Living Up to the Superwoman Standard
This writer says lives can be saved if the high expectations forced upon black women are reduced.
A few weeks ago, a childhood friend admitted at a party that she hadn't been socializing much because she had been suicidal and had moved home to get some help. That was the best thing I had witnessed in a while -- a black woman publicly acknowledging her vulnerability, her struggle with suicidal thoughts and eventual decision to get help. I believe her letting us know was a way for her to say that if anyone else was dealing with these issues, then they could talk openly about it as well or use her as a resource.
I thought about my sister's best friend who committed suicide eight years ago and how we all thought she was "superwoman" prior to the devastating loss. This woman was brilliant, incredibly accomplished, financially stable, attractive, family-oriented and a community servant, yet she suffered silently from depression and mental illness. I believe that she was afraid to tell people about her challenges because it was not in step with her strong black woman mandate.
Look at what happens when "realness" or "vulnerability" is discovered. Folks go in for the kill (see Lisa Nicole Carson, Fantasia Barrino or Lauryn Hill); instead of being supportive and acknowledging their issues, we ridicule them for being "crazy." Isn't it just as crazy for folks to focus on Hill's tax issues, when they know that she has been struggling to hold it together over the years in a very public way? Should she have paid taxes? Absolutely. If you're struggling to get out of bed or to put one foot in front of the other each day, then maybe paying taxes should not be the first or last thing on your mind. In our society, there's no room for that analysis, especially as it relates to a black woman.
The popular notion that black women are "superwomen" has real consequences on our lives. This myth needs to be put to rest before more black women are laid to rest.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.