Earlier this week, somebody used the word sassy to describe me. I was at a bar with some friends and we were being pestered by a random man, also a patron of said bar. Instead of letting him continue to talk over and down to us, we stood our ground and he did not enjoy that.
He started off his insulting my group by asking us “Why are y’all so made,” and saying “Y’all are too smart for me,” finally ending it with “You’re nothing but some ‘ol sassy girls.”
This happens to me way too often. By potential romantic partners, coworkers, and acquaintances, whenever I show strength or confidence, I am flagged as having an attitude or being "sassy".
Be it playful or serious, I hate the word sassy.
Because sassy is more harmful than you think, especially to black women. So I think it is important that those who are using this word to describe me and other strong black females they come in contact with should know a little more about the damage “sassy” does.
SASSY - adj. \ˈsa-sē\
- Having or showing a rude, lack of respect
- Distinctively smart
In the earliest moments of our lives, when we begin to develop our own ideas and personalities, the word sassy is shoved into our faces. At first it seems in good fun coming from our grandparents, aunts, and cousins, but all too soon it starts to trickle into our lives outside of home. And not in a good way.
To fully understand why the word sassy is so dangerous, one has to take a look at the word it is derived from: Saucy. Stretching back to the Elizabethan era, the word “saucy” was usually used to describe someone (namely a woman) who was brazen, ill-mannered, and often overly sexual around others. From that, the term developed into a sugary way of calling someone rude and energetic at the same time. People use it to simplify the actions and feelings of the woman that they are using it against. Enter the misunderstood “sassy black girl.”
The “sassy black girl” trope is easily one of the most unknowingly scarring stereotypes that black women face everyday. Right along with being angry or bitter or loud, being called sassy diminishes our individuality. If we’re opinionated, we’re sassy. If we’re confident, we’re sassy. If we show strength, that is sass. Even if we show that we are smart, we are still called sassy. And it seems as if we convey any inkling of an original point of view against another, we are automatically branded as this. It’s lazy. It’s nothing more than a flippant back handed compliment cloaked as a personality trait.
As black women, we already have enough to deal with. We must keep our heads held high while living in a society that questions, hypersexualizes, and/or denounces our every move, before mimicking them. We are expected to be the pillar of our families, support our communities, all the while staying self-empowered. Being labeled as “sassy” with one turn of our head or witty retort should be the last thing we have to worry about, yet it is not. This plague of a term infiltrates our romantic and professional relationships, making us feel as if there is something wrong with being comfortable with ourselves and voicing our own thoughts.
But somehow, it is still justified to write us off as sassy.
I have honestly never heard this word used to describe a woman in a positive way. It’s always thrown at us when we challenge others, namely men, and it is always loaded with the insecurities of the person who spews it. And in that uncommon instance when it is meant to be said in a good or useful way, don’t say it. I’m sure that there is another word that can be utilized that will not add to the damage to the strong, yet sometime fragile, identity of black women everywhere.
It’s time to be aware of the harm that sassy causes and stop the defilement. If you think that we are bold or fiery or full of confidence, say just that. Please do not revert back to a word that carries a negative connotation that lumps all black women in the same pile.
In this day and age, we as black women should have the ability to unapologetically be who we are without having to dodge an outdated, oversimplified generalization that depicts us rolling our eyes and sucking our teeth. Point blank.
I hate the word sassy, so don’t use it to describe me.