The Sisterhood

Recently I was able to encounter the Urban Bush Women Company perform at Geneseo Wadsworth Auditorium. Urban Bush Women company is a dance company that started with the passion of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Their purpose is connecting contemporary dance and music using the text of history and cultural and spiritual traditions from the African diaspora. The company performed four dances that each had their individual while holding the overall purpose of the Urban Bush Women. One of the performances called Girlfriends (1986) shows the relationship between black women, four women, black women of all different types of body sizes, and color shade. Each part of the dance was describing an issue most black women face, their sexuality, hair, and dominance. As a viewer, you can see the dominance in noise used by the dancers’ feet or when one another gets into each other faces. When it came to sexuality, the dancers used clothing and the idea of provocative movements of the hips, thighs, and behind — using those body parts to gain attention. Looking back at the dance, it was not just about sex, dominance, and other female factors but about the relationship between women, especially black women. All the women were connected in one way or another. They would do one another hair or disagree with each other. At the end of the dance, they all burst into laughter. The dance showed the positives and negatives of the relationship between women, but most importantly, it gave an image that black women’s relationship is different from others.

Since the beginning of time, society has created stereotypes about black women. All based on how we act, what we were, and our role in society. For example, society has degraded black women solely due to her skin color and gender. With slavery, black women were mocked and sexually abused due to body type and skin color. In the book, Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington expresses how white men would have parties to mock the black women’s bodies. A black woman would have to stand naked and impersonate a chained animal. White men would first be in disgust, laugh and mock her but then turn around and be aroused by her presence. White men only acted in such a way because black women were deemed as shameless compared to European women who were claimed as modest. Not only are black women judged on skin and body, but they are also judged on actions. Black women stereotypically are seen as loud, “ghetto,” disrespectful and angry. It is giving the impression that we have no so-called “house training.” That once a black woman enters the room, there will be an automatic issue. 

Within the black community, we embrace the relationship between black women and black women itself. Black Entertainment Television (BET) has a channel called Black Entertainment Television HER, made specifically for black women and the lifestyle of black women. Another is the countless television shows and films based on black women like Girlfriends, Why Did I Get Married, Moesha, House of Payne, and Insecure. Each shows the role of the black woman in everyday society as a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a wife, and a mother. Giving the positives and negatives of the real sense of being a black woman, not the stereotypical black women that society has created. Not only are black women embraced, but in my experience, as a black woman, the relationships are solely based on love. The majority of outsiders looking in see black women as harsh and strict, but honestly, it is just tough love. I learned in college the reason why I was not allowed to do certain things, or why I am in the situation I am today is because of my family’s input. Women within my family love one another, but it does not mean they keep their comments to themselves. The only reason why women in my family are so outspoken is they want the best for one another. 

With the novel, Home by Toni Morrison, there are prime examples of how black women use tough love to there advantage when building relationships or guiding one another. Within the reading, Cee, Frank’s younger sister, got into a circumstance with a doctor who was studying eugenics, the science of improving the human population by controlling breeding to get the desired traits. With the doctor testing her, she began to lose weight, have longer menstrual cycles, and always extremely fatigued, Frank was notified by another woman in the house, and he came to take her back home. When Frank got there, Cee was near death. Frank brought her back home were a group of women nursed Cee back to health. “Cee was different. Two months surrounding by country women who loved mean had changed her. The women handled sickness as though it were an affront, an illegal invading braggart who needed whipping” (Morrison, 121). The women that Cee was surrounded by implemented tough love in a situation that was life or death only wanted Cee to come out alive and healthy. Not only was there tough love in aid of Cee’s health but in her mindset moving forward with her life. Cee and Miss Ethel discuss Cee’s choices in letting the doctor treat her like a test dummy: 

“How was I supposed to know what he was up to?”

 “Misery don’t call ahead. That’s why you have to stay awake—otherwise it just walks on in your door.” 

“But—” 

“But nothing. You good enough for Jesus. That’s all you need to know.” (Morrison, 122)

With both of these passages, you can see the profound nature of tough love within the black community, black women only wanting the best for the people around them. Miss Ethel was honest with Cee; her choice was not smart, and she should not belittle herself and know she is enough. Of course, Cee is defensive, but she understands the circumstances and should and will no longer tolerate being pushed around anymore. With this treatment, it starts the basis for Miss Ethel and Cee relationship. 

Therefore, when looking at black women and the relationships they have between one another is none other than the raw truth of the situation told without hesitation, but with confidence knowing will help you in the long run. It is crucial to notice that when it comes to the black community, we consistently express ourselves, always having the role of the black women shown at different stages for different reasons. It is the idea that the “stereotypical black women” are not the majority of our women. The “stereotypical black women” is a slap in the black woman’s face, putting a stigma on one makes it harder to be expected in the society and expressed in many shows like Scandal or Insecure where black women have to work ten times harder than the average. Not only is the stigma misleading and hurtful, but the assumptions opposed on black women and our relationships are as well. A stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group. It is just another extension of racism.

Overall, do not judge a book by its cover. 

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