Most of my girlfriends are still single. They may have a man, they may not. If they have one, it is a litany of what he is doing, what he is doing wrong, what he could be doing better and how can she continue to put up with this man. Our men are broke, broken down, tied down to two or three baby mammas, used up, tied up, playing games, uncommitted, unrepentant, unsure and timid. If they don't have a man, we talk about how they are making it, what their lives (or children's lives are like), how hard it is to meet a good man, how much easier it is to let their lives revolve around church, etc., etc. Oh, yeah: and we are TIRED!
Tired of having to make it work alone. Tired of being the only ones involved in the raising of our children. Tired of trying to make our relationships work. Tired of going to school so we can better ourselves cuz we darned sure can't depend on a man to take care of us. Tired of striving, tired of fighting, tired of 'keeping it all together', tired of taking care of mama, daddy, baby, boyfriend, sister, brother, nephews and nieces.
I want to talk today about the Myth of the Strong Black Woman.
See, Black women my age were raised with the notion that we'd only have ourselves and our mammas to depend on. A few girlfriends, if we were lucky. Maybe some daddy support every now and then (after mama had straightened him out), but, definitely, not ever, don't ever depend on it - support from our men. Or from society. All we had was ourselves, God, our mammas and each other.
So we built our own support networks, took care of our children, held down jobs, bought our own houses and proceeded to - make do. Make do without a man (or husband), make do without societal support, make do in our churches, accept leadership when they 'allowed' us and to take a back seat when they didn't. Be a good friend to other, similarly situated, woman. Be a good daughter and sister. Be a good mama, and in many cases, a good daddy as well. We made do.
But now we are tired.
I read a poem called The Strong Black Woman is Dead by Laini Mataka. In it, Ms. Mataka speaks about the mythological black woman who is now dead. One excerpt reads:
She died from an overdose
of other people clinging to her
when she didn't even have energy for herself.
She died from loving men who didn't love themselves
and could only offer her a crippled reflection.
She died from raising children alone
and for not being able to do a complete job
Sound like anybody you know? (The complete poem can be read here.)
Another article I read talks about the number of households now being headed by single black woman. It says:
I know the statistics: They say that when my grandmother was born at the turn of the century as few as 10 percent of black households were headed by females; when I was born at mid-century, it had crept to 17 percent; and now it is almost 60 percent. No longer a widow or a divorce as in times past, the single woman with children today probably has never marriedÂand increasingly she is getting younger. By the time she is eighteen, one out of every four black unmarried women has become a mother.
And finally, an excerpt from "Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman's Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear" by Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett talks about how black women tend to underplay their stress levels and hold it all in. The author conducted a study of black women where they kept a diary of their day while their heart rate and blood pressure were measured as well. The women never admitted to being stressed out, but their blood pressure and heart rate went up by 15-20 points during the day. An excerpt from the book says:
Interviews indicated that women were aware of their stress level; they were just unwilling to admit it was problematic. Several said to me, "Baby, I don't have time to think about that mess. If I did, I'd be stressed out about everything." Yet taking the time out to acknowledge the stress and do something about it would go a long way toward preventing the development of serious anxiety and the health problems associated with it: chronic upper respiratory infections, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity.
Black women - what are we doing to ourselves? When you get stressed out, how do you handle it? Are you a classic case of 'holding it all in'?
I can only speak for myself - but it sure would be nice to have the family structure be what it used to be. To have loving and supportive dads and husbands. To be connected to each other, with God, with the community. To have a sense of who we are and where we are going. Inter-connected. Bonded. In Unity.
But maybe that's just me.
I know for myself - the days of trying to pretend I have it all together are gone. I am not afraid to ask for help, to show that I am weak, or to depend on others at times to get me through. I am not afraid to admit my complete dependency on God, the helping hands (and strong shoulders) of my girlfriends, the love and support of my family and the consistency and reliability of my man. I need, want and desire all those things to help me make it through.
The image of me as a Strong Black Woman is dead and gone.
How about you?
Religion, Spirituality, Christian, Christianity, African-American, Women