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Question of the Week

Question Numero Dos of the Week: How Do I Sack the “Strong Black Woman” Role?

This came from my FB friend, “S,”:

Through my years of reading and learning about the BWE cause, I have come to know that notions like the “Strong Black Woman” or being “Ms. Independent” have to die. In other words, black women need turn their backs on this mindset. Currently, I am a single mother of 3 children and these are things that I have to be since I am the sole bread winner. I have family members who tell me that they admire me because even with 3 children, I’ve accomplished so much. I’m quick to tell them that I don’t want to be admired because in actuality, I want a break and I hate having to be strong and independent. So, my question is, how do you turn your back on this mindset when you are still forced to be it daily due to certain responsibilities, like my kids?

“S,” as much as I agree with you that the “strong black woman,” which is basically code for women who work all day and half the night taking care of family and home with virtually no help from a partner, must die. But I’m uncertain that at this point, how feasible it is not to shake off that imposed role when you do have to be strong, and you do have to work to survive and take care of yourself and your kids. It’s not so much the matter of a label, it’s a matter of survival. When it was just Maxi-Me and me, I worked 10-hour days, came home, cooked dinner, did education enrichment (she was only in preschool at the time), put her to bed, and started the process all over the next day. I was CONSTANTLY worried, because I knew it was just me–aside from my parents, there would be no soft place to fall if I lost my job or got sick, or if Maxi-Me got sick. It was terrifying. But I was unable to show that fear, because I had to be strong for my child. I had to take that responsibility, because I went in with eyes wide open. What I’m getting at is, you and I had to be strong out of survival, but my hope is for my daughters and your daughters to know that it is not the sole responsibility of the woman to carry it all without complaint. And so I remind them over and over about masculine and feminine roles, and how child-bearing puts women in a biologically vulnerable position, thus the inclusion of a strong, responsible and committed man to erase the need for the woman to play the man by proxy. As for your family, I would make your position clear that you don’t believe this to be the ideal for any mother, and to refrain for giving props for being so “strong” in front of your kids, for fear they will internalize those comments and carry it on.

But that’s just me. What do you guys think?

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