The Strong Black Woman: Juxtaposing Stereotype and Reality Written By: Chioma Nwanonyiri, Mental Health Blogger
By Jessica Bullock | Mar 31, 2021
When we walk into a crowded room and observe the people around us, we make quick assessments of these people and place them into categories. Then, almost instantly, we associate a certain belief with that category of people which dives into how we initially behave towards them. This act of stereotyping is done because it’s easier than actually taking the time to get to know each person individually. With this in mind, I want to emphasize that a stereotype is only a simplification of a more complicated matter which is why it can be both helpful and hurtful. This is the case for black women in America, otherwise known as the “strong black woman.”Through periods of slavery up until now, African American women have had to shoulder several stereotypes that made the idea of black women easier to digest. We have watched ourselves evolve from the obedient and asexual “mammy” to the domineering and aggressive “matriarch,” to the hypersexual “Jezebel,” and eventually made our way to the “strong Black woman.”
The strong black woman is a phenomenon that completely turns its back on past stereotypes. She is a confident, intelligent, and independent woman who has exchanged promiscuity for classy desirability. The strong black woman has succeeded despite her hard upbringing and thus shows no signs of weakness. Even though this latest stereotype may be a step in the right direction when it comes to the perception of black women, it still serves the purpose of simplifying our character and forcing us to fit into a box lacking other necessities like vulnerability and knowing when to seek help.
YOUNG BLACK GIRLS IN THE MEDIA
This role that young black girls are feeling compelled to take on can be positive in terms of motivation and promoting self-worth. It is nice to have a stereotype that generalizes black women as being respectable figures, but this does not change the fact that society still treats us as less than the self-respected people they want us to be. To this day, black women struggle with being objectified while being told to love their bodies. They are told that they don’t have the right “look” to play certain roles on TV but are still expected to buy beauty products to set beauty standards. Black women are encouraged to get a good education and seek bigger opportunities but are still being closed off from high-end job opportunities. It is the reality vs. the idealized world that creates so much internal distress, yet this stereotype of the strong black woman may be trying to mute all of these extenuating factors.
There are many other factors built into our society that weaken us. Black women are still experiencing high amounts of institutionalized racism and are more likely to be victims of traumatic crimes than their white counterparts. Black women are still lacking in the health care they receive even though they report higher amounts of physical and mental health ailments. Personal struggles like these may remain internalized as a result of trying to appear strong, and not enough is being done to rectify these problems.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEKING THERAPY
In addition to promoting this stereotype, certain issues that are hidden by the strong black woman should be brought to light such as the frequent. African American mental health should be promoted through spiritual/therapeutic counseling services so that the journey to success and confidence does not involve emotional suppression. The mentality to stay strong is in itself not a bad idea, but there is no weakness in finding ways to deal with issues instead of just tolerating them. It is not enough to assume that a change in beliefs about black women accurately reflects a change in how they are treated. If you are someone, who has suffered or continues to suffer as “The Strong Black Woman”, seeking therapy will begin your road to learning how to disrobe that belief so you can get help too. If you are seeking therapy or need to reach out to someone about your mental health, please visit www.cliniciansofcolor.org.
Black/african american. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American
How the expectation of strength harms black girls and women. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://scholars.org/contribution/how-expectation-strength-harms-black-girls-and
Watson, L., Lewis, J., & Moody, A. (2019, April 05). A sociocultural examination of body image among black women. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S174014451930046
About The Author
Chioma is a psychology student at Rutgers University and a passionate blogger, She enjoys researching and investigating mental health matters. She currently blogs monthly for Life Options Counseling Services LLC.