books for women, Culture, Digital reading, marriage and relationships, nonfiction

The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine.

blissfully feminine

The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine, by Candace Adewole. Kindle edition. Originally published in July 2016.

This is a short book, one I was able to read from beginning to end in about two hours. Nonetheless, it’s full of thought-provoking, soul-stirring truisms that black women need to hear. It’s not perfect as no book is, but -and this is especially true for the non-religious woman- it’s the truest counsel I’ve ever read directed at black women. Ms. Adewole well expresses what it is going to take for black women to stop being considered, in the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “the mules of the world”.

Because it’s a short book, I’m going to keep this review short by using the bad news first/good news last approach. Thankfully, there is far more good news than bad.

The Bad News

  • It sometimes felt a little new-agey when the author ventured off into discussions of “black girl magic” and “feminine mystique”, not to be confused with the Betty Friedan school of thought.
  • Some of the sex advice went too far. The best way to figure out how to please your husband -in any area- is to ask him or read obvious context clues if he’s less given to saying what he wants.
  • Too extreme on the provisional aspect of a relationship in the dating stage: I get and completely agree with the overall principle that one of the things a man is charged to do is provide for his woman. However at the dating stage, I don’t think it is wise to advise that a woman should never split the bill or pick up the tab. My experience, old and limited though it may be, is that it is entirely possible to find the balance and still end up with a husband ready and willing to be the primary provider.
  • Too much emphasis on the value of travel, although I can appreciate her assertion that other cultures are more open to acknowledge the beauty of darker women than one finds here in America. It’s something I’ve heard expressed by various women throughout my life.

The Good News

  • Despite my discomfort with the sexual specifics, the sexual advice to women in the market for a husband was very conservative. In fact, the author advised women to refrain from sex at all until officially engaged and wedding plans in motion. No, it doesn’t go far enough to satisfy the tenets of my Christian faith, but it isn’t a Christian book and the author didn’t specify any religious faith.
  • Excellent advice on the value of silence and -if you must speak- doing so quietly with language free of any and all profanity. Truthfully, from what I have seen and heard, this is hardly advice only black women need to hear. It has nothing to do with prudishness, snobbishness, or religiosity (though that should be a consideration for some of us). It has everything to do with femininity and grace.
  •  Acknowledging the healing power of feminine touch. Although it was something the author learned via observation through marriage to a Latino man, being affectionate not only with our men but our friends and family members is important. We Americans tend to zealously guard our space bubbles, and the hypersexualization of the culture coupled with many black women’s penchant for wearing permanent armor makes this a hard hurdle to leap. But at least she put it out on the track.
  • The understanding that being comfortable in your own skin and with where you came from isn’t mutually exclusive to forming bonds with all kinds of people and meeting all kinds of men.
  • The importance of smiling, laughing, not going through life with a chip on your shoulder, and avoiding what is known as “resting bi*ch face“. There was also included the advice to use a gratitude journal if necessary to maintain a more positive outlook.
  • Emotional vulnerability: Mules can’t be emotionally vulnerable. When you are carrying your load, your kids’ load, your man’s load, and doing so without missing a beat, emotional vulnerability is an unaffordable luxury. Black women are expected to “hold it down” for everyone, and Adewole -rightly- calls B.S. on that. Many black women take on this role, swallow their feelings (literally and figuratively if our obesity rates are any indication), and wear the superhero cape with pride. That is, right up until they crash and burn (if mental illness and instability rates are any indication). Adewole address all of these issues with frankness and candor, understanding that rather than airing dirty laundry, she’s invoking the permission to heal and live a balanced life.
  • Acknowledgment that wanting to be loved and cherished is as acceptable for black women as any other women. She did a good job overall, so I’ll wrap this up with my favorite lines from the book:

I thoroughly detest being called a “strong” black woman for its masculine connotation, the underlying implication that I am somehow built for hard labor, like some animal, and that I am undeserving to be treated like a lady who needs (and wants) to be protected, cared for, adored, cherished, and treated gently.

She continues a bit further on:

I prefer to be called a feminine black woman or a resilient black woman because, although technically a synonym of the word “strong”, the meaning feels better and more feminine. Resilience and personal fortitude are what you must have mentally and emotionally to get through tough times. I don’t want to be “strong”. I DO need a man. I DO want help. I DO want to be taken care of and protected. I DO need community, and I wear dresses, not capes.

There was a some beauty and health advice in the book as well, but those chapters are all well tilled ground, unlike the parts I highlighted here. I stumbled upon this book and read it for the curiosity factor, having been spared a lot of these struggles through the presence of strong, protective men throughout my entire life and marriage. But I think it is well worth a read for the 70% of black women who have not been so blessed.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

24 thoughts on “The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine.”

  1. I think the value of feminine presence is underrated, for sure. Men LIKE women. (Women like men too …) And that’s not a bad thing.

    Truth. With a caveat, LOL.

    The underlying issue here (and I think it goes beyond the black community but is certainly much, much more pronounced there) is that men have been conditioned to expect a woman to provide both a feminine presence and also help fill some of the traditional masculine roles.

    And by that I don’t mean simply through financial provision, although that’s a large part of it. Because “traditionally” black women had to do some of that stuff as a means of family survival, those things coupled with nonsensical feminist theory and the proliferation of fatherless families it helped facilitate, have put black women in a very rough spot as it relates to feminine vulnerability and being protected.

    Do you remember when Dana Loesch offended the entirety of the political left (and some on the right) by noting that the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting evoked more intensified talk about gun control because of the cameras focused in on the tears of white women?

    She said a mouthful.

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  2. Found her website, and the one thing that “sticks” here for me it her bio–a series of bad relationships and a traumatic divorce. Perhaps that explains some of the “don’t likes” our hostess gives? I don’t think an author or leader needs to have a perfect life, but if you’re claiming to be showing others how to do things, maybe some evidence it’s worked in your life might be a good starting point.

    And maybe part of this is also that she needs some firm theological starting point if she wants to be in that position. If you look at non-human animals, or for that matter the family life results of secular societies, I don’t see a big reason why you would think that women would end up in any other position besides that of the “mule.”

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  3. I didn’t look up her website (I am really bad about researching people as I can’t seem to be bothered), but in the book she mentions her divorce and how traumatic it was.

    One thing I know for sure, having spent my whole life watching black women seemingly unable to break free of the idea that love is supposed to be a struggle, that the world is going to fall apart if they don’t stay strong, and men who don’t seem to value anything vulnerable or feminine but the female body as a result:

    This woman is right about a lot of stuff.

    Are there other women who are so utterly refused the freedom to be vulnerable? Serious question, because I want to know. I have over the years gotten my fair share of backhanded insults for not being a so-called strong black woman.

    Life comes full circle though, because in recent years I have had a lot of those self-same women come back and say, “I wish I would have followed your example, advice, etc.” And send other younger women my way (IRL not online, btw)/.

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  4. As a man I’ll say that the following points bear repeating:

    “Some of the sex advice went too far. The best way to figure out how to please your husband -in any area- is to ask him or read obvious context clues if he’s less given to saying what he wants.”

    And this goes beyond the sexual. In general, if you think something is amiss, ask. Sometimes you’ll get indirect answers, particularly if that man is either afraid of insulting or otherwise hurting his mate (or whatever you want to call it). This is actually a good thing ’cause when the “I don’t wanna hurt so and so” guard comes down, it’s just about game done.

    Also, few men will *ask* if they are performing “up to par”. If you get your hands on one of those you ought to consider keeping him. Seriously.

    2) On the split bill thing: Personally, I say, don’t do it. A lot of people/men doing it are doing it due to increased femininization of the society and are thinking they don’t want to be sexist. It’s up there with door opening and holding (a nearly lost art these days). I would say the only exception would/should be if it’s a quick date, say like a “I met you on Match.com and I wanna make sure you’re who you say you are” situation. But if it’s a formal date. No. Have the means but don’t make the offer. A man worth his salt is grabbing the check as soon as it hits the table. And he’s leaving the tip. That’s because he’s showing the ability and willingness (AKA courtship). If you’re paying, you’re probably going to be a f-buddy in the near future. Men don’t invest [much] time or money on people they don’t intend to stick around with.

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  5. Agreed she gets a lot right–especially on the diagnosis side of things. Good luck as you take a look into more about her–and I must confess that I almost instinctively look at online presence. Cheaper and quicker than buying the book and reading it–can you tell I’m part Scots? :^)

    (downside; it can lead to “guilt by association” arguments, but that’s a side note)

    Regarding who doesn’t get the freedom to be vulnerable, I’m guessing that single moms, especially those subscribing to modern feminism, or who grew up on welfare, have it to a degree. My brother-in-law’s wife is one of them–grew up on welfare, controls everything, and when I mentioned it to her, her response was basically that she felt that if she didn’t control everything, everything would go to Hell.

    Same degree as you mention? Dunno. But it seems to be a similar kind of syndrome.

    (good luck in reaching out to victims of this IRL, BTW)

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  6. If I say that I find it relatively easy to produce a protective response in most males, are you going to get mad at me for privilege? Or can I just admit it and we can all go on with life?

    I’d say about 40% of that is racial privilege – and while I think it sucks, if I have to use it, that means SHTF and at that point, yeah – I’m using it.
    30% of that is stature (my tall white friends can’t pull it off)
    30% of that is demeanor (I’m a cheerful little bubble, and I do know how to work the switch)

    I maintain that a man who doesn’t evidence protection around me is a man I do NOT trust and won’t be alone with. Not even on a bus. Not gonna walk me to the store. Nope, nope nope.
    Period.

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  7. If I say that I find it relatively easy to produce a protective response in most males, are you going to get mad at me for privilege? Or can I just admit it and we can all go on with life?

    Nope. almost all 4 foot tall women have an easier time provoking a protective response from men than taller women. Factor in your waist length hair and the fact that you always wear skirts, and it makes perfect sense.

    But to think that I am implying that black women simply cannot draw that out of men because they are black and less privileged is to misunderstand what I am saying.

    I’ve never had a particularly hard time having men protect me and I’m a 5’9″ black woman. But I have never had to “hold it down”. My father was a protective influence. Grandpa, uncles, and I met my husband as a 21-year-old single, childless college girl. He’s been protecting me ever since. Men are usually pretty nice to me, but I also haven’t had to wear that heavy, thick armor.

    One notable example I can recall was I guess about 3 or 4 years ago (mind you I was, as now, in my 40s). I was walking into a grocery store when it started to rain. A relatively young man, a total stranger, walked from in the front entrance of the store to the parking lot and gave me his umbrella. And he wasn’t a store employee.

    I figured it was the sundress and the sandals with heels.

    Which is the point of the author. Part of it really IS that black women are less valued as women, but that there are reasons for that. Reasons that black women have contributed to, whether through ignorance or necessity, and that they can change some, if not all of it.

    No one -or at least not me- is blaming you for using your gifts and privileges to your advantage. Everyone should so long as it is ethical and doesn’t include trampling over other people, which YOU would never do.

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  8. Oh good. 🙂 I didn’t think you were mad at me. I would happily share the privilege, you know?

    Actually I’m quite picky about males I allow to caretake, because it can slide into condescension very quickly. There’s a balance to be held.

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  9. Race is a stereotype that does have predictive power. But only some. And of course testosterone (the male hormone) by race goes: blacks > whites > asian. The problem of course is that stereotypes are just that and tons of exceptions exist. And of course sex differences themselves have a far more dominate effect on people than race regarding T; I’ve met butch asian girls and soft gentle black girls.

    Then when we mix in how “culture” is dying in America the male/female protection thing finds itself in strange territory. Many stoic men who lean traditional (like myself) rarely show their cards in public (too dangerous). But I confess a woman in a dress and/or submissive posture has a powerful effect that overrides both my better judgement any any stereotypes. It’s too primal; girls just can’t hide true femininity.

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  10. Femininity is powerful, as SMK notes, and so is masculinity. It just occurred to me that after her divorce, my mom was deeply distrustful of men–subscribed to Ms., etc..–but after a few months of dating my stepdad, his habit of taking care of her and protecting her had pierced that. Some are harder nuts to crack, sure, but just food for thought.

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  11. Interesting…on the “protection” vector:

    Take the recent debacle that occurred at the McDonalds in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    All over the interwebz, black men are getting dragged for filth for not “protecting” the young woman in that situation, even though she instinctively held her own with great aplomb.

    The argument is that even though she held her on, those young men should have never allowed it to happen that way.

    So to the point that Hearthie made about the feminine disposition that elicits the male protective response: we have no freaking idea what type of relationship that young woman had with her male coworkers. Was she kind? Agreeable? Modestly comported? Combative? A team player?

    In other words – and this may be arguable – but what a woman sows in her disposition, behavior, and appearance (outside of neoteny, of course), does indeed influence the protective response in males around her. Of course, there are some women of low moral character who are coquettish enough to prompt this response as well…but, I digress.

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  12. @ smk:

    And of course sex differences themselves have a far more dominate effect on people than race regarding T; I’ve met butch asian girls and soft gentle black girls.

    This is true

    Then when we mix in how “culture” is dying in America the male/female protection thing finds itself in strange territory.

    Yes, and imagine being in a subculture where the male/female protection thing was already fragile and has been turned completely on its head with both sexes complicit.

    But I confess a woman in a dress and/or submissive posture has a powerful effect that overrides both my better judgement any any stereotypes. It’s too primal; girls just can’t hide true femininity.

    Thank God for that, and I don’t mean it flippantly. I am quite serious.

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  13. @ Bike:

    my mom was deeply distrustful of men–subscribed to Ms., etc..–but after a few months of dating my stepdad, his habit of taking care of her and protecting her had pierced that.

    Your mother was extremely fortunate. So many women never experience that, while their armor grows increasingly impenetrable.

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  14. All over the interwebz, black men are getting dragged for filth for not “protecting” the young woman in that situation, even though she instinctively held her own with great aplomb.

    Yeah, but she shouldn’t have had to hold her own, and the fact that she was able to on any level underscores my point.

    There is no way on earth I could hold up under an assault by a man unless I was quick enough to run him through with my pocket knife, LOL.

    But I wouldn’t have had to, because if any man I was acquainted with (she worked with these men, mind you so they knew her), would have come to my defense.

    One might argue that she could use this book so as to be able to trigger that protective instinct.

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  15. What Els said, doubled. If a man wants me dead, I’m dead. if he wants something else, I might be able to make him regret it – but I’m not going to be able to *stop* him.

    That said, lots of women go out of their way to NOT trigger any protective impulse. I put this down about 50/50 to ignorance and the hardness of distrust. There is (trust moi) a line between enjoying male and female energy and the moment that the generalized dance becomes possessive or inappropriate. If you don’t know how to manage your boundaries, you might find the whole thing frightening/alien/upsetting.

    Clearer: I can signal, “I am small and female and you should keep an eye out for me. In exchange I will treat you with respect and good cheer. We’ll mutually enjoy the interaction as God intended. But I don’t belong to you. I’m not going to act in the least like that’s an option, I’m just going to make myself pleasant so you enjoy my company”.

    And I can hear the return signal, “hello female-person. You are nice. I will keep an eye out for you.” which I relax near. And the other signals of “ooo… prey animal” which puts me on high alert or “girls suck, I’m not watching out for you” which honestly I consider one step from predatory behavior, because that means they’re not going to watch themselves around you either. I’ve pushed away my fair share of predators, it’s not like it’s not a thing. But that’s not most men. Most men are nice, I like men.

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  16. Gracious hostess, absolutely, my mom was fortunate. So was her son, whose stepdad taught him how to appreciate a woman. On good days, even Mrs. Bubba is grateful. :^)

    Regarding the young lady in St. Pete, I’m thinking she’s (a) on the stronger end of ladies and (b) has the good luck to be tangling with an addict who gets most of his calories in liquid form, perhaps a good portion of them recently. Her coworkers get off the hook if the situation developed quickly, but not if it happened slowly. I am personally guessing they did fine, and that the young lady at least has the social skills to work counter instead of fry cook.

    (looking up the story, y’all have some really amusing news stories down in Florida, BTW)

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  17. E: Yes, and imagine being in a subculture where the male/female protection thing was already fragile and has been turned completely on its head with both sexes complicit.

    I don’t mean to trivialize how rough certain subcultures have it. It’s real. But I also think most everyone is whistling past the graveyard and don’t quite get how far gone even the strongest parts of our culture are. It’s real hollowed out nearly everywhere. Only money & prior culture masks a lot of real rot. People are going to become much more low-trust in culture and keep withdrawing into families, making marriage more scary.

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  18. E…spare daughters being tarred simply because brown skin.
    Got it. One key advantage to those with your lifestyle (this applies to men too): as the culture implodes those who are against it really “stand out” in contrast (e.g., those women who cook well, move right, smile…and on the other side the men who have male confidence, dress well, and work hard). I try to look at the opportunity the cultural implosion offers; like attracts like and the pickings are mighty slim. I’ve once heard a smart black man lamenting how rotten black women were (aka the “roar”) so he was gonna marry white (I laughed hysterically that white women are somehow more feminine!).

    E: “I am woman hear me roar” attitude…most black women know to wear to survive.
    Like crying fire in a crowded theater, once the SHTF there is simply not much men or women can do but play the game harder. I think recognition of cold reality early is key here (esp for young women since their life window is so tight) while at the same time advertising hard “I’m different” helps a lot. I’m not sure men have it any better here but at least they can pretend for longer into their 30’s. The problem, as always, is the very poor human capital out there. Parents have dropped the ball, culture has failed, and the marriage choices suck.

    E: withdrawing into families increasing while family formation decreasing…Ironic, no?
    I don’t find it ironic but expected and appropriate. It’s only the incredible wealth of modern technology that has allowed family (aka male investment and female skills) to be treated like a dirty rag. Even to this very late hour nobody “gets it”. Of course men are not able nor willing to support families today: hard work, no appreciation, and even active persecution awaits. Women will simply have to bring a lot more lot more appreciation, skills, and support to the table over the next generation at precisely the time they have basically zero skills to offer. Not irony, but rather justice, to my mind. More ants less grasshoppers on the way…

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  19. Hm… is it justice though? Is it ever justice when a meta-group as a whole is punished for the actions of some part of that group, especially when you don’t have a choice about group membership?

    I’ve met Els’ oldest daughter. A better wife candidate you’d not find. Sweet, devout, family oriented, excellent cook… I can’t think the other four (well, two are a tad young) fall very far from that tree.

    So why should SHE be tarred with a brush loaded up for a divorcee of my generation? She’s done nothing to deserve it, and has no choice about being in the group we call, “female”.

    However it might naturally roll out … it’s not justice.

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  20. H: Is it ever justice when a meta-group as a whole is punished for the actions of some part of that group, especially when you don’t have a choice about group membership?

    We all have a choice. Yet we all use our material prosperity to live both large & individualistically. Where is this gonna come back to us? EVERYWHERE. Justice. Look at the damn data! How many women can seriously cook (Salt/Fat/Acid/Heat style)? Are fit (Osborn style)? Frugal? Feminine? Humble? How many men have the courage to kill their TV? Stop buying processed food? Fund large families? Work extremely hard? Lead? Well, like Abraham, I can’t even find 5 anymore. I’m not looking back.

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