"Men are just intimidated by strong women."
I've heard that overly-generalized statement from far too many women throughout the course of my lifetime and, once upon a time, I was motivated to outright oppose it. That was until I realized that my counter-generalization was no better than what I was accusing her of.
Truth be told, there are some men who are incredibly intimidated by a woman's stature and success. While I can't speak to that personally, after many conversations with a multitude of different dudes, there is one point that desperately needs to be added to this conversation: Black Superwomen don't intimidate us – they scare us.
I recently read an article that provided an awesome origin and definition of what a Black Superwoman is:
"If you’re not familiar with the Black Superwoman myth, Google it. Most of us here know what it is because we live it everyday. In response to the rest of the world who wants to put us down, we build ourselves up to be super-competent, hyper-awesome women, able to leap tall boardrooms and piles of children with a single bound. We do more, do it better, and do it longer than anyone else. Help? No, we don’t need it; we can do it ourselves. Self-esteem? Yes, we’ve got it in spades."
Those are the qualities that many men praise in the women we know and the women we want. They're the traits many of us are already very accustom to.
I come from a long line of strong matriarchs. My grandmother left her small island home to travel alone all the way to England on the ostensible belief that her emotional sacrifice would be rewarded by her children's future opportunities. My great-grandmother raised my mother and my uncle as if they were her own children. My mother rewarded their sacrifices by getting her degree and making seemingly impossible educational and employment advances while juggling the duties of being the head of our household. My mother has been the matriarch of the entire family who everyone runs to in times of extreme tragedy. I have countless homegirls who I see publicly and privately overcome tremendous obstacles everyday. Yet, when I meet strong, independent Black women on the dating scene, I'm not intimidated by their success, their income or their fortitude. I'm scared of the fact that her attachment to that construct may damage her mentally and emotionally in ways I can't help her with.
It was the very next paragraph from the aforementioned article that really struck a nerve with me:
"But a lot of us are feeling weak and are in need of help. A 2015 study of Black women’s mental health found that 40% of us have experienced the signs of a mood disorder — including depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse. That’s a staggering number in a period in time when life is supposed to have gotten 'better' for Black women, you know being the most educated group in the U.S. and the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs and all."
And therein lies the source of my fear.
See, to really know a Black Superwoman is to be intimately familiar with her power when the cape is on, and the vulnerability and emotional exhaustion that occurs when the cape comes off. I see that in my mother, my grandmother, my sister and my homegirls everyday. I see the tears, the anguish, the stress and the dire hopelessness that washes over their soul when there's seemingly no opportunity to recede from that all-encompassing, pressure-filled role.
No human being can be "super" all the time.
To date a woman like this isn't intimidating because Black excellence in a significant other is only terrifying to those with low expectations or extreme insecurity. I'm not sure how much being a dual citizen of a first-world and third-world nation has to do with it, but strength isn't a trait easily compromised during the dating/vetting period like desiring a woman with a Nia long booty, but settling for Chelsea Handler backs because the sum of her other parts amasses to an impressive package. To be aware of the successes found in my first-world home, yet acutely cognizant of the fact that my father, his nine siblings and his two parents grew up in a small, three-bedroom house, is to understand strength as a requisite attribute for survival.
But what happens when our sisters aren't provided any space to be imperfect, to be supported, to be taken care of and to be heard?
It's a recipe for emotional and spiritual disaster, which is why this is a such an important message for Black men to hear.
For those of us who truly love the strength that Black women provide, we must make it our duty to enable her to feel that she doesn't need to be "Superwoman" all of the time. Far too many of us are comfortably reliant on the continued "Superwoman" construct not realizing/or not caring enough to know that our women need safe spaces in our relationship to be vulnerable just as much, if not more, than us. It's far too easy for us to propagate the ideology that "a queen" must ensure her "king" doesn't have any stress at home after a long day of battling society, yet even more disturbingly easy to forget that the "queen" needs that equal consideration.
When it comes to self-care, that will always be an individual journey that we all must take. But when it comes to the Black Superwoman trope, Black men do have a lot of responsibility in encouraging sisters to consider traversing the plains of self-care. I'm not intimidated by your success, because your win is mine too and vice versa, but you trying to flawlessly save the world every second of every day scares the hell out of me, and I now realize there's something I can do about it.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He's author of the book, "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer." He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.