Black Female Archetypes

by maggiestone

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“The Bohemian”– A thirty-something black woman who is comfortable with her body and appearance and rejects the “white” concept of beauty.  She wears makeup only to enhance her natural beauty and usually wears her hair natural as an afro or dreadlocks or cut short, The concept behind her look is that she loves herself the way God intended her to be, and rejects any attempts to be molded into someone she is not, or to conform to a “white standard.” She is environmentally conscious and wears natural rather than synthetic fabrics. She is very often interested in the arts, music, and stereotypically poetry, or slam poetry. Real life examples would be Lauryn Hill, (from the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) and India Arie, as well as Thandie Newton’s character, Tangie in “Colored Girls.”

“The Wise Mother Figure”- She’s in her late 40’s or 50’s, and has a Ph.D. in the school of hard knocks. She always seems to have the right answer and knows best, even if her advice is rarely followed. In fiction, media and literature, she is portrayed as hardworking, perhaps unable to retire, and has a life marked by tragedy. She is usually small, childlike, servile  and deeply religious. This concept often transitions from archetype to stereotype when overly emphasized in the media. This excerpt from Stephen King’s The Stand, shows “Mother Abigail” whose main credentials are that she appears in other people’s dreams.

“The Tomboy”- She is strong, powerful and confident. She might be one of the few women in a male career, and is often written off as a “feminatzi” or “lesbian.” She is probably the quintessential black feminist and characteristically will be involved with gender bending in her clothing and appearance. They take ownership of the typically male sphere. In my opinion, these women are continuous pioneers of the women’s movement. Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman and Janelle Monae are good examples.

The song tightrope talks about walking on the tightrope, even when people want to bring you down or judge you.

“I tip on alligators and little rattle snakers

But I’m another flavor

Something like a terminator

Ain’t no equivocating

I fight for what I believe”


“Who said the ladies couldn’t make it, you must be blind.”

-Queen Latifah

“The Diva”- This archetype can also be a stereotype, when amplified in the media. This would be the totally “synthesized” black woman. A teen or twenty-something, with dyed hair, straight hair, perms, or weaves. She is very beautiful by society’s standards and glamourous with a curvy body, skinny waist, fake nails, designer labels, and flashy clothes. She enjoys shopping, dating and can sometimes be lumped into the “gold digger” and “welfare queen” stereotypes, just because she conforms to society’s standard of attractiveness. People first, make the assumption that because of her skin color she has a lower economic status and secondly, because of her beauty, assume that she will be interested in a man for money, or getting her spending money from welfare funds.  Alternatively, there are many “divas” that although conforming to societal norms can also be good role models, such as Beyonce, who in her “Party” video, acknowledges and satirizes this stereotype.

“The Black Hipster”- Between the age of 15 and 25, this upper middle class, highly educated woman views the world cynically. She’s given up hope for change, and this is the reason she doesn’t vote, “because it doesn’t matter anyway.” She is known for supporting trends that resemble concepts that she doesn’t endorse. For example, people shop at Goodwill to reuse old clothes and save money, but she might shop at Urban Outfitters to get the same style of clothing for upwards of $60 for a shirt alone. She’s often embarrassed by the black community of the United States, and embraces a “white washing” as intellectual, and higher. She views herself as intellectual, cool, and unique, but she’s also not self-aware that she is antifeminist and anti-black concept of beauty. She’s more than likely got her hair in an unnatural combination of white and weird, like a flat iron mohawk. She can be seen wearing wayfarer raybans, vintage clothing, and been tagged in a Facebook photo as the “token black girl” at every white hipster party.

“The No-Tipper” This perception of black women, in my experience is a result of confirmation bias and racism. For example, waitresses and waiters have the assumption that black women don’t tip. So they will give bad service because they feel that they have no incentive. Consequently, the women may not tip or give a small tip, because the service was bad and the server treated them poorly, which was what anyone would do. Also, the confirmation bias is that, wait staff will focus only on the one or two black women who do not tip, and fail to recognize other people who don’t tip or other black women who do. They choose to only observe instances that confirm a bias they already have.

“The Sassy Black Woman” She is beautiful, overweight, and constantly doling out unwarranted advice. She is usually funny, and has a reputation for “telling it like it is.” An example would be the comedian, Monique, or Necie from Clean House.

“The Tribal Other” The fundamental indoctrinated racist image of all African women, being tribal, animal-like, uncivilized, and needing to be saved. For example, the kind of people who refer to Africa as a country rather than a continent, will assume that African women are all topless, indigenous characters from a National Geographic text. This image is of a woman who is topless, adorned, barefoot and sits in drum circles.