Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance

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Temple University Press, Jun 26, 2009 - Psychology - 194 pages
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The defining quality of Black womanhood is strength, states Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant in Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. But, she argues, the idea of strength undermines its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring Black women’s experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary or defining quality of “authentic” Black womanhood.

The author, a noted sociologist, interviews 58 Black women about being strong and proud, to illustrate their “performance” of invulnerability. Beauboeuf-Lafontant explains how such behavior leads to serious symptoms for these women, many of whom suffer from eating disorders and depression.

Drawing on Black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and women’s history, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences of normative Black femininity, looking at how notions of self-image and strength create a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and power.
 

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Contents

A Half Told Tale of Black Womanhood
1
Deconstructing Strong Black Womanhood
21
Embodying Good Womanhood
45
The Per for mance of Strength
70
Embodied Distress Among Strong Black Women
107
Transcending Strength
134
Mules No More Just Levelly HumanA Societal Challenge
151
Acknowledgments
155
Notes
161
References
169
Index
181
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About the author (2009)

Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant is Associate Professor of Sociology and Education Studies at DePauw University.  She is co-editor of Facing Racism in Education, 2nd edition.

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