In a world that consumes the minutiae of lives on social media, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s candid revelations from her book were met with backlash sharp enough to slice through the double standards that celebrate vulnerability in some but condemn it in others—especially when it comes to Black women like her. Why is that? In this blog, we unpack that!
And no, there’s more to Jada than the infamous “Keep my wife out your mouth” scandal that erupted between comedian Chris Rock and her husband, Will Smith, at the Oscars (2022). If you didn’t know, she rose to fame after appearing in the Bill Cosby television sitcom A Different World in 1991 and the Eddie Murphy comedy The Nutty Professor. She also previously hosted the Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch, where she took us on a journey of many aspects of her life and that of her family. Similar to her new memoir Worthy, released in October(2023).
So what did Jada reveal in her memoir that has people so pressed? Amongst many things, she revealed that she had an abortion, she struggles with Alopecia, she’s had experiences with drugs and thoughts of suicide, she was afraid to marry Will, she bought her wedding ring, Will and herself have been separated for seven years, the navigation of Will’s fame almost destroyed their marriage, her immediate connection with her childhood friend Tupac Shakur etc.
I’m sorry; what did this woman say for her to deserve such vile commentary and abuse? She’s been called all sorts of names for being toxic and the reason for Will’s downfall, and Newsweek has even stated that her book was “a flop.” containing “eye-brow-raising admissions”. Is it because Will’s image as a man should be protected? Is it because Will and Jada didn’t live up to the power couple fantasy often expected? Or is it simply because she is a Black woman, and that’s enough to be bothered?
We’ve seen this not only with Jada but with the defamation of public figures such as actress Gabrielle Union, who received backlash after revealing in interview issues of infidelity in her previous marriage to Chris Howard and 50/50 bill splits between her current husband, Dwayne Wade, Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle, who British Media tormented to the point of her wanting to commit suicide, as well as Former First Lady Michelle Obama, who continued to be labelled as “angry” during her term to discredit her.
Why, you ask? One word: Misogyny. When people are misogynistic, they show hatred and distrust in women to harm them. A chain effect from that is misogynoir, which is how hatred with racism results in the dehumanisation and discrimination of Black women.
My close friend from University, Okuhle (24), and I discussed this; she was spitting some facts. She said, “Jada being open and honest about her life is not new on that side of the world.” She continued, “Part of the backlash comes from the control of her own narrative. “I think as soon as we demand to be heard, society turns against us.”
For as long as time can tell, society has embraced the idea that Black women should exist in their power but without a voice and no emotion. It’s already enough that they have to exist in spaces of exception, but the display of vulnerability available to their peers does not exist for them. At all. All this while figures like singer Britney Spears are celebrated for speaking out. God forbid a Black Woman portrays herself as anything else besides her life-long assignment of being a “strong” woman with no platform to say anything.
These are not angry Black women; these are Black women who refuse to silence their truths to make others feel comfortable at their expense. These are women that we ought to learn from. They continue to teach us the power of being vocal and standing in one’s voice. They continue to take up space, as they should.
Let’s retire the outdated stereotypes labelling Black women as “embarrassing” or “aggressive.” It’s time to move past these tired views.
Tell us: What’s your take — what more can we all do to affirm the stories of black women? Share your thoughts!