Sistas On Fire

The Heat Is On!

A troubling development in the media, which has a direct impact on popular culture which ultimately influences social policy, is the appropriation of the black female image by other groups (from white men, white women, and black men) for commercial gain. These groups have been empowered to represent African American women despite the fact that they are not African American women. Most recently, black male writer Tyler Perry has a created a black female character who has managed to capture the imagination of the public at-large, which led to a feature film called The Diary of a Mad Black Woman. With an exception of a few socially conscious brothers and sisters, this character has been embraced for her authenticity despite the fact that she is really Mr. Perry in drag. The irony is that Mr. Perry’s character is most popular among black females who see this character as genuinely representative of their pain.

SOF challenges the notion that it is appropriate for other groups to represent and speak for African American women. The title is not merely a reference to Mr. Perry’s film, though certainly the intention of it is to flip his script of the victimized or victimizing African American female to reveal the strong, independent socially conscious sister whose pen is mightier than a chainsaw! The title is an allusion to the feminist novel (which eventually became a film) Diary of a Mad Housewife by Susan Kaufman, which chronicles the struggle of a subservient woman for independence and freedom. Adult women who remain in a state of childlike dependency eventually go mad. However, the use of the word mad in DMBF alludes to the idea that African American women are angry that their voice and image have been appropriated, and distorted in the process, by others for commercial gain. Being mad or revengeful, as represented in Mr. Perry’s film, is the most rudimentary reaction to victimization. SOF, on the other hand, is about taking mad or anger to the next level, for all revolution first begins with individual discontent, but gains its power from the mass acknowledgment of discontent that eventually leads to revolution.

Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry (among others) have all dressed to unimpress as Shenanay, Big Mama, Rasputia and Madea. They have made millions of dollars as a result while African American women struggle to find roles in Hollywood. SOF asks, so why can't a real sista get paid?

Are you entertained or offended by the number of African American men dressing as women for commercial gain?

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There are generalizations and stereotypes that many of us create about specific groups of people. I don't believe all of the hype and tend to accept people for the individuals they present themselves to be. However, I dislike all of the negativity surrounding the stereotypical black female. I especially hate to hear it from black men who continue to perpetuate this myth. Many white people claim to be intimidated by black men for the same types of negative reasons. Yet, so many black men seem to ignore that fact. While black females will comfort, encourage, and defend them until the end we DO NOT usually receive that back in return from our black men.

I have found these characters to be entertaining and have simply felt Martin & Tyler have simply followed the example set by Eddie Murphy. He's played so many different characters, male and female, therefore I'd never looked at it to be insulting. I recognize the intentions of these men is to create great comedy. In hindsight I can see how the stereotype continues to be perpetuated.
I really like what you said in your first paragraph. It reminds me to add that the reason so many black men are getting paid for dressing as women is to degrade them as well! A black man dressed as a woman is far less threatening, right? I'm just so sorry to see our celebrities sell out this way. When will we learn to turn down a dollar? There are just some things you shouldn't do, no matter how much money you are offered! In the early days of vaudeville, when minstresly (probably misspelled that...LOL) was popular, did you know that there were black minstrels? Yes! And guess what? They put on blackface to make themselves seem even darker! Now how crazy is that...a black man imitating a black man? But see, the reason for it was that the black man they were imitating didn't fit the stereotype, so they had to put on blackface to play the fake character! Back in the day, they didn't have a choice. Sometimes physical threats were used to make them put on blackface! But it's a new century. None of these guys dressing up as women is hurting for cash. There is absolutely no excuse.

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