The Duality of Black Womanhood


Ayomi Wolff

My project is an examination of the stereotypes and aspects of womanhood through the exaggeration of said aspects and their flaws.

Although these pieces are part of a bigger project, they can stand alone as a voice for the strongest people in our society: Black women. Black women are often perceived as overly loud. This may be true, but it gives little room to understand the complexities of Black-girl magic. Such a force is quickly silenced in our society—hence the heavy Christian imagery and plain white dresses, both of which refer to the suppressive nature of whiteness, of colonialistic values. I chose to exaggerate these two ideas as a way to convey the Black duality.

There is some contradiction in the Black-girl identity. Obviously, one is expected to be a blaring voice with large hoops, a weave-wearing, lip-smacking, slick-backed, and a glossed-up mouth. Anything else is coonery or the mark of an Oreo. When one acts as she is assumed to act, however, criticism ensues. She is now told to be quiet, to straighten that hair, to talk differently, to not take up space. A Black girl is told she sucks up the air, that her breath soaks up more than it should, that ALL SHE IS is too big for her world. If you are a Black girl, you should think of yourself as compartmental, or your world will cast you out of a space that you don’t belong in.

But one does not swallow this idea of Black womanhood easily. The only way for a woman of such nature to swallow such an idea is via a godly force. The introduction of colonial Christianity is a prime example. Christian values and views stripped the Black woman, left her bare and alone. Biblical passages are now easy to consume, swallow with a spoonful of the “white man burden.” This says little of the Black church, which should not be put to shame, but it seems Christianity is far too often a weapon of suppression.

There is much to be said about the plight of a Black girl, but put simply, it is a balancing act: the difference between heightened stereotypical action and forced subjugation.