Strong Black Woman Pt 2

I posted a blog series last year on my experiences with strong black women and becoming one myself. The narrative gave voice to my mother’s strength and my origins of dealing with the ideal itself.

So, if any one knows me, they know I am a feminist and they also know I do NOT like labels.

By definition feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

Thus, a feminist is one who advocates for those rights. This has been the hardest for me in regard to relationships. As I’ve said before, I was raised by a single mother and so, many of her views on independence and ways that men should and should not treat women have influenced me.

Let’s be honest, relationships are just plan hard.

I’ve had men tell that they want to date women who are independent but then get upset if the woman is too independent. I’ve had men suggest that women are too dependent on them and thus, break up with them. I’ve had one man tell me that he does not want his girlfriend to expect him to be a gentleman (no kidding), as if a woman requiring a man to open her door or pump her gas is beneath him.

So, building off of part one (it was much of a cliff hanger in many ways) I’d like to start with a healthy definition of strength AND what it means for black woman.

Many people think that strength looks like being super independent and uber talented, having a no-nonsense attitude and an innate ability to absorb the world’s problems without having any of your own. Sounds impossible, right? That’s because it is.

With this blog post, I really wanted to talk about how black women are these strong pillars of strength in the black community, how we give and give and give and, routinely, get nothing but more problems in return. I wanted to talk about how this is amazing and that we are AMAZING and we should be honored and regaled as goddesses in the face of society’s pressures to ALWAYS perform well. However, this is not what I have to say.

Let’s be honest, being both black and woman is hard.

And I am reminded of a study on intersectionality I was introduced to in college, but I won’t bore you with that. The point is, we are expected to perform… at work, at home, with friends and strangers on the street. We are expected to carry the worst of life’s burdens as if that is our only God-given responsibility. I wish I could say that I was okay with this notion. But I am not.

I think what attracts me to the “strong black woman” ideology is that, in essence, I believed I didn’t need anyone else. Years of trust issues, abandonment issues, and daddy issues can do that to anyone. Pair that with a fiercely strong and independent single black mom and you have a recipe for disaster or, in the black community, a strong black woman.

But I find strength in saying that I am not strong all the time. I don’t always want to be the girlfriend who nurses my boyfriend’s past wounds. I don’t want to be the friend who stretches herself thin for everyone but herself. I don’t want to be the woman who has an amazing career but a dismal if, at all, present romantic life. I don’t want to me the woman who hates men. I don’t want to be the daughter who is afraid of not measuring up to the strength she’s seen her single mother exude. But too often, I’ve been exactly her.

Sometimes strength is saying no. Sometimes it’s found in letting someone else share the burden. And I know some of you ladies with trust issues are flaring your noses up at me right now. But that’s okay, I am there with you. I have been on this “strong black woman” kick for too long. Quite honestly, it’s draining. It takes more from me than I ever thought it would. So, I wanted to birth a new definition of strength, contrary to what I have known it to be, and that is: surrender.

I know if you look up strong in the dictionary you won’t find surrender anywhere close to it. But

surrendering, in its own right, takes an unprecedented level of strength.

Think of it, it is easy to be there for others because it means no one has to be there for you. It is easy to climb the corporate ladder because it makes you feel good about yourself. It’s easy to be your boyfriend’s everything because you’re used to being that for everyone else but yourself. I know this thinking sounds backwards but it’s absolutely true. And if this doesn’t sound like you or someone you know then this post isn’t for you.  

But if this post hits home, I want you to at least consider my definition of strength. Even if you can’t embrace it right now. I want you to know that you don’t have to be strong all the time. Life is hard and you don’t need to take it by yourself. Share the load with someone else.

I know we have trust issues and a host of other issues that keep us from doing this, but if you have one person you can surrender the burdens to, then do it and do it often. And pretty soon, being strong won’t be an act of sorrow it’ll be an act of surrender.