“Never Bitter, Always Better”: Debunking The Bitter Black Woman

Bitter (etymology):

Old English biter “having a harsh taste, sharp, cutting; angry, full of animosity; cruel,”

Many men and women have called me “bitter”. I’ve been called bitter so many times that I have lost count. Despite having a valid reason to feel, openly express, and speak on the hurt and pain of my experiences. I’ve learned to not even let the label phase me. As I became more vocal about my experiences, the accusations of my perceived bitterness continued. Once someone labels you, sometimes its hard to convince them otherwise. I was accused of being “bitter” when I was crying. I was accused of being “bitter” while I was hurting. I was accused of being “bitter” whenever I responded to disrespect. I was accused of being “bitter” when I rejected a man’s advances. I was accused of being “bitter” when I refused to tolerate mistreatment. I was accused of being “bitter” for deciding to remain single. Based on my experience, a “bitter black woman” is a narrative many love to use to describe a black woman tired of the bullshit life throws at her. She doesn’t need to mistreat another. There doesn’t need to be any proof of her cruelty towards another. She’ll be called bitter simply when she decides, enough is enough.

According to the etymology of “bitter”: an individual should be full of animosity, and cruel. Can I honestly say that I have been cruel to another? I have not tried to. Yet, I have been called bitter, simply for discussing cruel behavior against me. Why was I the one labeled? I have been called bitter for being single. I’ve learned over the years that many automatically assume if a woman is single, she is alone and unhappy. Where is the proof? I have even heard many narratives that single black women desire for other women to be single and unhappy. However, many single black women I personally know aren’t cynical or “bitter”. I have been single for years, and I am always happy to see others in love. Nor have I ever tried to intrude on another person’s happiness who is in love. Yet, the perception of me being “bitter” was never reliant on whether I was cruel or not. Yet, the perception of another person can often lead you to be falsely misrepresented. Is it possible that we falsely misrepresent single black women as a whole for being “bitter”, and not admitting to a lack of empathy for the black women who have a valid reason to feel hurt or resentful?

The “bitter black woman” label is often placed on many black women after the failure of a relationship. I think its fair to say that many who are heartbroken are usually hurt or healing in recovery. There seems to be a severe lack of understanding that often demonizes the black woman who is hurting. We become desensitized to her pain, verses giving her understanding. We often hinder a black woman’s healing process through shame or guilt. Shame for not having a positive relationship, and guilt for being hurt over the failure of one. Where is her nuance to experience and process her valid emotions? We suggest that a woman who has been hurt is automatically in anger or rage over her experiences, which isn’t always the case. Does being hurt automatically mean you are “bitter”? Does being “single” and not openly expressing an interest in a relationship, automatically mean you are “bitter”? Are women who are married or in relationships less “bitter”?

I have found many single black women to be hopeful of a positive relationship, and have the same desires as any other woman. I’ve also noticed many black women who are married or in long-term relationships are told to “avoid” single women to preserve her marriage. Why are single black women so unfairly demonized? Why are single black women automatically accused of hatred or envy of a married woman? The single black woman automatically because a scapegoat. However, miserable and jealous women want to see other women unhappy. I’ve found these women to be either single, in a relationship, or married. I’ve also learned that bitterness or bitter behavior has no relationship status. It doesn’t even have a gender, yet the “bitter black woman” is a popular stereotype that has become both accepted and common.

One label I have yet to see become common or popular is, the “bitter black man”. Despite much evidence to support that black men can be just as bitter as many claim black women to be. This evidence can be discovered in the many black women who were killed for rejecting a man’s advances. This evidence can be found in toxic black male groups such as “IBMOR”, that openly expresses hatred of black women for not choosing to date them. This evidence can be found in the many black men that have accused black women of not dating “nice guys” or placed in the “friendzone”. Yet, these black men I described expect (and often receive) empathy and understanding for their anger towards black women. A “bitter black woman” is a woman who is hurt. While a “bitter black man” is a black man who is rejected or not chosen. Yet, “bitter black men” are entitled to receive empathy, and less likely to be labelled. How come the same understanding isn’t warranted to black women with similar dating experiences? Where are the hate groups of black women who are angry for not “being chosen” by a black man? Is it fair to say that “bitter black men” also exist? Why is this stereotypical label not as widespread as the “bitter black woman” stereotype? Despite evidence validating the existence of bitter black men,

Perhaps societal hatred of black women has become more widespread. Black women are labelled as hateful, despite lack of evidence of active hatred from “bitter black women” towards black men. I have yet to see a rise in violence against black men, from “bitter black women”. I have yet to see a rise in black women resorting to violence for being rejected. I have yet to see black women openly express hatred for black men in a way that demonizes black men for being single. Yet, as a single black woman myself, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve been accused of “bitterness” or “hatred”. Simply for being single or expressing disinterest in a relationship. Without evidence of hateful actions or behaviors against black men. I’m sure other black women in my position can relate.

I wrote a blog the other day about my journey to heal from the grief of a failed relationship. As a woman whom have been through many physically and emotionally traumatic relationships, not once did I have a desire to return the favor. Not once has my pain become motivation to become cruel to a man. I have, however, developed many boundaries. I have learned to identify toxic behaviors from my experiences, to avoid similar behaviors in the future. I have made a choice to not become bitter about my situation, but to always become better for the next one. It seems that men love to call women bitter when they don’t give men who don’t meet their standards a chance. However, any woman that have already endured and healed from toxic relationships deserves to be self-protecting of her body, her heart, her mind and her soul. At what point will she not be labelled “bitter, but respected for improving herself? I Am a black woman, who never chose to be bitter. I Am Better.

Artist Unknown.

© Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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