In many ways across many platforms and in social media, we hear so much about the strong Black woman. The conversations range from (men and women) putting the strong Black woman on a pedestal to declaring the strong Black woman trope as a silent killer of Black women. But the latter conversation is fairly new and not given nearly the attention it deserves. For years, Black women have prided ourselves on being “strong” and able to endure and come out of the worst of situations still breathing. Likewise, our men have expected this, even now demanding this of us, as though entitled to our ability to withstand mental and physical duress unnecessarily. Sort of like an initiation into the pickme squad.
Recently, a friend posed this question to Facebook: Fellas, what is the allure of the STRONG Black woman?
One particular commenter stood out, as his definition of the strong Black woman echoes what I have witnessed many Black men express: The woman who can “hold her own” and doesn’t need to depend on a man for anything. This usually includes emotional support. Yet, I’ve also witnessed countless Black men speak of wanting a woman to “hold them down” and “build” with them. I’ve witnessed Black men speak of wanting a woman who will not run at the first sign of trouble, citing the most extreme of celebrity dysfunctional relationships to guilt the everyday woman into proving she can endure intentional financial hardship and emotional pain. Let me say this:
There is not one good reason for desiring a strong Black woman. Black men and Black women need to throw this idea away. I, too, used to pride myself on being strong, for enduring so much- hurt, neglect, rejection, abuse in its many forms. Never again will I be strong for anyone, especially not a man. This strong Black woman thing is all about abusing the minds and bodies of Black women to the point of physical and mental exhaustion and benefiting physically, emotionally, and financially, while throwing crumbs of “praise” our way. I believe wholly in being interdependent. Strength is found in NUMBERS. Black men who want “strong Black women” don’t want to be counted in those numbers. They don’t want to be accountable to report to duty when their number is called.
Demanding Black women be hard, staunch, unflinching is dehumanizing. Black women feel deeply. We have a breaking point. And we have a right to show it. It is not a badge of honor to be called strong. We reject this word being attached to our identities. It is not shameful to cry from hurt and exhaustion, to flat-out say “I can’t handle this!” or “I need help!” It is not shameful to say “I NEED. . . .” long BEFORE I break or am depleted.
BLACK MEN: You don’t need a Black woman who can fight. You need a Black woman who can WIN. And in order to do that, you need to reduce the instances that she has to fight. I know this will go over some of your heads.
You don’t need a Black woman with a smart mouth and attitude who will “put you in your place.” We are not your mothers. We are your PARTNERS. You need to treat your Black woman with care and appreciation of her value from the outset. Believe it or not, while you may think it’s cute, it’s exhausting for us and gets old really fast. We don’t want to put you in your place. We want you to take your rightful and NEEDED place.
A message to Black women: STOP accepting, encouraging, and validating the strong Black woman narrative. It’s a trap. Don’t fall in and don’t set your own trap. Say this with me:
I AM NOT YOUR STRONG BLACK WOMAN. We are #WholeNotStrong.
I polled my Facebook friends, and here is an alternative list of adjectives we can all use to describe Black women:
capable, self-sufficient, courageous, resourceful, powerful, adaptable, soft, purposeful, flexible, diligent, intelligent, phenomenal, caring, motivated, vulnerable, sensual, magical, compassionate, intuitive, evolving, love, committed, loyal, nurturing, dedicated, faithful, passionate, sympathetic, ENOUGH, authentic, brilliant, WHOLE, dynamic, gifted, inventive, exuberant, feminine, mystical