Passing as a Woman(ist)?

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As the 2011 NAACP Image Awards demonstrate, Tyler Perry has become a major force in media and popular culture. He has also become a playwright and media icon known for his potent and vivid representations of Black women's experiences. But is the "Madea-maven" passing as a womanist?

In this essay, "Passing as a Woman(ist)?: A Look at Black Women’s Narratives in Tyler Perry’s Films," Ulli K. Ryder and I explore whether Perry's films challenge a media climate that has historically undervalued Black women’s narratives and lives. We do so by using a womanist framework to discuss two of Perry's recent films: Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010), and I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009). We conclude that the films grapple with stereotypes of black women in contemporary media, politics and culture—especially of women who have endured poverty and/or sexual abuse—and that their ambivalence means Perry is passing as a feminist and womanist.