If I could quit my job, buy a pick-up truck with a megaphone attached and spend the rest of my days shouting from the top of my lungs and paraphrase one of my favorite bell hooks quotes ” Strength is not the ability to overcome, but endure,” I would.
It is such an important concept for black families to understand—black women are not here to live their lives shouldering the burdens of others. Seriously. There has to be point where we go beyond the act of enduring, silent suffering, and noble martyrdom. (That’s for the birds.)
Black women, like any other women, are entitled to transformation, happiness, hope, and the full spectrum of their feminine humanity.
And celebrating the tired trope of black women’s strength in our households clips our collective proverbial wings.
Give us free.
If you see the black women that you love running themselves ragged to hold everyone down and everything together as primary breadwinners and chief emotional caregivers in the family because of the unrealistic expectations placed on them, please help her by doing the following:
Remind her that her worth is not measured by what she does for others, but by who she is. The black woman in your life should not have to prove herself worthy of love. Her presence, her support, and her decision to share her life with you should be enough. This doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be allowed to do things for others, but if she is jeporidizing her health for the family, she needs to know that she is not helping anyone by neglecting to take care of herself.
Send her to the spa or therapy for mandatory pampering and self-care. Despite what it looks like from the outside, the typical “strong black woman” is a pile of nerves on the inside. She is often frazzled, anxious, and worried but does not feel that she can remove the mask and get her needs met. Sending her to a spa and therapy can be a soothing and rejuvenating practice that will help slow down life’s pace so she can catch her breath in addition to letting her guard down to confide in someone for support and the answers,.
Teach her the power of “no.” Saying “no” saves lives. If you study the typical strong black woman, she may seem saucy and sassy and she may in fact have a few choice colorful words for you when you make an obscenely obnoxious request, but you rarely hear her say “no.” Deep inside your strong black woman is eager to please, believes in loyalty (to a fault), and somehow believes that saying “no” will destroy a relationship. She needs to know that the practice of saying “no” is important for creating personal boundaries, reducing feelings of resentment and burn-out, and strengthening others in the family to grow up and take the lead more often.
Highlight her other positive qualities. As a culture, we praise the attribute of strength in our black women. And it makes sense— up to a point. Because of our history in this country as slaves and second-class citizens, black women had to pull from a spiritual reserve and mental fortitude to make things work. But the black female experience is more than its history of marginalization and as a community, we need to focus on the qualities that round out black women’s complete humanity.
Besides being strong, black women are funny, beautiful, generous, financially savvy, feminine, loyal, kind, creative, and a host of other things. I bet she would love to hear all of these things as well. When was the last time you told her that?
Frugal Feministas: What are some other ways that we can celebrate black women’s humanity besides drawing attention to her strength?