Superwoman, that was my only option, I was never given the option to be anything else. I grew up believing that black women had an endless supply of resilience, we were the careers not the cared for and we were the reason for everything that was broken in our community.
I feel the need to reiterate this – please don’t come at me with ‘black women think they own the monopoly on struggle’ thing. I don’t claim to be a feminist, I don’t claim to be a womanist or any other ‘ist’ – what I claim is my experience of the world as a black woman. It would be fraudulent for me to claim anything else. If you think there are nuances in my experience that are similar to yours then lets talk about that, rather than getting outta pocket because you feel I’m trying to take something away from your struggle.
I grew up believing that the essence of a ‘true black woman’ was wrapped up in her strength, never backing down and never asking for help. We were to fix all that was broken about us, from our hair to our attitude, whilst also trying to fix all that was broken about our community – because we were the ones that broke it in the first place, right? So I was to be superwoman, that’s it! And that’s exactly what I set out to be – if I felt as if I wasn’t coping I’d suck it up and remember the struggles our foreparents endured. There’s an unspoken rule that black women only feel bitterness and anger so I grew up believing that I didn’t have the right to feel anything outside of that; if I did, I knew it would be disregarded anyway because the cost of being delicate was a luxury black women could never afford.
So here’s her identity – she is a strong woman; scratch that, she is a STRONG INDEPENDENT BLACK WOMAN because her strength comes from believing that black women never ever ask for help. So she wears her independence like an S on her chest and takes pride in the fact that she’s a force to be reckoned with! She is robust and has a fierce sense of duty to her community so will stay loyal irrespective of the disrespect and blame her community levels at her. Her focus is always outcome regardless of what the aftermath entails.
But now she’s grown up, she has come to the stark realisation that if the outcome looks like she’s fixing everything that’s broken, whilst climbing the corporate ladder, whilst repressing her emotions, whilst trying to maintain the right hip to waist ratio; but the aftermath is brokenness, perfectionism, impaired judgement and self-neglect, she’ll hang up her cape and take PEACE and LONG LIFE for 20 please Alex.
She is not your superwoman, I am not your superwoman!
Does this mean she is weak? No, it means she’s human and because of this she reserves the right to be delicate.
Does this mean she can’t care for you? No, it means that she is human and must also be cared for.
Does this mean she won’t fight for you? No, yet again it means that she’s human and from time to time she needs you to take up the fight for/with her.
I’m pleading that you genuinely support her. This goes beyond writing the word ‘queen’ in the comment section on the insta post of a ‘thick coco’ mama with 4C hair (check out #87talks). It goes beyond seeing this plea as a rally call against inter-racial relationships – it absolutely isn’t! She is not your superwomen; yes she’s powerful, resourceful and all the other stuff, but don’t take this as a reason for you to derelict your duties. Your care for her must reach beyond loving your grandmothers, sisters and aunties. Your care for her may even look like dealing with issues to do with your black masculinity and could involve challenging yourself to stop pedalling stereotypes about black women that aren’t your grandmothers, sisters or aunties. It may involve starting all over again, empty handed with no assumptions but open and willing to relearn what you already ‘think’ you know about her.
She is not your superwoman; in fact the very things that makes her appear strong can also be her kryptonite. Help her secure a healthier legacy for your children who need to be powerful yet discerning. Who need to know that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness and interdependency is their only means of progression.
She is not your superwoman, I am not your superwoman.