ABWW Book of the Day: Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance
I read this book in 1 1/2 days! Although this book has is an academic text it is an easy read and one of the best explanation of how black women do it all without having it all. I have always avoided men who start a conversation with “I am looking for a strong black woman.” I was raised as a Jamaican American princess, so the idea of being a woman who shoulders more than an equal share of the relationship on a daily basis is anathema to me. The ideal that it is normal for black women is to do everything by themselves without a partner is a recipe for serious psychological and physical health risks. Black women are resourceful enough to do what they need to do, but the idea that this is some kind preternatural strength is BULLSH*T thought up at a slave auction.
Sociologist Beauboeuf-Lafontant explores the lore invoked in imaging the strong black woman. This well researched, 179 page book reveals the growing autobiographical and clinical literature on black women and how they experience compulsive overeating and depression. She foregrounds the intersection of race and gender and challenges the racialization of depression as a white illness and of eating problems as exclusive to the privileged. She interviews 58 black women ranging in age from 19 to 67 about what strength means to them. While many of her subjects reveal the involvement of familial communities in setting the standards of stoicism, care, and selflessness that Black women encounter from girlhood through adulthood, at home and at work, among intimates and strangers. Only one-third of these “strong women”, were proponents of self-care rather than self-neglect and resist strong black woman discourse. Beauboeuf-Lafontant convincingly argues that investment in the strong black woman myth injures black women.