About Being A Strong Black Woman…

September 19, 2013  |  


I don’t know at exactly what age I got the message that, as a black girl, my destiny was to grow up and become a “Strong Black Woman.” My guess is probably around 4.

By that time I had come to know strong black women as survivors. They struggled. They endured. And they didn’t show weakness. They were the women in my family, and while I was proud of them, being a strong black woman didn’t necessarily come easy or get as much respect as I would have thought.

Outside of our culture, I observed that strong black women were perceived as aggressive, inflexible, contentious—hardly the type of women that needed to be protected. Intra-culturally, they shouldered too much responsibility, their emotional needs went unrecognized, unexpressed, and they were often left alone to fend for themselves when they needed help the most. I concluded that being a strong black woman wasn’t what I wanted to be. I resolved to avoid the circumstances that I believed made black women have no choice but to be strong. There would be no making uncommitted men the center of my world; no entering motherhood for the main purpose of getting a commitment or to fill a void; and I would not continually take more than my fair share of responsibility in any endeavor. I wanted to develop an identity apart from the SBW standard, one built upon authenticity and self-actualization.

As an adult, I would often reflect on why I was so adamant as a young girl to not be perceived as a strong black woman. What was I really scared of? Strength is an admirable quality. Why did I not want to make this my story? What did my instincts detect about the precariousness of this female archetype?

The answer came one day as I was on a train casually listening in on a couple’s argument. The girlfriend was furious at her boyfriend because he boarded the train before her. She expected him to usher her on first. Initially, I thought this woman was acting ridiculous, even behaving something like a spoiled brat, but when they exited at their stop, he was sure to escort her off like she had asked. Being assertive about demanding respect without having to be emasculating or ugly taught both this woman’s partner, and myself, a lesson. I marveled at her expectation to be protected. This feeling of protection was something I had always felt was lacking in my relationships and something I desperately wanted to experience. However, I never expressed this need because I was afraid of appearing weak or possibly too overbearing—a true hallmark of a strong black woman–make that a strong woman in general.

Luckily for me, I have since come to recognize vulnerability as strength and, as a result, have experienced greater depth in all my relationships. Being a strong black woman, though it might not always be appreciated by others, is something I definitely have a new appreciation and renewed respect for.

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  • Marina Calis

    I think being a strong woman is important but sometimes it has to be done in a subtile way to be more effective….

  • 9Boots

    Is there some kind of new disease out there affecting black men causing them to stalk black women centered websites and spew negative non supportive comments especially when no one asked for their one cent? I think the disease is called Abusive Beta Black Male Troll Syndrome (A.B.B.M.T.S). How do we cure it?

    • leila

      By ignoring them. Sadly, there’s always one woman willing to entertain them by responding to their post.

      • 9Boots

        God help us all

    • stewie

      Why does it bother you so much… Do you only want to hear agreeing voices? Or are you just being our modern man-hating femnazi.

  • Sometimes, I feel the “strong Black woman” standard was placed on us as a result of circumstances rather than choice or some inherent dispostion for women of African descent to be independent and aggressive.

    Somewhere around the time that Black families started to breakdown was when this ideal came about. I don’t believe there is a hetero woman on earth who WISHES or CHOOSES to be a single mother, struggling to take care of herself and family financially, working hard to avoid the plague of negative stereotypes in school and at work, while simultaneously trying to avoid becoming a victim of Eurocentric standards of beauty. It was almost like this label’s function originated from either a reaction to non-supportive Black men or as a proactive measure for Black men to prevent even the expectation that they do what is expected of most men….

    FYI I am not anti-Black male, just observant

    • that guy

      First; Most black women do CHOOSES to be a single mother, for financial reason. All the incentives is for them to be a single mother, that is why they do it. Culture also may play some role in it.

      Second; Black women make them self the victim of Eurocentric standards of beauty, nobody else does. No one is forcing you to wear a hair hat.

      Third; this label’s function didn’t originated from black men or as a reaction to “non-supportive Black men”, it came from black feminist and the media; who sold this BS to black women and black women run with it. Just like “independent black women”, “educated black women” ect,,,. the whole thing was about making men/fathers irreverent and they have succeeded at that because women like you who can’t think for themselves.

      Last; you might not be anti-black men (you sure sound like one), but you are very definitely very ignorant. I suggest you do some reading before speaking.

      • Okay Uncle Tom Sotomayor…YOU may want to do some re-reading of your own comment before you call somebody ignorant. You seem to be taking this this a little too serious boy…

        • that guy

          lol…..Exactly then, you know the truth if you follow Tommy, you lying u$s b””””

          If you don’t want people to take you seriously then don’t comment, Now, take your sorry hoodrat black u$s back to the hood.

          • LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!! Aww you mad because I brought up your boyfriend. Shouldn’t you be bent over in somebody’s county jail group shower?

            • that guy

              Typical of a Beastie , see how easy it is…. XD

        • Guest

          Typical, see how easy it is…. lol

      • whocaresiknowidont

        Most black women do chooses to be a single mother or do choose to be a single mother? I sense that you are super foreign and therefore cannot weigh in on any struggle between the black man and the black woman. As far as ‘hair hats’ are concerned, I agree that it looks ridiculous but as a so called male, again, you cannot weigh in on this matter as you have never felt unattractive because of your hair. The media did a great job at teaching everyone that long luxurious hair is the way to go and to be quite honest, it’s not a lost fact that men of any color love women with hair. Lastly, I assume that you want to be a woman since you are stalking a female dominated forum and have become almost as catty as one in your broken English. Maybe if you wish real hard, like Pinocchio did, you’ll become a reaaaal girl one day.

        • stewie

          He has every right to his own opinion, specially when black men are being denigrated. You don’t need to use that anti-male shaming language, mostly because it doesn’t work.

          Also, he has a good point, what he said is factual and logical. You on the other hand are just making excuses for the self hate displayed by black women.

          Pointing out bad grammar is completely irrelevant to the point and shows the person making an issue of grammar is incapable of providing a real argument. Also,stop trying to shut everyone who disagrees with you !!

        • Anthony blak martian Tinney

          In real life you are no one,On Madame Noire ,You are a QUEEN!!!

      • PleaseDOBetter

        Thank you for sharing your opinion. It is appreciated but I don’t find that it is rooted in fact. There is no benefit to the child, or to the mother to be a single parent. You didn’t reference this, but I assume (and I could be wrong, please correct me if I am), that you are referring to a single mother on welfare and that being her financial benefit. Welfare is a dependency system, NOT a system to get ahead.

        2. I’m sure you are familiar with racism. I hope you understand that people of color (men AND women) internalize oppression. White is the standard in academia (look at research), White is the standard of beauty (look inside and outside of the US to see what people are doing to change their physical features). I can keep going with this, but I think you get my point.

        3. (Only part of your point I will agree with) and it is the part about feminism and the media and that being destructive to Black women (and men). There are variations of how people view feminism. I think feminism has the ability to be destructive depending on how it’s viewed. There is more that I can say about feminism, but I’ll leave it there. I do find problems with “independent” Black women but I don’t see the issue with educated Black women. I see an issue with attitudes of women (Black or otherwise, since this is not just a Black issue) that think that men/fathers should be irrelevant.

        I don’t know if you are ignorant or not, that is not for me to say. Frankly, I appreciate discussion and not name calling.

    • PleaseDOBetter

      I agreed with your point right up until you got to “non-supportive Black men”. Neither you nor “That Guy” have addressed the role that institutionalized racism and internalized oppression have played in the breakdown of the Black family and in communities of color. Sure, there are some non-supportive Black men, just like there are non-supportive men of other races, ethnicities and cultures. The root of this issue stems outside of BOTH Black women AND Black men’s immediate control.

  • Melissa

    When someone refers to me as a strong black woman. I correct by saying No, Im a strong woman. Beng black has nothing to do ith it. To me saying you’re a strong black woman put you in group of only black women. Saying im a strong woman put me up against all women

  • chaka1

    The article scratched the surfaced, but I always maintained there has to be a balance between being strong and being feminine.

    • Nope

      Like when it’s convenient? I can tell you that’s how a LOT of men think about this topic. A lot of self-proclaimed “strong women” suddenly become weak when ish hits the fan, their personally accountability is involved, or they need rescuing (usually by a man whether that’s her father, boyfriend, husband, whatever-person, or the repair person).

      • whocaresiknowidont

        What exactly are you talking about? Everyone, male and female alike, fall into your category of needing SOMEONE, sometimes. Yes, even you mighty men have to give a call to your mommies to save that drowning ahss at some point in life.You just made absolute zero sense and negative zero points. And btw, the only man I have ever trusted and depended on is my daddy. I sure as hell would never depend upon some other man to have my back–and that fact doubles when the man in question is black. Sorry.

        • stewie

          Hi, You need to check your piss poor English before correcting Someone else’s.

          Can’t you speak to people with out being condescending and rude. Ironically, you are what most people associate with when they think about “strong black women”….lol

          As for not depending on a man, you probably don’t have the option of making a choice….don’t ever confuse the two. hahahaha…..

          • Anthony blak martian Tinney

            Excellent response!!

        • Anthony blak martian Tinney

          Example of why the”WORLD” hates black women.

  • Kylie

    Being a “strong black woman” is definitely overrated.