“Black Women Fight Back”


That may sound like a positive statement. But as it left the lips of my husband this morning as we watched the GMA report of Carlesha Freeland Gaither’s rescue and video footage of her fighting off her abductor, I objected to his statement on the grounds that it was made generically, based on the experience of one Black Woman. Ideas like these can potentially reinforce a stereotype about the strength of all Black Women and be dangerously interpreted as “Black Women fight back. So they don’t need help.” Angry Black Women, Strong Black Women, they don’t need us.

I know this was not my husband’s intent. And I was careful to explain that I was not trying to be argumentative. When I heard him say it, I could tell he meant it as a triumphant compliment. But I heard it as yet another reason to engender Black Women in the media as “Strong” in ways that in fact, do not  empower them. It only empowers an already racially biased system to further marginalize and devalue woman of color as strong angry beasts who do not necessarily need to be protected and rescued from danger the way that White women do.

My point is simply that all Black women who identify or are identified as strong need and deserve compassion, rescue, respect, rights and value. I think it’s great that Freeland-Gaither fought back and that there is video footage to prove it but I remain perpetually and reasonably suspicious of the media’s depiction of Black Women. And I’m very wary of the way in which the coverage of this “heroic rescue” story is a potential opportunity to make others feel like my dear husband and innocently declare “Black Women Fight Back!” The declarations beg the question “As opposed to whom?” White women? And if so, then who gets to be seen as the “Damsel in distress,” another stereotype which illustrates weakness and helplessness in women yet demands immediate attention in major news networks whenever a white woman goes missing? To say that white women don’t fight back would be just as offensive, but not quite as dis-empowering.

Many women fight back against perpetrators, probably more than we know. I hope that Freedland-Gaither is an example of many more strong women whom the police force deem worthy enough to take immediate action towards rescuing from dangerous perpetrators regardless of race.

2 thoughts on ““Black Women Fight Back”

  1. I must admit, I’m torn here. Because honestly, how many white women are found after they’re abducted. Lol, I’m not saying they don’t fight back but I know so many stories of little black girls and grown black women fighting back and being found or breaking free from captivity. We are strong, we do fight? But I agree just because we do those things and do them well, doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be protected and rescued and saved. I feel partly, that we perpetuate the stereotype of the strong black women more than men do. We forget to show our softness, or we are afraid to or we don’t get a chance to…I don’t know it’s one big circle of cause and effect. What I know for sure though, is I am a strong black woman who would have fought like this woman did and every single man who knows me, knows I am a damsel in distress who needs his rescuing and protection. I agree with the Mister, on this one….and with you. Damn, I’ve turned into one of those people. I’m somewhere in the middle. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, I got to add this. I just had Fb discussion about this white woman, I know, who experienced street harassment and how she felt and what she did. I responded with a lot of things but one thing was about seeing people and speaking to people and saying that I often engage the men I meet with conversation, I ask them their name etc. So someone else responded by saying thank you and she would try to take me advice about really seeing people but then said she couldn’t see herself asking for their name, because she had to protect her safety. And I just thought back to this post, I know not EVERY black woman would do as I do, which is sometimes ask these neighborhood dudes their names in order to build a relationship of respect. But, the fact that doing that would scare her…I’m just like come on white woman…white women. That’s one of your many problems, you too darn scared of everything. Until black skin is no longer equated to fear for your safety….sighhhhh. We are strong(er). Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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