How many black women relate to the show Being Mary Jane? More than I realized. A part of me did not want to be able to relate to her, but I had to finally fess up and come to terms that I, too, am Mary Jane. Down to the post it notes with positive quotes everywhere. Cliche.
I am Mary Jane. I say this in a sense where, I work in a place, and have worked in places where I was seen as the overly assertive black woman. I have been called a bully even. Ok maybe, when my friend (old coworker) called me that, I had a major chip on my shoulder. I had just moved from New York, felt that I had something to prove, and wanted my new coworkers to see me as someone competent and knowledgeable. So, I flexed my muscles a time or two…ok maybe three. What I did learn from that experience was it is much easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. Lessons learned. From then on, I’ve calmed myself down drastically and learn to be more easy going in the workplace and in life overall. The 20’s were filled with life lessons.
Today, I am in a corporate environment and I am learning that less is more in this particular place. It is frowned upon when you are “too black” or “too ethnic” or if you know too much. The less of who you are, the more they like you. The more you are passive they deem you as sweet and cute. I can play the part. But I absolutely HATE IT. I am firm believer in letting your light shine. I am witty and an eager learner. So, I let that shine to some people’s dismay. But I honestly, don’t give a…
We are winding down in 2015 and I have always worked in a hospital setting and took care of patients. I have experienced some racism, but very far and few in-between. Now, in an office setting, I have come to learn that gender inequality is still a major factor in the workplace. I have learned that racism is still a big factor in the workplace. And most importantly, I have learned that the black woman stereotype is at an all time high. I would read about it and never gave it any thought, but now that I am living it, I am appalled.
I recently had a meaningless incident at work about my workspace and coworkers making coffee at my desk and leaving a mess. I have asked jokingly, nicely, assertively for them to clean up after themselves and they just ignore me. This is something that I did not even want at my workstation, but my boss wanted it and told me to “deal with it.” After several attempts of getting it removed, I wrote a nice email to the boss’s boss and those involved in making the coffee to have them remove it after finding dirty supplies in my cabinet. It created uproar! One coworker would reach out to those involved and tell them to forgive me because I am bitter about a job opportunity that didn’t go according to plan. Yes, you heard correct, I am bitter. I actually laughed at this. But, in this situation, it came to me that I was labeled bitter because I wanted my workspace respected. If I were a white woman, would I be labeled bitter? This very woman who called my bitter has cursed out other employees and yelled at her boss and cursed him out. No one ever uttered bitter and her name in the same sentence. Why? She is white. It is ok. Right? I digress…
In an episode of Being Mary Jane during the last season, she called black women, “the ugly black woman.” This is how society sees us. In that episode, I had an Oprah “A Ha!” moment. In a recent episode, it came to light again. Successful, black women are labeled as “the ugly black woman.” When we are assertive in the workplace, we are labeled at the bitch. When we are tired of being hurt by our men, we are labeled as difficult. When will the negative labels be removed when depicting black women? Who will describe us as beautiful, strong and nurturing? We have to define ourselves. I feel that a lot of us do. I know that “I is kind, I is smart, I is important and I is beautiful ”
How can we get society to view us differently and in a more positive light? Are we supposed to be more passive? I don’t think that’s the answer. We all don’t roll our necks and our eyes. We all don’t have attitudes. Every woman has an attitude at some point or another. That is not a color thing.
Finally, to all my black women, collectively, we have to do better if we want better. Let’s not give society something to talk about. Let’s show them who we are. All of our positive attributes. Because at the end of the day, we are not just black women, we are Women. We need more TV shows, and movies that display us in a positive manner. We need more of our men to uplift us, rather than bring us down. It’s a new month, a new day. Shine your light and be the best version of yourself!