was writing the book I thought a lot about this line in “The Bluest Eye”: “…we had become headstrong, devious, and arrogant. Nobody paid us any attention, so we paid very good attention to ourselves. Our limitations were not known to us—then.” We need to start paying attention. So “Bitch is the New Black” was my way of pantsing myself and daring folks to look at the hole-ly Hanes of my life as a metaphor for the rest of the women who look like me or think like me.

  2. Thanks for your comment Helena. I'm looking forward to reading the book and seeing the film made. I think it's due time that the interior lives of black women are given some consideration. I totally “got” what you were saying in the interview. It was actually refreshing as most pieces about single successful black women suggest that it is black women's “overly high standards” that keep them from “finding a man” when it's not about that AT ALL. I'll be keeping abreast of this conversation as it evolves and will stay in dialogue with you and your work. Congratulations.

  3. Thanks Jennifer and Helena for giving more insights into BITNB.

  4. Anonymous

    The real problem is these black women are not people of good character. They have all the education in the in world, but that does not make you a good person. They may have a great job, beautiful home, they might even be physically attractive, but they lack in character. Too many times society promotes what we should have and what is good and what is bad. All I have to say is look at our society and how jacked up it is. Talk about the miseducation of the negro. Now they have all of this education, great job, great home, nice looking, but there is the other side.
    They can’t cook, don’t know what it is to be a good parent. Are too much into themselves and think the world revolves around them.
    They always say I can’t find someone who has the same educational backround as me. Well, when did that become a solid factor on rather a relationship was going to suceed. That is just a societal factor. There is no correlation between people who have advanced degrees and people that don’t and their success at a relationship.

    My question is to many of these black women? What was your backround growning up? What did your parents do? Were they married or divorced, How were you raised or not raised and who raised you. What were your families morals,
    values and belief system.

    Stop playing the victim role, when black women are some of the most vicious, fickle women around. Black women have been corrupted by the American society, that's why they are materialistic, have a good educational backround ( which is great) but those things don't make you as a person. As a male who resides in the D.C area,
    who has a masters degree and is married not to a black American woman but to woman of afro brazilian backround, the differences between the two are easily seen. For example, my wife was not interested in the materialistic things I had. Education was not that important,
    She wanted to know about me and my
    character. She was very family oriented, was able to cook take care of the house, and is a great, great, great mother. Our kids are the best. Both A students in school, and don't get in trouble.
    One thing about Latin American Culture, they pride themselves on family, that cohesive unit. When you have a strong cohesive family, that has a good moral and value system, unlike many of the black American women. I'll bet you meet someone and will have a successful relationship. I'm not saying date Latin American men because there are cultural differences which black women most likely won't agree.

    What I'm saying is this, stop focusing on what society has to say. Focus on the things that are real. Becuase if you focus on society and the things they say, your relationships are doomed to fail. Because they are phony.

  5. “Anonymous,” I'm not sure it's fair to attack the character of the women featured in the article when none of us knows them. To be sure there are people of both genders whose criteria for partners are based on the superficial. And some people look for deeper compatibility that does include the ability to engage in conversation about shared interests.

  6. Anonymous

    I'm wasn't attacking their charcter. As one who lives in the D.C area, I can tell you about the women here. It's so easy to be the victim, when there is no other party to refute what has been said.

    I think it's funny, how black American women think they are it.
    Well black American woman, I hate to break it to you, u r not as great as you think you are. Outside of the educational area, you are not developed emotionally or intellectually. All you know is your career and socializing with other women.

    All I have seen and heard was about money, education, their job,
    and what they like. It seems pretty
    selfish to me. I know the bloggers are going to say, I'm a professor or I have my PH.D, ok well it's easy to repeat what you have learned in class to get the grade you need. I've spoken to so many so called ” highly educated”
    Black American women, they lacked basic common sense, and were lacking in good charcter. I can only speak from my personal experiences. This is coming from one who has a masters. Black American women stop kidding yourselves, you are the problem.

  7. Anonymous

    I'd hate to say it ladies but he's absolutely right. As a black woman living in the DC area, I honestly couldn't agree more

  8. I think it's possible that his comments reflect his experiences. That doesn't equate to black women “being the problem.” Far too many articles that purport to diagnose black women's single-hood presume that something is wrong with black women and that's why they are more likely to be single. For one thing, nothing's wrong with being single if one chooses. Second, if one is single and wants to be in a relationship, there are a number of complicated factors that might explain the difficulty people have finding desirable mates. Black women do NOT need to lower their standards or be anything other than their best selves. And frankly, black women are IT!

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