My sexual accessibility has never been up to me, and this was a crucial and painful epiphany to have. Content Warning: this essay mentions depression and instances of sexual coercion. It’s not that I haven’t been celibate before. As someone who lives in the gray area of the asexual and aromantic spectrums, I’ve gone long […]
On Tammy Rivera, and When Our Resilience Turns into Shaming Other Black Women
Designer Tammy Rivera was recently interviewed on Bleu Bombshell on her current work and relationships. She discussed her long-term, difficult relationship with rapper Waka Flocka, in which she stated that it was “weak” of women to give up on their partners when they cheat.
A more in-context quote from the interview gives more detail on why she feels this way. Tammy states:
“My mom always told me: you can find a man who can financially take care of you, you can find a man who might not be a cheater, might have it all together, might of grew up with a father in their household, but it’s hard to find real love and a person who genuinely loves you and who is willing to change. My husband was willing to change for his family. So why would I give up on my husband? I’m not that type, I think that’s weak of a woman to do that. It’s easier to walk away as opposed to speaking up! No, we’re going to fight for this. We got married. My family is worth fighting for.”
This is important to understand where Rivera was coming from. While I think the statement is still inherently shaming other women, particularly Black women — I do believe that Rivera is also speaking volumes on how to navigate the complexity of disposability and commitment within relationships. Within the context of having a partner who is willing to change, it is commendable that work is something they’re both willing to commit to within the relationship to make their love and situation work for them.
But we ain’t gotta call other women weak, though, boo.
It’s not inherently weak when Black women and femmes don’t want to work things out with their partners, especially with men and masculine-of-center folks, when they cheat. But in terms of working through problems within relationships, everyone is different and not everyone is disposable. Conflict, mistakes, infidelities, difference in personalities and histories of trauma can deeply affect our relationships.
But what I think Rivera is tired of the most in addressing her relationship is the fact that she is constantly criticized, whether she’s with him or not. And how much it hurts when it’s other Black women and femmes are doing the criticizing. She’s either a stupid gold-digging hoe with an ain’t-shit man or she’s dumb for leaving and trying to make a life with her child on her own after years in a relationship. And what’s obvious is that she’s the only one taking Ls while Waka Flocka retains his humanity the whole damn time.
When asked about the pros and cons of having a relationship in the public eye, Rivera responded with something very powerful:
“Some of the cons are being criticized and ridiculed from people who really don’t know your story, they don’t really know the truth. You only see what we allow you to see. That’s why so many people are so guarded with their relationship, because they don’t want to be judged. But then when you do that, people say, ‘oh well they’re not being real, it’s not really like that.’ So then once you open up and you tell, you know, okay, this is what’s going on. And everyone has the same problems, no one on Earth has never had someone who hurt them or who has had financial problems, who haven’t had infidelity problems. You know, it’s life. You go through all kinds of things in life. So when you do open up you have people who’ll be able to say, ‘oh she’s stupid, she’s dumb, or he’s dumb, or he’s a cheater,’ you know.”
In this breakdown she provides, Rivera reminds us that we live in a voyeuristic world that seeks to consume Black women and femmes’ bodies, our pain and our contribution/perpetuation of drama (read: entertainment for the masses). So while people want to consume who she is and her relationship, the world is critical when her relationship looks healthy and they’re ready to drag her when she’s too honest about their struggles. The shaming of Black women and femmes within relationships is a tradition in American culture. And Tammy Rivera gives us insight on how toxic this type of scrutiny and microscopic gaze operates.
In reality, we (all of us, including other Black women and femmes) hold Black women and femmes accountable when relationships, love and families “fail.” Additionally, when Black women and femmes resort to moving through trauma and issues — such as Tammy with Waka, Gabrielle Union with Dwayne Wade or Blac Chyna and the Kardashians — they become deemed stupid. So when Black women and femmes decide to move forward, or show resilience that is seemingly not inspiration porn or trauma porn, the criticism gets harsher because the world needs us to be in a position of struggle and pettiness.
This reality is what I think makes it so easy for Black women and femmes to clapback with resilience that often pits us against other Black women and femmes. In context with her answer around women being “weak” for not trying to work things out, I think Tammy wanted to reiterate that she is capable of making decisions for herself, her well-being, her child and for her relationship without third-party insight. In doing this, though, it came off like other black women and femmes ain’t shit because we can’t take pain or endure struggle the way Tammy Rivera and others have when it comes to infidelity and disloyalty.
Often, we do this as Black women and femmes to survive, and to find self-identification within our struggle in order to empower ourselves through the shit we’ve been through. When our resilience turns into shaming other members of our community, it operates through toxicity but also through a complicated gray lens of survival. I hope that Rivera is able to work things out with her partner and know that her power, strength and amazingness is never challenged when others choose differently than her. I also hope that we as Black women and femmes can discuss how hard it is to uplift one another, navigate a violent misogynoirist world, and also survive individually.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com, or donate for my emotional labor: PayPal.me/Ashleighthelion.