“Critical connections between black womanhood and the trauma associated with it”


“Critical connections between black womanhood and the trauma associated with it”


The Black Womanhood ideology continues to prevail among the people of color despite the advancement in economic and social spheres. African- American women often were perceived as resilient, and strong enough to endure challenges in life. Thus, during the colonial era, they ended up being given plenty of casual labor which they doubled up with their primary roles of caregiving. The patriarchal nature of the African Society fostered the subordination of womanhood. In various literary contexts, the authors have depicted the place of African-American women in society. In the Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie depicts two kinds of women; the good woman and the real woman.  The good woman withstands every kind of ill-treatment as a wife while the real woman will speak out against the ongoing ill-treatment in the family.  In the end, the good woman, (Mama), reacts up when maltreated meaning that she is pushed to the wall.  Through the text, Adichie portrays feminism from two different perspectives. 

The good woman represents liberal feminism which reacts only when offended to air out their issues. The real woman represents radical feminism which is not afraid of airing out their issues to defend themselves.  Black womanhood should in all ways endeavor to liberate the woman from gender discrimination. Feminism is a tool that advocates for individual rights as well as the liberation from past ideologies.   Zora, in Their Eyes were watching God, brings out the struggles of an Asante woman in the contemporary societal setup.  The literary text has a great sense of female empowerment through addressing the life of the main character, Jane Crawford. The text presents the real issues facing women since childhood such as a voiceless teenager who is at the mercy of society.

Ideally, that is the picturesque reality of Black womanhood in both past and contemporary societies. Over the course of time, Crawford becomes informed and liberated. She realizes she has her destiny in her fingers.  In the two literary texts, the various kinds of women portrayed imply that positive feminism works in advancing the rights of women in society. The connections between black womanhood and trauma are aggravated by the patriarchal nature of African society. Through empowerment, the Black woman would no longer be silent to ill-treatment, like the good woman (Mama) in the Purple Hibiscus, Woman can flourish and show their real personas in the light of their rights.

Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus

Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God

Annotated Bibliography

Harrington, Ellen F., Janis H. Crowther, and Jillian C. Shipherd. “Trauma, binge eating, and the “strong Black woman”.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 78.4 (2010): 469.

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Harrington et al, (469) outline the beginning of trauma among the black womanhood to historical era when slavery persisted. During the era, African- American women were perceived stronger than white women due to their great physique and thus assigned to undertake difficult tasks. Over the course of time, Black women found their strength in living out the ideals of black womanhood; “strong, nurturing care-givers, and capability of dealing with challenges, (Harrington et al, 470).” The authors indicate that the failure of African American ladies to live up to the ideals leads to the development of trauma.  Suppression of traumatic emotions leads the victims to engage in Binge eating in an effort to relieve themselves of the stressful emotions ( Harrington et al, 471).

Matheson, Kimberly, et al. “Traumatic experiences, perceived discrimination, and psychological distress among members of various stigmatized groups.” Frontiers in psychology 10 (2019): 416.

 Matheson et al, (416) indicate that among the life stressors  that lead to traumatic experiences is discrimination based on identifiable traits such as skin color or language.  Over the course of years, the migration of African Americans to USA has led to their discrimination due to the easily identifiable trait (color).  In their study of the reasons for institutional and social discrimination, Matheson et al, 418 , found out that the challenges of the perceived discrimination is often,  “the ambiguity in the intent for discrimination.”  In accordance to gender, Black women are more likely to encounter traumatic experiences as opposed to white women.  Matheson et al (419), found out that older women are often likely to have encountered more than one traumatic events in their lifetime. The individual’s perception of the intent for the discriminatory practices directly impacted the depressive symptoms exhibited.

 Anuradha, Suresh, P. A Critical Study on Psychological Trauma in Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy. International Journal of Recent Technology and Engineering (IJRTE )ISSN: 2277-3878, Volume-7, Issue-5S3, February 2019

 Anuradha, 2277, through a study of the literary text Possessing the Secret of Joy, establishes the psychological trauma emanating from an discrimination of Black women.  The study outlines that the social structure in African cultural settings often advocated for male dominancy with women often perceived as the weaker gender (Anuradha, 2277). “The African- American woman was an oppressed class that was denied of their rights in many ways, socially, politically, and economically, ( Anuradha, 2277).  Alice Walker in the Novel, Possessing the  of Secret Joy, outlines the struggles of the black woman in the face of female genital mutilation. Interestingly, the female circumcision that drives at making a woman complete results in traumatic experiences such as low self-esteem and inability to move around (Anuradha, 2281).  Black womanhood is connected to a tradition that continually discriminates women and subjects them to traumatic life experiences.

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Perry, Brea L., Kathi LH Harp, and Carrie B. Oser. “Racial and gender discrimination in the stress process: Implications for African American women’s health and well-being.” Sociological Perspectives 56.1 (2013): 25-48.

Perry et al, 25, racism and gender is often an issue of discrimination among the African- American women.  Systems of inequality, such as African patriarchal system often lead to discriminatory policies that are more stressing than the individually discriminatory practices. As such, Black Womanhood presents a challenge to consequential mental health challenges.  Perry et al, 27 indicates that stress connected to race emanates from issues related to sexism.  The  media portrays  the young American women, “as dangerous, prone to violence, and promiscuous.”  The negative imaging fuels gender discrimination such as sexual assault ultimately leading to trauma development.  Also, the  results  from the research indicated that the multiple discrimination against African- American women on basis of gender and race lead to adverse impacts such as poor mental health as well as the overall  well-being.

Watson, L. B., DeBlaere, C., Langrehr, K. J., Zelaya, D. G., & Flores, M. J. The influence of multiple oppressions on women of color’s experiences with insidious trauma. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(6), 656–667.

 Watson et al, (656) indicate that   multiple forms of discrimination against African- American women such as through sexual objectification, sexism and racism results to trauma in the individual lives of black women. As such,  unlike other victims of individual object of discrimination, the women of color are ,more vulnerable to atrocities in their societies.  Black woman strength ideals that fosters the identity of women of color as resilience has worked in  reducing the self-esteem levels. Women of color who have failed in meeting societal expectations feel as if they are not complete. Watson et al, (670) through their research found out that there is a link between esteem, racism, sexism and sexual objectification. Racism resulted in reduced esteem levels thus propelling the increased traumatic symptoms. Sexism and sexual objectification also increased trauma levels in the individual lives.

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Seng, S.,  Kohn-Wood, Laura P., and  Odera, Lilian . Exploring Racial Disparity in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis: Implications for Care of African American Women. Joggn Clinical Issues.

 Seng et al, ( 522) carried out a research study to analyze the   disparities in post-traumatic stress disorder among the  white women and women of color.  Through a cross sectional analysis of a sample of different races, the study aimed at outlining the factors that explains the prevalence of posttraumatic stress in African- American Women.  Ideally, three main factors, social interactions, access to healthcare, and gender based history influence the prevalence rates (seng et al,  528).  The study indicated unlike black women, white women seek medical help in most situations. Access to healthcare is a major concern among women of color.

 Black, Angela  Rose  and Woods- Giscombe Cheryl. Applying the Stress and  Strength  Hypothesis to Black Women’s Breast Cancer Screening Delays. Stress Health  2012 December; 28 (5) 389-396.

 Black and Woods- Giscombe (389), carried out a study of the link between the stressors in life and the Breast cancer screening in Black Woman. The research study sought to identify the Strong Black Woman Role that worked as a deterrent in seeking medical help.  In the colonial times the Black woman enganged in excess work in an endeavor to prove their strength,  (Black and Woods- Giscombe, 391).  The ideology of Strong Black Woman may exhaust resources making it difficult for the Black Woman to access healthcare. Stressful behaviors such as Binge eating emerge as a result of emotional hurt. In conclusion through a sample analysis of the Black Woman Strength, the research found it as a hindrance for post-diagnosis treatment among individual persons.

Lacey Krim K, Parnell Regina, Dawne M Mouzon, Niki Matusko, Doreen Head, Jamie M Abelson, and James S Jackson. The mental health of US Black women: the roles of social context and severe intimate partner violence. BMJ Open. 2015; 5(10): e008415.Published online 2015 Oct 19

  Lacey  et al, 1, sought the social and contextual factors that fueled the Black women  increased  mental health rates that affects their whole being.  The Black Woman unlike the White woman is vulnerable to multiple life stressors that could fuel their ill mental health. The exposure to stress could be the primary contribution of low health amongst women of color. Additionally, social economic status of black women could affect their mental well-being.

Collins Hill Patricia. Controlling images and black women oppression. Race and ethnicity. 266 – 272.

Since slavery in America the black womanhood position has been that of subordination. White women and the margin middle class set out to ensure that the black woman life was restricted to domestic service. Collins (267) found out that in order for the black woman to rice, there have been deconstruction of the past image.  Economic constraints made the black woman to undertake duties such as mammy roles in order to sustain their family income. In addition to the gender discrimination, race and class oppression also factored in the subordination of the black woman.

Collins S. Kathryn, Strieder, Friederick H, Depan Filis Diane, Tabor Maureen. Trauma adapted family connections – reducing developmental and complex trauma symptomatology to prevent child abuse and neglect. Child welfare 90(6) : 29 – 47.

Urban poverty coupled with chronic and complex traumatic stress are factors that make families have difficulties in meeting their children’s basic needs. There is need for interventions to alleviate trauma and help improve family’s functionalities. Collins et al (50) suggests community based interventions that address particular issues facing a society. At the end the interventions strengthen all people regardless of color and alleviate the impact of stress.   Black people living in particular communities may experience more social and economic issues that are gender based as well as the age long prejudices.  Thus, the studies found out the white women are more likely to meet their needs as opposed to people of color.  Educational levels that directly impacts on the economic income may be the reason for the racial disparities.

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