By Charing Ball
Over the last few years there has been a continuous backlash against the notion of a Strong Black Woman (SBW). A number of blog posts, articles and books calling for the death of the Strong Black Woman. Most of it has been in response to the media putting black women under a microscope pointing out our so-called issues. If we have not been scrutinized about our inability to get married, keep savings beyond five dollars, and other lifestyle choices, then we are ostracized for being loud, obnoxious and overall drama queens.
Even though the media had contributed to the objectification of the black woman and her strength, the real hostile response has come from within the black community itself. Both men and women believe that the trademark of a SBW is nothing more than a well-crafted myth—that as long as black women keep up this false notion of strength, we somehow cosign on all the abuse, ingratitude, exploitation, and under-appreciation we receive from the rest of society.
But why should black women have to denounce their attribute of strength just to fight against oppression or to reject unfair attacks and characterizations to her individuality?
When people generally think of strength, they tend to think of physical strength and strong personalities, which is typically attributed to men. However, strength can also mean being mentally and emotionally strong too. Yet, regardless of the definition, being strong doesn’t make a woman any less feminine.
Can black women be bitter at times? Sure, but who in the black community isn’t bitter at times? During the days of slavery, the black woman had to work long and hard in the fields alongside her black brothers, or play the “mammy” to white kids or be the “massa’s” sex toy. After slavery, she, just like black men, had to bury her pain in order to take care of the home and children—mostly by herself. In various civil rights and black pride movements, she had to totally disregard her own needs for the greater good of the community. Even today, she has to balance the demands placed on her between pursuing her education, building her career and taking care of her family. Ultimately, it’s the SBW that must sacrifice her own needs and desires to fulfill the needs of other individuals.
Though there is a great emotional and physical cost to being a SBW, we also have a great ability to move on and forward, despite all the setbacks and challenges. Do black women need a support system and to set boundaries from time to time? Sure, but I also don’t think we need to reject displaying our strength. Like any other woman on the planet, black women should understand that her strength is also the embodiment of femininity. It’s not the term (Strong Black Woman) that needs to change, but how we further subjugate the experience of black women that should be modified.