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"Strong Black Woman" Is This Phase Hurting Black Woman?

You are a strong black woman. I used to think that this affirmation was a great compliment, a positive, but now I'm not so sure. Recently I have been re-evaluating what it means to be a "strong black woman" and how the world perceives her to be. With everything going on in the world (been going on) in the past few years, we have seen a shift in the way it actually looks and feels to be one. Many of us during the course of our lives have heard this phrase, shoot probably even used it to empower ourselves. But the truth of the matter is, is this idea of the black woman hurting us in society?

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Protect Black Women has been a slogan that has been popularized on social media and has become its own movement. You can see on any social media platform and timeline, people shouting out "protect black women!" That being said, is this phrase something trendy to say? Or Do you actually stand by it and put action with it? One of the recent examples of the failure to stand by black women and protect them is with the Rapper Megan Thee Stallion. There has been a great divide on social media on what went down now going on two summers ago between her and the Candian Rapper Tory Lanez. Fierce debate across fandoms took over social media on who is telling the truth and who is not. I bring this up because as soon as a woman comes out to tell her truth about what has been done to her, society flips the script and blames her. There are countless examples of how black women can't seemingly be "victims" but somehow the aggressor or agitator. My question is why is that? Why do we villainize the victim? Especially black women. I think it might be, because of the stereotypes and stigma that black women are labeled. All too often black women carry around these unprovoked labels of being angry, harsh, hard, and often viewed as masculine; which dehumanizes us. This lends a hand to the general public to believe that we are not in need of protection.

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As I dive deeper into the definition of "strong black woman" there is another phrase that adds to the alienation of black women, the "ride or die chick". This phrase has been glamorized in music, and movies and some of us even have the first-hand experience of being titled these infamous words. It is another form of the notation of what a strong black woman is. When you usually hear the words "ride or die" it's used as some kind of badge of honor. Something to be proud of. When really it's not. The woman is in some sort of toxic relationship, being cheated on countlessly, abused, and is expected to stay. Literally gets dragged through the mud and mistreated to prove that she is somehow worthy now of her significant other's love. Sometimes friends and even family members will further perpetuate the stigma of the strong black woman trope. They hold on to the belief that staying in this toxic environment will get better and that being a strong woman for the sake of the relationship is going to reap some kind of benefits. This ideology can not be further from the truth and is counterproductive to the development of black women. Black women deserve the same respect just like their female counterparts, not to be used and abused to fit the narrative of being the ride or die" or "strong black women".

Relationships are not the only space where the "strong black women" mantra is being used as a weapon against us. When it comes to the medical field, black women's lives have been taken for granted under the notion of black women have a high thresh hold for pain and do not need immediate attention. There have been many instances where black women's cry for help has been ignored or not viewed as urgent. Let's take the superstar tennis player Serena Williams. She shared in a 2018 interview with Vogue that she had some complications after her C-section. She details that the day after her surgery, she experienced shortness of breath. Having a history of blood clots and being off of her normal regimen, she assumed that she was having another pulmonary embolism. She immediately walked out of her hospital room to notify the nurse and insisted on a CT scan along with an IV heparin (a blood thinner). To her dismay, the nurse did not take her seriously and thought she was confused by the pain medicine. But she continued to insist and eventually was given a CT scan, which show that she had several small blood clots settling in her lungs. That was just the beginning of her six-day health crisis. Her story is just one of many cases of black women experiencing a lack of medical attention in hospitals.

An article posted on Today.com, 'You are not listening to me': Black women on pain and implicit bias in medicine written by Vidya Rao; discusses the disparities black women face when it comes to medical attention and the history of racial biases towards them. One of the major points Roa hits on is the belief that black women have a higher threshold for pain, "A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine analyzed data from 14 previously published studies on pain management and found that Black patients were 40% less likely to receive medication for acute pain compared to white patients, and 34% less likely to be prescribed opioids. She continues. "The slavery-era belief that Black people were hypersexual and simultaneously less intelligent than white people also continues to impact the care that Black women get". These racial and gender biases give way for people to see black women as subhuman and therefore, can be set aside for people who are more in need of help.

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So again I ask is being dubbed a "Strong Black Woman" hindering us? I say all this to simply say I know things happen and we do have to be strong but please do not let those stereotypical ideologies that have been intentionally placed on us allow you to believe or be stuck in a situation that does not allow you to feel. You are a woman and yes a black woman at that. You are allowed to feel emotions, pain, hurt, sadness, happiness, joy, etc. There is a place for you to be both strong and soft. There is an awakening happening that is impacting black women of this generation and beyond, that we are no longer going to bear the burden of being "The Strong Black Woman" for the sake of others' incompetencies, but be that for us and the way we define it. Being a Stong Black Woman creates a notion of being superhuman and nothing no one can say or do can penetrate us when that is not always true. Let's leave space for us to be. Just like the many beautiful shades, we come in, we are multidimensional. Tell me what being a Strong Black Woman mean to you? Do you agree that it is hindering us in society?

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