Archive for December, 2009


Splash in the Boro

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The Definition of A Women

Dictonary.com

–noun

1. the female human being (distinguished from man ).
2. an adult female person.
3. a female attendant to a lady of rank.
4. a wife.
5. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness.
6. a sweetheart or paramour; mistress.
7. a female employee or representative: A woman from the real estate agency called.
8. a female person who cleans house, cooks, etc.; housekeeper: The woman will be in to clean today.
9. women collectively: Woman is no longer subordinate to man.

–verb (used with object)

10. to put into the company of a woman.
11. to equip or staff with women.
12. Obsolete. to cause to act or yield like a woman.

–adjective

13. of women; womanly.
14. female: a woman plumber.

—Idiom

15. be one’s own woman, (of females) to be free from restrictions, control, or dictatorial influence; be independent.

Webster Dictionary says:

A. an adult female                                                                          

B.) a woman belonging to a particular category (as by birth, residence, membership, or occupation) —usually used in combination

In order to understand what it means to be an African American Woman, one must understand what it means to be a woman. I took a look at several definitions of the word woman. If I were to sum up in one word what a woman is to me it would be maturity. In my eyes a woman is truly defined by her level of maturity.

Rose DesRochers had a unique perspective of defining today’s definition of woman:

“Being Today’s Woman should mean that you can make a contribution to humanity, as a whole. It should be about finding your passion in life and embracing it with determination, and being dependant upon yourself, and no one else. Today’s Woman has more than equal rights and yet she still wants more. She wants to have her cake and eat it too. Come on, you have to admit that the feminist way of thinking is pretty much biased. She wants the same rights as man but has no trouble accepting a few favors because she has breasts and ovaries.”

http://www.savvy-women-magazine.com/Lifestyle/readers-story-todays-woman.php

For decades the back woman has dealt with the issues surrounding her hair. “Hair Still Matters” and the article “Black Hair, Still Tangled In Politics” both stress how society insists what the black woman should look like and if you do not conform then you’re a rebel.  Ingrid Banks, author of ‘Hair Still Matters’, talks about how hair matters for women of  color in profound ways. Though differences arise in different cultures, for women, hair is never simply arrested within the aesthetic. Femininity is defined often by the length of a woman’s hair. The less hair a woman has on her head the more she is deemed less femininity.  In Black Hair, Still Tangled In Politics, author Catherine Saint Louis revels the most woman find themselves on a quest to get “good hair” which often means transforming one’s tightly coiled roots as a means of being more acceptable to relatives and quote on quote “Caucasian establishment.”  ”For black women, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Ingrid Banks, an associate professor of black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

From a young age,  black women across the nation are taken to the salon by their parents or gardens to get their hair chemically relaxed. I remember my first experience to the beauty shop. My mom said she no longer had time to deal with my long thick hair. So at the tender age of 5 years old I went to get my first relaxer or perm as the sometimes call it. It was considered one of my steps to being a big girl like my sisters and cousins.

                                                      

Hair Still Matters and Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics hit home with me on so many level as a young African American Woman growing up in the South. First and foremost I am what some people would call a pageant girl. I have competed in pageants on and off since the age of 12. My mother did not force me into this world I want to be apart of pageants because it allowed me to meet people outside of my small town and to get me out of my shell. I was also very fascinated with the pretty dress, crowns, and money you could win. Even though I was a tomboy in my early youth, this highly criticized world of beauty was dazzling. My competitive nature enjoys the competiveness but after reading these articles I have question my own links that I have gone through to get the crown. Winning is addictive.  I would never cut my hair because I though it would hurt my chances of winning. I have even thought about dyeing my hair a lighter color to make me look more appealing. In order to get pageant look, you have to have to perfect hair for the perfect dress. Shaya Rudd wore a weave in her hair because she thought she would have a better shot at winning the Miss America crown. Rudd reflection of her hair as she competed for the crown of Miss America is the voice of many women competing in pageants. Going natural would not get me the crown unless I was in a natural pageant or a pageant specifically for black people.  I know you ask, then why do them. The scholarship money provided to contestants helps me pay for college. My parents can’t afford to pay my way through college. The Miss America organization is the leading provider of scholarship for women. I have the opportunity to win $250-$10,000+ and one does not have to win to receive scholarships. Lots of young ladies place as a runners-up or win preliminary awards. The awards are in the form of scholarships. So yes I will do what it takes to win by my own standards. But I will not pay an arm and a leg for a gown that cost more than my rent. Some girls pay thousands of dollars for a dress, accessories, hair, nail, etc.

Outside of the pageant world, I wanted long hair because I know so many black women who want long hair but can’t because their hair breaks all the time. So it’s for those women I grow my hair out for. With short hair, women often find themselves being judged by society. As a young woman with long hair, I am often questioned if my hair is real. I constantly have to prove that I have natural long hair and that is not fair. Other women of different ethnic backgrounds are not questioned if their long hair is theirs. Why should I be questioned?  I am often looked at by other women as being one of those girls who thinks she is “all that” because I have long hair or I’m being white because my hair is relaxed. Being light skin doesn’t help either. No matter how I look at it, I’m being judged.

Eating disorders is not just a white thing, an Asian thing or a yellow thing. Despite stereotypical thinking of African Americans and Latino women that indicate such behavior does not exist in these communities. Many women of color struggle with eating problems and when diagnosed, the problem is severe due to extended processes of starvation as well as binging prior to intervention. Researchers believe that eating disorders in the black community arise from struggling with “simultaneity of oppression,” the stress of being undervalued and overburdened. Becky Wangsgaard Thompson in “A Way Outa No Way’: Eating Problems Among African-American, Latina, and White Women” found that the range of traumas the women in the study associated with origins of their eating problems, including racism, sexual abuse, proverty, sexism emotional or physical abuse, heterosexism, class, sexuality or nationality. “Between one-third and two-thirds of women develop eating problems as a result of abuse.” (Root and Fallon 1988). Victims deal with assaults by binging and purging. For many women their body is the one thing that they can control in their life and food was something they could trust. One participant in Thompson’s interview felt her body was the only thing she had left and felt momentary reprieve from her worries when eating. (2007) “I am here, (in my body) ‘cause there is no where else for me to go. Where am I going to go? This is all I got…..”stated interviewee Yolanda . (Thompson 2007)

       

Another interview says she remembered her grandmother telling her she would never be as pretty as her cousins because they were lighter skinned and her father insisted that she and her mother should be thinner as their class status changed. For some African American women eating is the way to meeting social responsibilities and superficially taking care of oneself according to Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant author of Strong and Large Black Women?  Exploring Relationships between Deviant Womanhood and weight. Studies have show that African-American women define and idealize the preferred weight in order to meet the approval of the men in their lives.