The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
“Hey Mama Jean? How are you doing?”
“Chile, my doctor had to change my blood pressure medication again, my arthritis is acting up, can’t hardly walk, my grandbaby done had her baby and they at house along with these other grown folks who ain’t working, and you know I take care of Ms. Etta Mae down the street cuz you know she ain’t got nobody else to help her. But other than that, I’ll make it. I’ve got to cuz who gonna do it if I don’t?”
I know I may not get a lot of praise for this post, but I need to address an issue that has been weighing heavily on my heart. That is the myth of the “Strong Black Woman.” I am not taking away from the fact that I come from a long line of black women that have stood up against so much and have endured so much and still survived. The women I’ve seen have displayed so much tenacity and longsuffering. I am not negating any of that at all. But what I want to do is address this idea of the “Strong Black Woman.”
Just as I mentioned, those women in my life and in my family that displayed amazing strength are in fact not doing well at all. So many of them are taking so much medication, some are so depressed, some have so many physical ailments, some are carrying so much emotional pains, but still they continue to take it all on. It makes me wonder if we are buying into the whole idea of the “Strong Black Woman.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard this. Since a little girl, I have been indoctrinated to believe this. In as much that I needed to hear it, did it counteract what it was supposed to do? Do we as black women take too much upon ourselves? Do we try so hard to do it all? Do we somehow not ask for help even when we need it the most?
And what about our black men? They observe their women, their mothers, their grandmothers. Are they so used to seeing them do it all by themselves? Does that make it easier for them to leave the children when things don’t go well in the relationship? Do they depend on mama and grandmama too much to carry them well beyond their youth?
I am by no means saying that we as black women should just throw our hands up in defeat and wait for someone to come save us as damsels in distress. I, for a fact realize and understand that most black men admire our strength and want a woman that can stand up with him and not crumble at the mere sight of danger. But does this veil of strength cause them not to be as in tune with the need we have to be cared for, appreciated, cherished…loved? Or are those characteristics viewed to be too delicate for us because we are supposed to be these tough, strong super women?
I don’t profess to have the answer nor the solution, but I truly believe that the dialogue needs to begin in our community. We all invest so much and so heavily into this “Strong Black Woman” mentality that it just might be to our own demise.