The Duchess of Sussex’s new podcast episode highlights the complexity of the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotype.
On the latest episode of Meghan Markle’s podcast, “Archetypes,” Markle hosts comedians Issa Rae and Ziwe Fumudoh for a candid conversation about the “angry Black woman” trope.
In examining a stereotype that is inevitably projected onto Black women as they move through the world, the women recounted times when the world tried to categorize them as such.
“Insecure” star and creator Rae remembers the first time she noticed the effects of the media highlighting a particular type of Black woman like Omarosa Manigault of “The Apprentice” and Tiffany “New York” Pollard of “Flavor of Love.”
“It was this ruthless Black woman or this uncouth Black woman,” Rae recalled, PEOPLE reports. “We were made to laugh at them as opposed to laugh with them in some ways. But it was these caricatures of Black women, and I remember being so tired of that but being conscious of the effect it was having.”
After seeing how these shows informed others’ perceptions of Black women, the HBO writer and director dedicated her career to writing nuanced Black stories with characters that friends and family often inspired.
However, in claiming authority over their careers, both Rae and Markle admitted having to conquer the fear of being called “difficult” or a “bitch.”
“You’re allowed to be particular,” the Duchess of Sussex said. While living in Buckingham Palace, Markle was harshly criticized by the British media and was even accused of bullying.
“You’re allowed to set a boundary; you’re allowed to be clear. It does not make you demanding; it does not make you difficult,” she added.
“To me, that means I have a sense of what I want,” Rae responded.
Rae went on to explain that now when colleagues call her “particular,” she considers it a compliment, especially because she knows her attention to detail stems from her desire to improve things.
Markle agreed with the Emmy-award-winning actress but noted that it’s a constant internal struggle. “I’m particular,” Markel replied. “But I also know that I will find myself cowering and tiptoeing into a room — I don’t know if you ever do that, [but] the thing that I find the most embarrassing — when you’re saying a sentence and the intonation goes up like it’s a question. And you’re like, ‘Oh my God, stop!’ Stop whispering and tiptoeing around and say what it is you need.”
Like many Black women, Rae revealed that fear of being labeled the “angry Black woman” led her to suppress her emotions. When asked if she felt allowed to be angry in certain moments, Rae was unequivocal in her response. “Absolutely not. Because I can’t lose my cool; I can’t do that, especially as a Black woman, but also just even as a public figure now. Because people are looking for ways to justify their perception of you.”
Rae continued, “That doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. That might mean that I will vent my frustrations to someone that I trust, get it out of my system and then go [into] fix mode. And I think even personality-wise, I’m always like, I don’t want to sit in my anger too long anyway because what does that do? I want to work on fixing something, but I want to be allowed to have that emotion because it’s a natural … like, it’s an emotion.”
Markle also sat down with Nigerian-American comedian, actress and writer Fumudoh to further unravel these stereotypes. After reveling in Markle’s recent discovery of her own 43 percent Nigerian ancestry, Fumudoh revealed that interviewers are often “terrified” of her on first impression.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that hurts my feelings,'” she said. “I’m a sensitive Pisces. Like, I don’t want you to be scared of me. That’s not my goal.”
Pulling from Howard Stern, Stephen Colbert and Andy Cohen’s interview styles, Fumudoh said she tries to balance her “intense” conversations by presenting a hyper-feminine appearance.
“It’s like Barbie packaging, then you bite into the sandwich, and it’s like barbed wire,” she explained. “I grew up with culturally conservative parents who had a really strict understanding of women — what women did and how they lived and they cooked and cleaned, etc.”
Continuing, Fumudoh said, “And so, from that understanding, I also exist in society, and I know what the expectations are of women there as well. And these things correlate. And so to be the character of Ziwe that is brash and rude and thoughtful is in direct opposition to what a woman should be publicly, according to sexism.”
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