Note from BW of Brazil: The depths of this issue get deeper and deeper with every passing piece on the topic. Just a few days ago, Léo Custódio’s piece and affirmation of the existence of ‘palmitagem’ opened a lot of eyes because he was honest enough to admit that growing up in Rio, white girls were given a higher status and put on a pedestal by teenage boys, black and white, while the black girls were basically left to the side treated as ‘just friends’, with utter contempt or simply the ‘one night stand’.
Today, Winnie Bueno brings yet another side to the debate on how black and white women are given different treatment by black men. I’m sure there will be those who simply ignore the accusation made in today’s piece, but inside of feminists circles, black women have noted how white women often belittle, ignore grievances of black women or label their special concerns as divisive. Thus, if it is true that white women are afforded a ‘privileged status’ among women, the claim made in the following piece shouldn’t be disregarded as far-fetched. For black women reading today’s piece, ask yourself if you’ve ever witnessed what she points out in her short article.
One woman, passed over in so many ways
By Winnie Bueno
Anyone who has seen the last video I posted in Preta Expressa knows that I have been struggling to deal with the issue of being passed over for relationships over another prism, one that will overcome the subjective consequences of this phenomenon while encompassing a collective analysis that proposes an overcoming of this scenario for black women.
However, a recent situation has made me once again feel the need to address this issue by the same inclination. This text has nothing new, it’s more of the same than so many theorists have written. This time, I will try to write beyond the affective field, through an approach that takes account of other forms of being passed over that also reach us in the heart although they don’t have a direct connection with relationships.
I have a follower on my Facebook profile who always refutes my considerations on the issue of being passed over. His analyzes always focused on how aesthetic standards affect both black men and black women, and invariably points out that black women also pass over black men. I explain, always, recommend texts, links, but the approach never changes. There is a denial of the role that black men play in this scenario of abjection of black women. It’s from another denial of these, one more discussion, that I write this text.
I accessed once again my readings about the subject in an attempt to organize something that provoked reflection. I will divide this writing into two approaches, one that seeks to encompass the scenario of the solidão afetiva das mulheres negras (affective loneliness of black women) and another that accounts for another passing over, the intellectual.
From the beginning: once again, black women and lonely.
Activists and black intellectuals have denounced the scenario of black women’s loneliness for some time, social networks have potentiated this debate. According to data from the 2010 IBGE Census, 52.52% of black women are not in a relationship, regardless of marital status. That is, there are numbers, data, they are not findings that arise from my difficulty in having relationships. It is a statistically proven reality. But while a brief search on search engines presents a considerable number of serious articles that point to this diagnosis, the insistence on devaluing this question remains. And it stands strong among black men. I have noticed, but this is only a perception, not yet proven by statistical numbers, that black men are the ones who have the most resistance in dealing with this issue (1). They ignore both the experiences of black women and the studies that these same women, in a committed way, produce.
There is an absurd difficulty of assuming the passing over that relegate the women who have the similarity to those of their mothers, sisters and aunts. Understandable, because in assuming that they pass over black women in their affective relations, an imaginary scenario is created in which they also devalue the black women of their family. And this is absurdly painful and cruel. The whole topic that needs a reflection of the violence that we reproduce ourselves in daily life is difficult, that is why whites have so much difficulty in discussing racism, that is why black men have so much resistance in debating the affective solitude of black women.
“Gosto” (Taste) (here understood as affective choice) for non-black women is the rule. “Gosto” (here understood as a sexual fetish) of black women occurs in the curiosities that manifest through the maintenance of a socially constructed idea about the way these women have sex. The objectification of black women still presents the same contours of enslavement; they are experienced, like food, appropriated as objects, predestined to the instability of problematic or non-existent affective relations. We are the most prone to definite celibacy and it is not uncommon to hear from black women that they are conscious of it. I myself am working on my mind to accept this diagnosis. As I improve my studies, as I access places that are not intended for me, such as graduate school, the greater the impossibility of a relationship with another man that is of the “dating/marriage” type.
The fragility of the masculine ego and the patterns of masculinity make me an unattractive woman. Black, with higher education, social activist with some visibility. Difficult to present to family. If he is a black man with the same status as me, he will certainly access a white woman who will confirm his social success. In addition to being successful professionally, successful affectively to the eyes of the world, such a differentiated homem negro (black man) that flaunts a marriage with a mulher branca (white woman). For a homem branco (white man), to take on a mulher negra (black woman) implies the need to face racism in family relationships and among friends, and even if this man is in a social status inferior to mine, his ego is reduced. There is no availability for this. Even though love exists. The same is true for a black man in lower status. According to the census, “Black men tended to choose black women in a lower percentage (39.9%) than black women compared to men in the same group (50.3%)”. That is, black men choose white women more than black women relate to non-black men. A truism, interracial relationships occur most often among homens negros/mulheres brancas.
Thus, the relationship scenarios available to my condition as a black heterosexual woman relegate me to the constancy of “non-relationships.” Add to that the pele retinta (dark skin), the cabelo carapinha (crespo/kinky/curly hair), the round body, period. It’s a package for celibacy. I’m always the “não namorada” (non girlfriend) of someone. The one who relates, but who is not the girlfriend, the wife. The one who appears to be a girlfriend, being an affectionate partner, but she is not.
We could imagine that my case is special, since I live in Rio Grande do Sul, a place where the number of pessoas negras (black people) is reduced compared to other states, like Bahia for example. Unfortunately this premise does not prove itself. Ana Cláudia Lemos Pacheco, in her doctoral thesis, addressed the nuances of affective loneliness through a study of black women in Bahia. One of the women Ana Cláudia interviewed to write her thesis is my xará (someone with the same name): Winnie.
Winnie is 45 years old, a federal civil servant and has no children. She studied, graduated, was a militant of social movements. She’s an exception to the majority of black women in Brazil. Winnie had a partner, but according to her account: her “female independence”, construction of her femininity as “a woman who solves everything by herself” ended up making the relationship not last. Ana Cláudia’s interlocutor Winnie has more than her name in similarities with me, and I have no doubt that at 45, I will be an even more faithful portrait of Winnie. Respected by many people, blocked from the possibility of affection even by these people who admire and respect me. (2)
Se a branca fala a boca cala (If the white woman speaks the mouth shuts)
Although today there is a greater openness to the debates that concern the affective solitude of black women, whenever this issue arises in social movements, or in the networks, a latent discomfort is created. Black men rush to deny their roles in this scenario. Black women tire of explaining the reasons for its occurrence. I was able to experience another facet of this diagnosis, one that caused me a lot of pain. Although I write about it, repeat the writings of other black theorists, I came across a black man relativizing everything I wrote, using the already known technique of devaluing what I say through the display of aggressiveness, arrogance, pride (1). However, when women with skin lighter than mine wrote about the same phenomenon, with the same conclusions, they were read, understood, and accepted. Accepted. The speeches of the women with lighter skin than I were easily synthesized, mine, tired but with the same content as theirs.
This reflects social hierarchies of race, gender, and class. And as much as we try to break with these hierarchies, our peers often reinforce them, as with the de-legitimation of black women’s discourse by black men. The socially constructed racial hierarchy prevails, making the voices of white women more easily assimilated than ours, even though we have more expertise in the issue in question; a sad, but existent expertise. Our voices, little heard in any subject, regarding the subject matter of this text, are muffled with even more force. Because when they echo, they echo the permanence of the servile treatment that the black population still experiences.
This voice, this text, is mine. It’s of other black women. It’s of science. Two numbers. Of consciousness, but unfortunately, most men hear only the voice of convenience. And the convenience silences black women. Because convenience is white in essence.
I think we need to think seriously about the consequences of these approaches, so that we don’t have an endless cycle of Winnies. So that the Winnies that come will have fewer unhealed wounds of historical and social pain.
- I have often noted the attitudes Bueno describes when I engage black Brazilian men on this topic, both in face to face dialogue as well as in social networks.
- A previous study confirms Bueno’s fears. The report pointed out that “black women marry less than white women and, when rich or highly educated, they tend not to marry. And when they do, they do so with partners of lesser social status, which can be white or black.”