The “strong Black woman” or “angry Black woman” stereotype has stood the test of time. Several depictions of stubborn, argumentative, bitter Black women continue to dominate television airwaves, and the notion we are difficult to get along with continues to be pushed to the forefront on platforms of all kinds.
Whenever I think about Black heterosexual relationships, I often wonder if many people are aware of the negative effects of the term when it comes to love, romance and true partnership.
Have we actually taken the time to consider just how damaging the “strong (angry) Black woman” stereotype is?
Before I dive into the negative repercussions of the label, let’s define it.
In the general sense, the “strong (angry) Black woman” is believed to be so powerful that she does not need a man or partner to get things done. She’s eager to work five jobs, take care of her household and raise kids all on her own. She always defies the odds and isn’t afraid to tell a man that she can do it all by herself. In fact, she’s so #teamunbothered and independent that she doesn’t even need validation or any type of appreciation from her significant other (if she chooses to have one). Essentially, she is Superwoman. Instead of a cape, she has melanin and is tasked with cleaning up the messes of everyone around her.
I think it’s patently clear that this representation is a fraud, a drain to those who bear its burden. Worst of all, it sabotages loving relationships in three key ways.
1. Black women feel obligated to be submissive.
In many of my relationships, I found myself purposely stepping back so my mate wouldn’t feel overshadowed. On more than one occasion, I allowed my significant other to take charge of certain tasks that I was very well capable of doing. As a strong, aggressive personality, I felt like I had to do so, otherwise I ran the risk of stepping into a “man’s territory.” In other words, I catered to his ego and chose to dull my own light for the sake of “tradition.”
Any Black woman who does not subscribe to a role that allows their man to be head of the household is labeled as “strong” and not in a good way. She’s “too independent,” controlling and many will assume that she does not wish to have a compromising, loving partnership.
Rarely do we hear the phrase, “strong White woman” or “strong Latino woman.” In fact, I’ve never heard it. Because of this, woman of other races are viewed as easier to get along with, build a family with, and seem more appealing overall.
Who fills a particular role shouldn’t matter as much as who is best fit to fill that role. But the SBW trope does not allow for that type of flexibility. In fact, it allows society to set the standards for your relationship. Submission should never be a forced act, but a willing desire as relationships are about working together as a team.
2. Black women feel pressured to “compete” with women of other races.
There’s a meme that I’ve been seeing on social media that shows both an image of a Black couple and one of an interracial couple placed side by side. The caption that accompanies the image of the Black couple states, “Drop Tashonda (or insert stereotypically Black sounding female name)…” while the image of the interracial couple, a Black man and a white woman states, “And get you a Sarah (or Becky, etc…).” The images support the captions by presenting a Black couple at odds while the interracial couple appears blissful. If I recall this silliness correctly, I believe “Sarah” is bringing her man a meal.
The ridiculous notion that White women bring less drama is sickening. I mean have you watched Mob Wives or Jersey Shore?! Simply put, SBW exists to place Black women in the “less than” position by default.
3. It encourages a lack of appreciation for us.
Anyone who feels unappreciated in a relationship will undoubtedly shut down. They will not put as much effort towards the union and in many cases, will get defensive, hostile and uncooperative. The “strong (angry) Black woman” stereotype is a breeding ground for negative emotions. Whenever you feel undervalued, and like you have less of a voice, you will break down. That behavior ruins any chance for a healthy relationship.
Let’s take this ragged representation and toss it into the nearest trash. It does nothing but continue to act in opposition of healthy, loving unified relationships between Black couples. Men should not be intimidated by women who are more aggressive and women should not feel like they have to “alter” their demeanor for the sake of faux harmony. People need to understand that no relationship is the same. In order for it to work, you must be willing to define it yourself despite what box society tries to cram you into.
Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of "Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self."