In chapters 11 & 12 black feminist epistemology dominates the ideologies of our society because in a way it forms our society. Black feminist epistemology studies ways gender and race influences the way we perceive things. In this case it basically handicaps women because the ideologies and controlling images perceive women significant but only in the way the white male (who is the most dominant group in society) views us. So why is this important to us? I’m glad you asked. Black Feminist Knowledge is important today because we need to be knowledge able about from selves from experiences so that when we do take a stand we actually have the evidence and knowledge to back us up. In an overview article of Collins book, the author gives an example of why having self experiences and knowledge is so important. “ But placing Black women’s experiences at the center of analysis offers fresh insights on the prevailing concepts, paradigms,and epistemologies of this worldview and on its feminist andAfrocentric critiques.”
Other groups such as elite white men, black men or vice versa can benefit from learning and educating themselves on black feminist epistemology by learning not to be oppressed by the controlling images and that see we can no longer be held as a certain group. We would all be viewed equally because they would sunder stand thought our experiences of oppression that the black woman’s doesn’t have a voice in society and that in my opinion they are considered a “second class citizen”. The point where I stand in viewing this is that now that I am aware of exactly what black feminist epistemology is I know that I am bigger than a controlling image and that by educating myself about things in society based off of my own experiences I no longer have to believe what is put out into society and can make a change on my own . I feel like for the first time I would be free which is starting to be rare in society.
The Television sitcom I chose to analyze is Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse. The show is based off of Tyler Perry’s movies “Why did I get Married?” and the sequel “Why did I get Married Too?” For Better or Worse takes place in a suburbia area in AtlantaGeorgia following the complicated relationship between characters Marcus and Angela Williams. Angela (Tasha Smith), is a successful African American salon owner who’s insecurities drive her husband Marcus(Michael Jai White) an ex football player turned sports caster up the wall. Other cast members are Joseph (Jason Olive) and Leslie (Crystal Stewart), and Richard (Ken Faulcon) and Kiesha (Kiki Haynes) who are friends of both Angela and Marcus. Several themes noted while watching a few episodes dealt with Love, independence and Work Ethic. Love was an important theme in the show because despite the arguing and disagreements Angela would have with her husband Marcus they would still show affection towards one another showing how black love can still be evident in relationships and marriages today. Work Ethic and Independence were also important themes because Angela’s character wasn’t portrayed as being lazy instead she was a successful business owner who didn’t go to her husband for money or for him to make major decisions choices when it came to their marriage. Angela’s character was more of a hands own I can handle my own type of woman that I think made a difference in the show because she represented something positive.
The show in my opinion doesn’t really deal with race because all the cast members are African American. Although having an all “Black” cast, I think it hurts the show because it doesn’t make the show diverse to where someone of another race would enjoy watching it. After watching a few of the episodes I found that gender and class kind of go hand in hand together. In the show Angela is represented as a successful Business woman who lives in a suburb area in AtlantaGeorgia. Angela drives an expensive car, has a big house, a maid to cook and clean for her and she owns her own salon. Sexuality also wasn’t an issue on the show because all the women seemed really comfortable in their skin and the way that they dressed. One thing I like about the show is how Tyler Perry had all shapes and sizes to show the diversity of the African American woman. Power was very dominant in Angela and Marcus relationship. Throughout the show you can see how she is the dominant one in the relationship who tells Marcus what to do and how to do it giving her power over him and the others who live in her home. Angela also shows how much power she has in her home as well with her maid who just happens to be African American. Angela is constantly bossing the maid around and whenever she comes to her for advice Angela makes comments like “Shouldn’t you be doing something?”. This to me shows a controlling image of the mammy because instead of having a maid of another color she decides to have a maid as the same color and it depicts the stereotype that the only role you will see a black woman dominant in is the role of the mammy.
Considering the overall context of the show, I think the codes and symbolisms would definitely be different if someone of another race of class played the role of Angela. I say this because Angela is depicted as a loud mouthed woman who bosses her husband around, only uses submission to her advantage and always thinks she’s right and for me I just can’t see someone from another race actually mastering this role. If a Caucasian woman was to play the role of Angela she would most likely be considered as funny or outgoing, but being that a black woman has this role she is considered as loud and angry. It would also be different because the man would be dominant one on the show not the woman. Instead the role of Angela would completely flipped she would be submissive to her husband; she would be highly covered up not sexual with outfits that hugs the curves and wouldn’t be very confrontational.
At the same token I feel like the show plays a part in codifying, challenging and transcending controlling issues Collins mentions in her book. The show codifies the controlling image of African American women by having a black woman for a maid. I feel that in this day and era especially with Mr. Perry being a very influential person in the black community for people to see that a black woman is still limited to the role of the maid/ mammy instead of the mother on the show I feel like we haven’t really progressed much. Another example of how the show codifies the black woman is how Angela’s character is depicted as the stereotypical black woman. This for me creates a huge controlling image because its as if her character is playing at the hand of the stereotypical black woman in which I said earlier who likes to argue with her husband, be loud and demanding. On the other hand, I feel like the show challenges and transcend the controlling images by having Angela be successful and well off in the black community. Most shows that are on TV these days show a struggle for the black women. She is often seen working more than one job or is the stay at home mom while the husband is the bread winner and in this case the husband and wife are both the bread winner and it shows the equality amongst them.
Overall looking at the bigger picture the show is trying to promote the idea that black women can be successful and have a happy marriage while being the bread winner in the relationship. With these images I think that it could change the view of the black woman amongst the eyes of people who feel that black woman can’t be successful and happy at the same time.
Here is clip from the show
In my opinion what Collins meant by saying “By insisting on self-definition, Black women question not only what has been said about African American women, but the credibility and the intentions of those possessing the power to define” (125)., she meant that words and images that are being portrayed in the media outlets is now defining what it means to be an African American woman. There was a quote in the text by Karla Hathaway that stated “the reality of racism and sexism means that we must configure our private realities to include an awareness of what our public images might mean to others” (100). Basically this meant that we constantly worry about what’s being said about our race because these days if one black person is seen going off or fighting a person or even dressing a certain way one would assume that all black women act this way.
In Chapter 6 Collins describes how when it comes to African American women they are silent when it comes to their sexuality. “Black women’s sexuality is often described in metaphors of speechlessness, space, or vision; as a void or empty space that is ever-visible and invisible…(Hammond 123). This statement stood out to me because our voice is not heard because we live in a patriarch society. What this means is the voice of the women will go unheard but most men does not carry about the issues we may have. Or in other words if a women is placed in a higher source of power it would be out of line for her to say how she feels because of the images society has portrayed us to be. But what women don’t realize and what I think Collins was trying to explain is that the longer we sit and not speak up the longer we will continue to be victims of oppression because we aren’t doing anything to change those notations of how society views us.
In Chapters 3 and 4 of Black Feminist Thought, Collins introduced us to four types of controlling images that have an affect on black women. Before we began to name what these four images are we first need to examine what a controlling image is. Controlling images are images that give false conscious or false identities. The four types of images Collins discussed were the mammy, the matriarch, the welfare recipient and the obvious jezebel.
Let’s discuss the image of the mammy. In today’s media the mammy has always been portrayed as the servant or maid that it to care for the white and their children. The most interesting thing about this is this stereotype had been passed on through a generation of movies. They portray this image that if you are African American your only role in society is to be a maid and if you have children, especially a girl, she too will have to be apart of that societal image. One movie in particular is “The Help” where it shows how black women were portrayed in the 60′s caring for the white and raising their children while the whites continued about their business. The mammy’s role is evident today in our society and generation because even women who make six figures come home and clean their houses, tend to their children, cook for the family, do household duties and so forth.
Although the Matriarch image is important too because so many of us were raised by single mothers who worked and couldn’t pay any attention to us. I think this will continue to happen as long as women put more attention and sacrifice giving the child the same needs as black women to a white child. The other image was the Welfare Recipient. The welfare recipient is also another oppressing image for black women because of society. All African American women are stereotyped to be on welfare and we see examples of this time and time in the media. In my Pas 300 class we watched a video where a woman told her story of getting over on the system with welfare and despite what she was talking about the commentator kept bringing up the fact that many people were like her. As long as we have these types of images and people who put these images out there we won’t be able to break that cycle.
Lastly is the Jezebel which is one we see too often especially in the media. The jezebel is normally a woman who seduces men to get what she wants from them or in today’s society they would be considered as the video vixens. Collins discusses how women have to work ten times as harder in society because they are constantly looked down upon and always considered to be the ones who are attacked because of how we carry ourselves.
Enclosing I agree with Collins and how she feels about the misrepresentation of black women and how these controlling images will forever bound us. I also think that we have to do something about the negative stereotypes meaning the change starts with us and what we put out in the media. I honestly think the worst thing that could’ve ever happened was reality shows because they are the main source where people think that because one acts a certain way, everyone must be like this.