Posted by: mobelch | January 21, 2016

Intersections Between Race, Feminism, and Leadership

 

I found the above video shortly after I brought up the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag during class on Tuesday. I definitely got emotional after watching the clip of Halle Berry crying after winning her Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, not because I particularly love Halle Berry or anything like that, but hearing that Halle Berry is the only woman who has ever won that award was shocking to me.

I will never forget the first time I learned that women of color earn even less to white men’s dollar than white women. For whatever reason , this fact is not mentioned very often when the pay gap is presented as an argument for women still having a disadvantage in today’s society. I don’t think that this is done on purpose or with menace. However,  I do think that a huge part of learning about women and leadership is learning about the further disadvantages women of marginalized races, sexualities, gender identities and socioeconomic classes. One of the main things that, in my opinion, ties Halle Berry’s unique win and the greater pay gap for women of color together, is the stereotypes that are applied to black women, especially ambitious and high-achieving black women.

Most people are probably familiar with what might be the most infamous stereotype applied to black women in our culture, which is the stereotype of the “angry black woman”. This stereotype is especially harmful to black women who happen to speak out against any sort of discrimination or harassment at work, as they tend to be cornered into this stereotype and have their concerns and thoughts be pushed aside. More importantly, employers might be less likely to hire black women because they are worried they will cause “problems” within their workplace by inciting conflict with their coworkers. As Amandla Sternberg said in a tweet from the summer of 2015, this stereotype really exists to “undermine certain perspectives. I have strong opinions. I am not angry.” I would add to this that even if I am angry, my concerns should still be considered and analyzed. This goes for all types of women as well. The idea that women are “emotional” and “erratic”, in the words of Richard Nixon, only helps people to justify not hiring, promoting, or consulting women on certain things. The fact that Halle Berry was able to navigate the labyrinth of these socially-ingrained obstacles and emerge on the other side with an Oscar to show for it shows me that anything is possible, even if it only happens once.

 

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Responses

  1. What an interesting addition to the women and leadership debate. I had no idea that the number of black men and women with academy awards was that low. This seems outrageous for a progressive industry such as the film. Much of the media image in our country is created from movies, actors, and their supporting news. Having such a dissproportiante number of black female leaders represented in this industry is detrimental to the public’s perception of what our society is and should be.

  2. I had heard of the #ocsarssowhite protest before, but I was not fully informed at just how long it has been an issue. I am curious if the categories were not split up man vs. women how many awards would go to each gender? I assume more awards would go to men than women and even less to those of color. Halle Berry’s reaction always gives me goose bumps. It is just a shame that that was so long ago and no other women of color has been recognized since. Black women are only recognized for roles where they play stereotypical African American roles. When the Harry Potter musical revealed Noma Dumezwen, an African American, was to play Hermione the internet blew up. People lost there minds. However, in the books J.K. Rowling never specified that Hermione’s character was white. The Oscars are coming up and it should be interesting to see how #oscarssowhite plays out and if any change comes from it.

  3. This is a great video and a great way to connect this so applicably to leadership.
    I know that in my history of psych class we learned about the view that women just simply should not be in leadership positions because we are considered erratic, emotional, and sensitive. I know it’s been a huge problem even now with the Hilary campaign that some (very uneducated) people ACTUALLY believe that we still cannot have a woman in power because of the way we might act during that “time of the month”. Decades ago there was a view that during that particular week of the month women’s cognitive abilities were compromised.
    It is honestly devastating and insulting for people to dismiss women’s input and intelligence because of the stereotype of being emotional or erratic.

  4. If its hard for white women to get into prominent positions, it’s even harder for women of color. The stereotype of the “angry black woman” works to negate the validity of their objections to being pushed backward. Many black celebrities, especially women, are working to empower fans to demand more from society, recognize viable role models, and break stereotypes that limit societal gains.

  5. You are definitely right that the fact that Black women are paid even less than white women compared to men. It’s crazy to think that that fact isn’t brought up more often to show the inequality that women (of any race) share. When we spoke in class about the “ideal employee” in my head I only really pictured a man, never a woman. The “ideal employee” and Halle Berry’s accomplishments are different but they can be compared in that women are overlooked for great achievements.

  6. So glad you brought this up. Our society is so fueled by media, so I believe that the diversity in film has even a greater impact to the shared consciousness. I would love to see a study of how including just one woman of color in the production side of things would impact the overall film and diversity of cast.


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