The terms strong black women are one that is familiar amongst all ethnic groups, represented mostly due to media playing the biggest role in influence. There are many variations of how this term has been reflected, having both positive and negative connotations to it, leading to the biggest effects being on the black women themselves. Researcher Cheryle Giscombe, who has dedicated 15 years in to studying the psychological stress and health of black women, claims that these terms can be traced down in history to where it all started. She states there are three divisions of images of the black media represented in media that led to the idealization of this superwoman persona. These are Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire. Mammy is seen to be the older black lady who is asexual and always puts others’ needs first. She forgets herself and others do too. Then there is Jezebel. Jezebel is a persona of the black women that is hypersexualized which is usually portrayed in music videos as being gold diggers, uneducated and fully dependent with only sexual desires towards black men. The last persona is Sapphire, which is represented in many tv series and movies such as Deliver us from Eva starring Gabrielle Union who plays the typical sassy and angry black woman.
The combination of all these personas has led to black women themselves coiling the image of the strong black women. This was initially done for positive purposes to go firmly against these stereotypes and build confidence in a better image. This has led to societal expectations of both young and older black women to have obligations on having strength, suppressing emotions, not showing vulnerability, having full motivation to always succeed and being the caregiver. These traits seem all ideal to have but, has caused devastating impacts on the women that worship this persona sub cautiously themselves. No wonder why it is called the “superwoman schema”. These impacts in black female societies have trickled down to mental health as well as physical health being affected. Sleeping habits, diets and relationships all seem to be a key indicator on the psychological burden. Anxiety, depression, stress and even a term known as network stress (stress caused because one seeing others stressed), has been seen amongst many to keep up with this persona. Evidence shows that over 50% of black women over the age of 20 years old in the United States are overweight. Another statistic relates to the caregiver nature of this persona and forgetting oneself. It is seen that there are higher mortality rates of breast cancer patients who are black due to later discovery and treatment of the illness. This all stems down to lack of awareness of importance for their own health needs. It is said to be unrealistic to be holding black women amongst these impossible expectations due to many still being polarized by society. Women that are highly educated and are highly financially stable seem to be more single and find it harder to find a mate. Especially one that is black and matches up to the same academic achievements. These women are stereotyped to be linked to masculine energy and heavily linked to idealizing materialism (obsessions with having possessions). This makes it also harder for these women to start a family concerning that their fertility is declining the more they achieve professionally and academically through the years. Not only do the highly achieved black women feel scrutiny amongst societies but young college women as well. It is observed that black students that attend predominantly white colleges depict to be more self-reliant and observant due to exclusion being felt in compared to black college students that attend black colleges who share a passivity in racial academic and social circumstances.
To sum up, there is unfortunately enough evidence to show that mass media is guilty of depicting black women into numerous, horrifying categories. This has resulted in black women themselves coiling the term of being “strong” to give energy and motivation to go against the lazy, sassy, or oversexualized representation. However, that now has a direct impact on aspects including their societal image in terms of relationships and families as well as their own mental and physical wellbeing.