Black Women and Superwoman Syndrome

I no longer wish to be a savior, and faced with the expectation of constant self-sacrifice. Black women need to be radical in their fight to self-heal, self-preserve, center themselves, and ultimately save herself.

This post is in regards to a Facebook discussion that took place a year ago. I witnessed a huge falling out among many black women on my Facebook feed over a series of discussions and disagreements. I will talk about what I observed and issues I noted in the realm of black women and their social media activism. I shared the post on my page, and the next morning I woke up to see a huge fight occurring in the comment section. This was not surprising as the night before I saw one woman screenshot the post and tried to instigate people into coming onto my post. At this point I was seeing a divide among the black women on the post and the many arguments that occurred. This ended up becoming an all day event, in which I ended up missing my classes engaging in these discussions. After the day was over with, I laid down in my bed exhausted and upset with myself for even allowing myself to continue in the drama. I foolishly missed my classes (especially a week before finals) and time I scheduled that day to spend with my best friend. I came to the realization that I went against everything I have been preaching lately about self-preservation and self-care. I over-extended my energy engaging in meaningless conversations and arguments that at the end of the day will not make any realistic changes to the violence against anyone that was being defended in these arguments.

After I announced on my page that I will be taking a break from my main page, I noticed some women taking my exertion to detach as a scapegoat from speaking on the subject discussed. This made me become furious, knowing I already spent a full day already wasted on this discussion. This also upset me, because I LITERALLY, center my entire blog and platform on teaching black women SELF-PRESERVATION. I see now that when black women try to set that boundary, she is still expected to continuously give energy beyond her breaking point. This is something that hit me to the core. Constantly in my life the expectation to always “to stay in the fight”, and “be strong” is something I have personally been working against. The “strong black woman” notion is something that many think is a self-proclamation, but my experiences taught me that this is more of a societal expectation. Society expects black women to always be the sacrificial lamb. Many perceive us to have the strength to exhaust more energy than neccessary, and to physically endure more stress. The strong black women trope is literally killing us with stress, poor health, and mental illness. I know, because I am living this reality.

“Powered by the concept of the strong black woman, the Superwoman syndrome is the mindset that tells us that we’re not grinding if we’re not missing sleep and stressed out, or that our lives as women must involve an unhealthy degree self-sacrifice. Strength is subject to opinion. However our ability to persevere, be resourceful, and overcome great obstacles is undeniable. But these truths should not be manipulated in a way that we praise self-destructive behavior. I have seen many women in my life literally become ill from taking on everyone’s problems; counseling family and friends, working multiple jobs, taking in children, housing relatives–essentially catering to everyone else’s needs but their own.”

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What I witnessed is no different than the scapegoating I see the black community already do to black women. Black women have definitely been scapegoated for many of the failures within the black community. Black women are constantly held to the expectation of self sacrifice, despite many black families already relying solely on female family members for their main support. Black women are constantly being tugged and pulled from all angles, and I see daily black woman express their exhaustion. I noticed also the age difference in the women on both sides; where one side women were much older and on the other side, women were younger. This exposed to me that there will be a repeated cycle. Young black women are currently full of energy. Many have yet to share the same magnitude of experiences as their elder sisters, so they have the energy currently to constantly give. Women like myself are already drained, and are moving forward on a path of seeking self preservation. I am NOT your superwoman.

When I began to create a platform for myself, I failed to assess the people that I may attract when declaring myself to be an advocate of a sort. I love seeing black women propel themselves into excellence, however I am learning that my platform has attracted more wounded souls than anything. One sister expressed to me she was “disappointed in me” for not being the advocate she expected me to be. I see now that a “savior” label is placed onto my forehead. I am expected to be a voice for all black women, even to the point of exhaustion and without reciprocation. While simultaneously fighting the battle of being “savior”, the only one I am expecting to save me is: MYSELF. Most of my own battles have been one that was solely fought. Even with my support circle being there to support me at my most difficult moments, I never expected people to take the position of being my savior. This is the unbalanced relationship I am seeing with black women even to this day. I noticed that with many on these social media outlets, people will find one person that they believe will save them, latch onto them, suck out their energy source, and neglect doing any self healing work. The well being of this identified savior is hardly considered, even if she expresses distress. “Stay strong”, is a common phrase I see thrown when saviors are tapped out, yet the expectations of these saviors is to “be strong for me”, “speak for me”, or “advocate for me”. Once this savior fails to meet their expectations of perfection, or neglects to fulfill them in some way, then that savior becomes discarded without even a thank you. The “black woman savior” is the new scapegoat and a means to exercise one’s escapism from people healing or saving themselves.

As I grow, I learn more about the power in centering myself, and giving what I can, when I can. I’ve learned that the black women I am truly healing with are other black women that are actively healing. I am healing among women that are doing the self-healing work, and that are centering themselves (self-preservation). These are the women that will make the changes happen. These are black women that are healing and creating such programs for other black women to heal. While I hold important the awareness behind such activism I have witnessed, I know that changes will not occur without ACTION. Such revolutionary changes can’t be dependent upon women who are self-sacrificing, but instead those who are healing and encouraging other black women to heal. There is a saying that “A nation rises no higher than it’s woman”. Instead I will say, “a nation will not rise until their women are healed”, and this is a self responsibility that black women need to initiate. This is the day I am waiting to be ushered in.

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© Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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