It hasn’t been long since we witnessed a public display of erratic behaviour and a series of incoherent (now deleted) tweets from none other than Kanye West. On his seventh studio album, Ye, released in June 2018, Kanye revealed that he suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental health condition categorised by extreme highs and lows. Whilst there were a number of different reactions to his recent manic episode, some sympathetic and some not so sympathetic, there was one response in particular that didn’t sit well with me.
I came across several tweets, from both women and men, saying that Kanye needs a black woman’s love right now. Everything about this statement is wrong. Not only is there a fallacy that mental illness can be cured with love, but also that this is possible with love from a black woman specifically?!
Why do people hold onto the narrative that black women are replacement therapists for black men? I mean, who needs professional help when you can be showered with love from a black woman, right? People tend to dehumanise black women, forgetting that they have problems and emotions of their own. The tired “strong black woman” stereotype, in particular, contributes to the disregard of the humanity of black women and is very regressive. The constant expectation to present themselves as tough and unbreakable creates an overwhelming amount of pressure to store away emotions and feelings that do not align with that front. Can’t black women be openly vulnerable too?
It has become clear to me that many think black women are only of value when people are in need of fixing or healing, and many men carry a sense of entitlement to their emotional labour. A black woman’s tendency to nurture should not be exploited and should not be seen as the main reason for her worth. This narrative can be very damaging and plays into the notion that black women only exist as emotional caretakers with the superhuman ability to handle the baggage of others. Don’t black women have enough to deal with? Even at their best they should not be expected to commit themselves to help men with their issues.
The idea of fixing or being fixed by a partner is heavily romanticised. People commonly attach the roles of the healer and the damaged to women and men respectively, but why is this? It is so important for women to realise that playing healer will only have negative effects on their own mental health, which needs to be protected and not abused. A man’s recovery should never be at the expense of a woman.
There is a difference between supporting someone on their journey of healing and recovery and trying to be the one to fix them. The mental burden is not yours to carry. It needs to be understood that women do not exist to pick up the pieces for men, and it is not their purpose to build them back up when they’re at their lowest.
In the midst of all of this, I was reminded of one of the most iconic scenes from US TV show, Scandal, where Maya Lewis, played by Khandi Alexander, delivered a powerful monologue that resonated with black women all over the world. “I tell you, being a black woman. “Be strong”, they say. “Support your man, raise a man, think like a man.” Well damn, I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me, carrying my burden, building me up when I get down? Nobody.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
There needs to be a change in the way that black women are perceived and the expectations that are placed on them. They do not deserve to struggle in relationships and they are worthy of healthy and reciprocated love. It’s time to unlearn these negative attitudes. The truth is, a woman should never pour out all of her mental, physical and emotional energy in attempt to fix a man. Let’s leave that to the real professionals, shall we?
Credit photo: GettyImages
Written by Joanna Adeniji