Define Strong Black Woman

I began this blog with some thoughts on whom the strong black woman could be. I questioned whether I myself was one. Some of you in your responses classified yourself and family members as strong black women. Others of you said you thought she was overrated and had even shifted your thinking about who she is or should be. What I want from you now are clear definitions of the term strong black woman. What does it mean to be strong? Is the strength of a black woman different from women of other races? If so, define how? I think many of us, including myself, have been guilty of using the term strong black woman without having a clear definition in mind when we use it; I believe we also fail to think about the implications (good or bad) of using such a term. I’m so interested in your responses. I look to hear from you soon.

Copyright 2008 By Rhonda J. Smith

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3 responses to “Define Strong Black Woman

  1. So here’s my short answer: The term Strong Black Woman is often used to define the woman who can handle it all.
    And here’s my long answer:
    I recently had a conversation with a group of girlfriends about the term “Strong Black Woman” in the larger context of identities. Over the course of the conversation, we began to dissect the phrase into ideas of what Strength is, Black is, and Woman is. While the dialogue on the latter two words was really interesting, the catalyst for debate about the term was more centered on the concept of Strength in relation to the other two. It didn’t take long for us to acknowledge that being Black and Female does not inherently imply Strength. Nor does the population of women in this country of African decent have a monopoly on the characteristic of fortitude. Most of us would agree that there are a set of oppressions that automatically come with the territory of this demographic but oppression alone does not constitute strength. Even enduring in the midst of oppression doesn’t necessarily make you strong. So what is it that we think we’re doing that makes us so strong? We work to keep our family fed? We tarry in prayer over wayward children? We perform with excellence on our jobs without recognition? We keep it all together? These are things we’re SUPPOSED to be doing! Maybe we think we possess the “S” word for our ability to stand up to our husbands when they’re so obviously wrong. Or let our boss know just what we think of him when he overlooks us for that promotion we really needed. Or go up to that school again to tell my baby’s teacher that she betta not call me from my job to come pick up my child cuz he can’t handle his students. Newsflash: the only “S” word those actions accompany is SIN.
    So back to my girlfriends, we recognized that the phrase in its entirety has become far too much of a cliché that we often misappropriate to encompass all women who happen to be Black. It has diminished in value to become this brand-X, one-size-fits-all, garden variety label to describe everyone from Harriet Tubman to your cousin Ne-Ne who cussed out the cashier at K-Mart for giving her Canadian change. I look at women like Pastor Renee’s Big Mama who had to witness a horrible act of brutality and persevere, first century Christians who were persecuted to *death*, and so many other woman of ALL races who have kept going by God’s grace. And I think it’s in some ways disrespectful to their legacy to think that we- with all our gadgets and technology, with our advances in equality, with our means to work and support ourselves in ways our predecessors never dreamed of- would dare brandish the same title attributed to the women of yesterday. I don’t say this to mitigate the plight of my present-day sisters. To the contrary, I know that “the struggle is real.” I understand that just because my great-great-great-great-grandma had to watch her children being sold to a foreign plantation, that doesn’t make it any easier for you to pay these bills and keep your house in order. But what I am saying is that we have to STAY on guard against the cancers of Pride and Faithlessness often masquerading as a Strong Black Woman. Notice, I say often and not always because I do feel there is a time and place where it’s great to be a Strong Black Woman. If you’re a Black Woman who is “Strong” in her faith, Amen! Strong of character, that’s awesome. Strong in your conviction to follow the Word in spite of everything else, I praise God for you. But even then, the spirit of haughty self-righteousness must be warded off with humility and thanksgiving because we know even our strength in good things is a manifestation of His Grace! So stay Strong my sisters, of ALL races! To God be the Glory!
    (Sorry this got so long. Lol)

  2. Hello, I’m so glad for this article. I have a few “strong black women” friends that I know and the only words that come to mind when I think of them are scary, prideful, self centered, etc. I agree with your idea of what you think a true “strong black or even white woman” is. True and real strength is rooted in Humility, submission and serving. These are all the words the typical “strong black woman” of today shrinks from. However, I agree with your point that demanding a free meal, cussing out the store clerk or other things like this done in the name of “strong black woman” doesn’t line up with God’s idea of strength. A truly strong woman of any color is rooted in love, gentleness, peaceableness and servitude. I am also guilty of calling myself a “strong woman” but I fall far short of God’s idea of strength. I’m so glad someone else sees the irony of labeling weak character and mean aggressive behavior as “strong”. Thank you for your insight and bringing this to light.
    God Bless you

  3. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Angela, thanks for taking the time to share your experience and perspective. You are so right about what a strong woman of any color is. My continual prayer is that we allow God’s strength to rise in us.

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