Angry Black Woman Syndrome: Women Can’t Be Emotional

Solange Attacks Jay-Z in Elevator, Full Video:

I confess. I was caught up in the epic Carter-Knowles Battle throughout Monday’s news cycle. I watched and rewatched the video, refreshed my Black Twitter feed, and laughed out loud at some of these memes you creative people promptly released.

But now the time has come to address the double standard Solange’s actions have brought to light: Women are not allowed to be emotional.

Singer Pleasure P took to Instagram with the following post:

“My hats go off to @jayz he conducted himself like a gentlemen, in a awkward unfortunate situation. A lot of guys aren’t mature enough,to deal with an emotional person like he did. No matter what the situation was @solange shouldn’t have carried herself like that. there’s a time and place to address issues and that was not one of them. she needs to learn to control her emotions. if he was attacking her he would have been the most hated person in the world. But because she’s a woman doing the attacking,everyone finds it funny. When in fact it’s wrong.” 

For the record, I’m not condoning violence of any form. I am, however, condemning the notion that women somehow lose our respectability for expressing rage and other emotions.

Why is “emotional” often the first word used to describe a passionate woman? Having “emotions” has been a criticism of women that has held us back for centuries. The Glass Ceiling was literally forged under the thought that women can’t control our sadness and anger and therefore can’t be trusted to make rational decisions.

I don’t know if Pleasure P or anyone else knows this, but both men and women are born with the capacity to feel and display emotions. Yet historically, women are told to suppress our feelings in public situations (unless those feelings were unbridled happiness) while anger and passion was reserved for males.

Pleasure P and the patriarchal society he lives in has made it clear: Men are allowed be reactionary and women are not. Mr. P criticizes Solange for acting on her “emotions” but he celebrate Jay-Z for not acting on his. As if it would’ve been completely understandable, perhaps natural, for Jay to behave on his impulses and for him to hit her (someone give that man a cookie). But Pleasure P can’t fathom what would’ve cause Solange to be so “emotional”.

Solange, Jay-Z, Beyonce exit elevator moments after altercation

And as if there weren’t enough double standards in the Solange Showdown, the social media universe has been criticizing Beyonce for her idle silence throughout the fight as much as they are criticizing Solange for turning up. The Washington Post repeatedly comments on how Beyonce was merely adjusting her dress (#sarcasm). HollywoodLife.Com criticizes Bey for not swinging alongside Solange or for defending her man. So, we’re supposed to be calm and controlled but also expected to fight for certain causes. How can a woman win in this scenario?

Men are not the only people allowed to be angry. It is 2014, people! Sure, violence is rarely the answer to a problem but it is often a side effect of the type of severe anger which was likely felt by Solange in those moments in the elevator. We know nothing as of yet about what provoked Solange to swinging fists at her brother-in-law. But she has the human right to react to provocation and be emotional without being negatively labeled.

Pleasure P’s comments about Solange are a nice way of assigning her to the Angry Black Woman  trope that tells us women of color are always irrationally upset about something and are known to react loudly and violently. He implies that she needs to learn to “control” her obvious nature to overreacting. This judgement is not only false, but it is dangerous. When we as people of color stereotype ourselves, we open the door for others to believe those stereotypes (can anyone say Donald Sterling?). When we place women in an emotional box and demand that they control themselves and remain in the confines of that box, we’re basically saying that a woman’s truth and means of expressing herself don’t matter.

Pleasure P had one semi-factual point. Had the tables been turned and Jay-Z was swinging on Bey’s little sister, there would have been less comedy and more outrage. But men fight all the time be it with women or each other. And blame isn’t placed on their being emotional. Fighting is considered natural for men and abnormal for women.

No one ever tells men to control their emotions. Boys will be boys, as the adage goes. And being a boy apparently automatically includes inclinations to anger and violence. I guess that’s why the leading cause of death among black men is gun violence (yea I said it). It’s problematic when we normalize violence for certain groups because the results of that expectation are often deadly and skewed toward that group.

Again, I think violence can and should be avoided at all costs. And no, I wouldn’t prefer if things were “all equal” and Jay-Z and other men started hitting women. But the double standard toward women who become violent is real and offensive. Where is it written that women can’t get angry? Maybe men need to learn not to piss women off? Or maybe we all need to learn to respect each other’s emotions and respond to them accordingly.


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