It’s no secret that black women, statistically speaking, don’t take the best care of themselves. Burdened down by the struggle to be all things to all people, that weight can affect one’s ability to exercise or take a moment to just be. Feminist Wire contributor Shanesha Brooks-Tatum offers a guide toward achieving balance in her recent essay.
The health issues that black women face are understandable, though not acceptable, when we understand the confounded stress associated with daily encounters with racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Additionally, familial expectations for black women to be all things for all people significantly affect their health outcomes. In her work, Dr. Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant explores the myth of the strong black woman, the superwoman who is expected to endure herculean mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges and to triumph despite all odds. She says “…much of the acclaim that the concept of strength provides for Black women is undermined by what I argue is its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring Black women’s experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger” (Beauboeuf-Lafontant 2009: 2).
Beauboeuf-Lafontant’s assertion echoes Lorde’s quote at the beginning of this piece. Self-care is “an act of political warfare” not only because the personal is indeed political, but because when black women take care of themselves, they challenge the myth of the superwoman (Michele Wallace) and simultaneously challenge structures of oppression that praise black women for being the perpetual “mules of the world” (Zora Neale Hurston). And ultimately, to take care of ourselves is to treasure ourselves, and ensure that we’ll have the longevity to continue our activist work against racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other “-isms” that attempt to circumscribe and control bodies in this world.
Read Shanesha Brooks-Tatum’s entire piece at the Feminist Wire.
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