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People, Good Culture

The Hypervisibility of Black Women

Kaymonts
Kaymonts

Growing up in a society where racism, ageism, sexism, and hair discrimination intersect can have profound effects on a Black girl's self-esteem, aspirations, and sense of belonging which lays a foundation for the challenges she may face as she matures into a Black woman. These early experiences of discrimination and marginalization can shape beliefs about worth and potential, influencing educational, employment, and relationship choices and opportunities. As a Black woman navigates the workforce, she may encounter systemic barriers that limit her advancement and reinforce the devaluation of older Black women, perpetuating cycles of inequality and eroding her sense of agency.

Ageism, particularly as it intersects with race and gender, has profound effects on Black women, influencing both their opportunities and societal perceptions as they mature. As Black women age, they often deal with societal rules that limit their access to various opportunities, ranging from employment to healthcare and beyond. These barriers stem from deeply ingrained stereotypes and biases that devalue older individuals, particularly women, in society. Despite their wealth of experience, skills, and knowledge, older Black women often face discrimination in the workforce. They are frequently overlooked for job opportunities, promotions, and raises in favor of younger, less experienced candidates. This discrimination inhibits their financial security, often perpetuating cycles of poverty and economic disadvantage.

Black women of all ages often experience discrimination based on their hair, which ageism can exacerbate. Natural hairstyles, such as afros, braids, and locs, are frequently stigmatized as unprofessional or unkempt, leading to biased hiring practices and workplace policies that disproportionately impact older Black women. This double bind of ageism and hair discrimination further limits their opportunities for career advancement and economic stability, reinforcing systemic inequalities.

Racism and ageism also impact Black women's access to healthcare. Although I am only 28, I have many experiences of being afraid to seek urgently needed care, due to my past treatment by the healthcare industry. After being diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2018, I managed to go to multiple doctors looking for a method to combat my illness and was continuously treated with antibiotics and pain medication as a form of long-term treatment. I was spending an uncontrollable amount of money, yet constantly feeling the same, as if I was only helping manage the issues with my body instead of moving forward to getting healthy while dealing with the new barriers of my disease. Looking back now, I lacked educational healthcare support that would have helped me consider all of my options. Ultimately, the experience (which I could not control) turned out to be extremely costly and left an untrusting taste in my mouth. Older Black women are particularly likely to experience healthcare disparities, including inadequate access to preventative care, treatment, and support services. In 2022, Women’s Midlife Health Journal produced an article on the study of women’s health across the nation. Within their study they saw,

“The Black-White disparity in social function remained statistically significant after adjustment for characteristics reflecting social disadvantage including educational level and financial strain, and risk factors more common in Black women including arthritis, poor sleep and VMS, lifestyle factors (smoking and physical activity), BMI, and stress (perceived stress and upsetting life events).”

This shows that the lack of care often has severe consequences for their health and well-being, including higher rates of chronic conditions, disabilities, and premature mortality. This unjust society struggles to perceive aging women, particularly Black women, as valuable leaders and respected colleagues. This difficulty stems from deeply entrenched ageist and sexist attitudes that prioritize youth and beauty over experience and wisdom. There is a pervasive belief that aging is synonymous with decline and irrelevance, particularly for women, who are often judged based on their appearance and reproductive capacity.

Moreover, the media and popular culture perpetuate narrow and unrealistic portrayals of women, reinforcing ageist and sexist stereotypes. As I have gotten older, I have noticed that there are few shows with a strong Black female lead, who is not overly sexualized or performing degrading work. Older women, especially Black women, are often sidelined or depicted in limited, stereotypical roles, reinforcing the notion that they are less valuable and less deserving of respect. This erasure of older women's voices and experiences contributes to their marginalization and invisibility in society due to a lack of media representation.

In addressing ageism and its impact on Black women, society needs to confront and challenge deep-seated stereotypes and biases by promoting intergenerational solidarity and recognizing the value of older women's experiences, perspectives, and contributions. Despite the challenges, Black girls and women are resilient and resourceful. They draw strength from their cultural heritage and community support networks to challenge stereotypes, advocate for change, and reclaim their power in a society that far too often overlooks their contributions and humanity.

Combating ageism requires a collective effort to dismantle oppressive systems and create a more inclusive and equitable society for all ages and identities. By valuing and uplifting the experiences and voices of older Black women, we can challenge ageist attitudes and create a more just and compassionate world for the next generations.

#Black_Women #new_age #black_culture #Black_Resilience