What is it about being a Black man with a microphone that makes some feel they have the right to treat women as if they are jagged stones that could only be refined through their critique?
Of course, I’m referring to the men who appear on podcasts and insist on berating Black women about their values, life choices, tone, or perceived lack of femininity. The virality of the late Kevin Samuels has left in his wake a generation of disciples who insist on demeaning, disrespecting, and condescending to Black women—both on and off the mic. While none have risen to Samuels’ level of fame and notoriety, the topic of feminism continues to bubble up to the surface.
One recent example that irked me went down on Amani Talks’ podcast, One Thing About It. Romel Cummings, a 45-year-old Black actor (stage name: B.K. Brasco) had a lot to say about his host’s lack of perceived femininity (both are pictured above). “You’re too tough,” he repeatedly told Amani, insisting, “you got to be feminine. You a feminine-looking woman. You beautiful. It’s okay. Rest in your femininity.” This moment was dripping in a stomach-turning brand of patriarchy. In his comment, there’s this malevolent assumption that, as a man, he knows best. It suggests that a woman should alter her behavior, mannerisms, and appearance to fit his expectations. And if she refuses to do so—to play the part of a blow-up doll—he delegitimizes her.
Accusing a Black woman of not being “feminine” is a way of vandalizing her credibility as a representative of her group; it’s a way of undermining what she’s accomplished or what she has to say.
The comment warrants interrogation. What makes someone feminine? Is it wearing makeup every day? Wearing heels everywhere—even at the laundromat or on errand runs? Is it never expressing an opinion that contradicts that of a man? What exactly are the standards that Black women are supposed to live up to? The reason I pose these questions is because the standard many of these toxic podcast contributors have set is seemingly arbitrary. Accusing a Black woman of not being feminine is a way of vandalizing her credibility as a representative of her group; it’s a way of undermining what she’s accomplished or what she has to say. Someone should tell these podcasters that Black women have an inherent right to exist, not just as a form of entertainment or spectacle for others. Ask Black women about their hopes, dreams, ambitions, and opinions; don’t just hog the mic and condescend. To some, this may seem like a radical concept. I promise you, it’s not.
What seems most vexing to B.K. Brasco and his ilk is the simple fact that some women refuse to bow down to the patriarchy. It’s 2023—women are no longer relegated to being housewives. Not all women are even interested in having a family or appealing to men at all, for that matter. In the aforementioned podcast, Amani responded by saying she never “felt she had to be masculine” and said, “I’m always in my femininity.” B.K. Brasco replied: “Rest in it,” also calling her “aggressive”—even though the entire conversation started with him berating her. Make it make sense!
B.K. Brasco, as the father of a 16-year-old daughter, should know the danger and impact of the angry or aggressive stereotype that is far too often assigned to Black folks. Labeling a Black woman with this trope is not only ridiculous, it’s misogynoir. This podcast—and others that feature similar takes and perspectives—is difficult to watch. They put harmful interactions between Black men and women on display. The internet is purported as a place for free expression; instead, Black women are being publicly tone-policed.
In another example, Steve Sparks, a prominent Black podcaster, regularly teaches women, through his speeches and seminars, that femininity is a woman’s superpower. The way he explains it is that when a woman feels comfortable with someone, she can let her guard down and express her femininity. However, there’s a not-so-thin veil of sexism in his relationship advice because who is he, as a man, to say femininity is inherently submissive and vulnerable? While women are most readily associated with femininity, it’s inaccurate to consider women as fragile petals.
Don’t these men realize strength is not something reserved for men, that being feminine doesn’t require someone to acquiesce in their power? A woman should feel empowered to live a fulfilling life. In terms of relationships, she should feel empowered enough to contribute to any relationship willingly or reject a man’s advances. Troy Spry, a public speaker, author, and relationship guru, seems to echo much of what Steven Sparks and B.K Brasco had to say about gender: “High-value masculine men have spoken… Your femininity is your superpower.” It’s kind of puzzling because they’re using empowering-sounding language to coax women into being submissive. If women are just “feminine,” they’ll get everything they want: the commitment, the lifestyle, the respect, the love. But the unsaid part is that if you don’t meet their standards of femininity, then that standard will be used to excuse the deprivation of those things. (Maybe if a woman had stayed home with the kids, her husband would be loyal, kind, etc.) This type of relationship advice makes it seem like the success or failure of any relationship is up to the Black woman—how she behaves and how she presents herself—as if Black men are inherently flawless. It takes two to tango, though.
Far too many people are interested in putting Black women into a box and trying to teach them how to be women. In reality, they are trying to groom them into being someone whose sole mission is to please the man she’s with—even if these behaviors don’t sit right with her. Every time a Black man tells a Black woman she should be more feminine, it sounds to me like nails clawing a chalkboard. It’s toxic as hell. Men should not be defining what womanhood is any more than women should be defining what it means to be a man. I’d rather hear Black men and women talk about how they can support one another, what unique challenges they face, and how we can be more present in our community and in our relationships. But, far too often, the viral moments represent misogynoir.
When B.K. Brasco insisted that Amani could continue to be herself but do it in a “feminine way.” She said, “No, thank you.” Amen.
Far too often, Black women appear on podcasts seemingly after receiving a faux olive branch, the opportunity to collaborate with others and expand their audience to include Black men, only to be reduced to a viral spectacle and accused of being angry, aggressive, and masculine. One woman commented after watching a clip from the aforementioned One Thing About It episode, “I need all podcasts wrapped up by the end of the year,” a sentiment that has since amassed more than 10,000 likes. There will always be spaces to discuss relationships and gender roles, but we should be cautious of those trying to exploit disagreements between Black men and women—especially since they never seem to offer a productive path towards reconciliation.