Skip to main content

'Not a monolithic block': Quebec documentary challenges harmful stereotypes around Black women


The hypersexual Jezebel, the doting mammy, the angry Black woman according to Montreal filmmaker Ayana O'Shun, these three tropes dominate representations of Black women in popular media -- and negatively affect Black women in the real world.

Her new documentary, 'Le Mythe de la Femme Noire' (Myth of the Black Woman), breaks down these stereotypes and their histories and shows women embracing their own unique identities.

"[Black] women are not a monolithic block. They are diverse, and they are all different," O'Shun told CTV News Saturday, the day after her film hit Quebec theatres.

"It's possible to break free from them and create your own identity. You don't have to [conform] to these stereotypes."

The film features interviews with 21 different Black women from various backgrounds, from artists like Quebec rapper Sarahmée to human rights leaders like Myrlande Pierre.

"I wanted for an audience to be inspired and empowered by these women who are Black, because [for] me growing up in Montreal, these models were not shown to me in regular media," O'Shun explained.

O'Shun cites the experience of one interviewee, psychologist Dr. Myrna Lashley, as an example of how tropes can impact Black women in their day-to-day lives.

"One day, one of her colleagues came to her and asked her, you know, have something to ask you," O'Shun recounted. "'My wife and I, we don't have a good time in bed. So could you come over because, as a black woman, I know that you know what to do?'"

"She was reduced to a Jezebel, a hypersexual Black woman."

While representations of Black women in media are improving, instances like this show the work isn't over.

"The stereotypes have existed for centuries," O'Shun said. "So it is changing step by step by step by step. I think the change comes through awareness that they exist."

'Le Mythe de la Femme Noire' plays in theatres across Quebec until Feb. 16. Top Stories

Stay Connected