Critically acclaimed actress Viola Davis states, “I think people forget how much we hold in as black women, how much our health is affected by outside factors,” Davis told The Huffington Post. “We have a tendency to care for everyone else, other than ourselves. We have a tendency to always feel like we’ve got to suck it in.” This March, we want to celebrate Women’s Month by focusing upon issues of self-care and personal health relating to Black women. Self-care is more than a catchy term. It is imperative that Black women learn how to make room for margin and prioritizing themselves. Think about the following facts:
- African American women have had to develop survival strategies that prevent them from internalizing negative messages from the larger culture and at the same time maintain a strong inner sense of self (DeFrancisco and Chatham-Carpenter76).
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 7.6 percent of Black women have heart disease, compared to 5.8 percent of White women and 5.6 percent of Mexican-American women.
- According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black people are 10 percent more likely to report experiencing serious psychological distress than White people.
- According to a 2014 Journal of Counseling & Development study, people who experience racial microaggressions which are various forms of insults, invalidations, and interpersonal slights based upon marginalized positions are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Issues relating to race, gender, and class deeply effect Black women. Our experiences as being both Black and women can tremendously impact how we see ourselves in our families, workplaces, and communities. Often, being a Black woman requires higher levels of survival skills influencing how, if, and when we take care of ourselves.
Rather it’s through the interpersonal messages we regular receive from our intimate partners or the various mediated messages we partake in, the message often repeated is women exist to serve others. Consider the term pink-collared jobs. This is a term made to highlight that professional, industry women are most likely to find success. These industries such as nursing, teaching, and social work revolve around serving other people and often need high levels of self-sacrifice. Moreover, the existence of gender stereotypes often suggest women are empathetic and caring while men are strong, tough and able to financially support a family. Gender dynamics and expectations alone don’t reinforce the nature of a Black women’s perceived subservience. Race and racial perceptions may also contribute to these dimensions.
For example, consider the box-office film, The Help. The film debuted in 2011 and featured many prominent Black actresses. The general premise of the film was to highlight the self-sacrifice and diligence of Black women during the civil rights era who often served as a maid. The feel-good film made bold attempts to find the sisterhood between all women. Yet, many viewers argued the film reinforced the stereotype of the Black women as a “Mammy.” This trope is a common one.
Author, Shanesha Brooks-Tatum tells us, “It’s subversive to take care of ourselves because for centuries Black women worldwide have been taking care of others, from the children of slave masters to those of business executives, and often serving today as primary caregivers for the elderly as home health workers and nursing home employees. Black women’s self-care is also subversive because to take care of ourselves means that we disrupt societal and political paradigms that say that Black women are disposable, unvalued.” Often, we position ourselves to provide care and support for all around us often at the expense of our mental, physical, and spiritual health. We need to invest time in discussing the tensions that make self-care more or less manageable in our lives.
Often, we place ourselves to offer care and support for all around us often at the price of our mental, physical, and spiritual health. We need to invest time in discussing the tensions that make self-care more or less manageable in our lives. We at Hey Sis want to create an opportunity to remind our sisters to live balanced and affirmed lives this month.
Join us for Hey Sis March! Our session theme is “Women: beBALANCED,” because poet Audre Lorde told us, “Caring for myself…is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” And she is right.