Transnational study of the ABW

This summer I will do a transnational comparative study of the Angry Black Woman persona. I chose to focus my research in the United States, Columbia and Brazil as these countries are where the largest number of enslaved Africans were taken during the Transatlantic slave trade. I plan to study this persona in Media. In all the countries, I plan to watch famous television shows, examine newspapers, and cartoons and any other electronic media, I also hope to  examine interviews conducted on the topic. This topic became important to me as I began to notice people labeling Black women in America as “mad, angry, too assertive or aggressive”. During my research I hope to evaluate how this persona developed over time and what kinds of negative impacts they have had on the women who are accused.

Below is the introduction to my prospectus:

For my research, I plan to do a transnational study of the Mad Black Woman persona. In order to thoroughly study this concept, I had to research exactly what the Mad Black woman was. Also known as the Angry Black women (ABW), Sapphire, Matriarch, or Sista, (used interchangeably) she is a woman whose performance or embodiment of womanhood go against the cult of True Womanhood. (Collins). This cult has four main qualities that include piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. Lacking in one or all of these qualities could come with the consequence of being labelled an angry Black woman. The ABW is known to possess “unfeminine “traits which include and behaviors that seem to threaten the men around them (Collins) This woman is known to be emasculating to all men, loud, stubborn, overbearing, sometimes unattractive and deserving of any and all ill treatment because of these traits (Pilgrim). This particular stereotype is in no way limited to women, and in many cases young girls are accused of it and carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Black women are not only portrayed as ABW in literature as well as electronic media i.e. TV, film. Another example of where this stereotype exist is in the music industry, as many female artists have been accused of being “too much” of one or more of the unfeminine qualities and in most times are considered angry or too assertive.

This persona is portrayed throughout American history with single and seemingly miserable women with an exception to roles like Sapphire, a character from the famous 1950s television show Amos n’ Andy, who was married. This exception is qualified by the fact that Sapphire was known for undermining her husband throughout the show. She was also portrayed as seemingly displeased with most things and therefore appearing to viewers as if she was always angry (Pilgrim). Other famous examples of this include Helen in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Yvette in Baby Boy, and Pam from Martin, all of which portray women as emasculating, loud and angry. An interesting fact to note is that many of these depictions were created by men such as Tyler Perry (Diary of a mad black woman), John Singleton (Baby boy), John Bowman (Martin) and Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (Amos n’ Andy).

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