We’ve all heard it before. Black women are strong, enduring beings who are capable of dealing with all the challenges the world hurls our way, and still hold down the home front. But as many sisters reject this stifling idea, a researcher at the University of Iowa wants to know if Black women and their friends are keeping “the strong Black woman” myth alive.

“I’m looking at some of the ways in which they are interacting. How are they behaving? I’m interested in what are the deeper roots here,” explained Sharde Davis, a doctoral student at UI. Her hypothesis? Black women regulate strength in one another, making sure the idea of the “strong Black woman” endures.

While Black women’s strength has its benefits, it also has a downside, too.

“Strength is so prized, they are going to want to regulate and maintain that in one another. But it comes with simultaneous costs and benefits.”

Some of those costs include the inability to share what’s really going on emotionally, which can lead to depression, prolonged sadness, and other mental health challenges.

Davis hopes to study how Black women support each other in group settings, and how that affects their mental and emotional well-being, particularly given the nation’s current racial climate. To conduct her research, Davis plans to analyze 75 groups of women between the ages of 18-65 to how they respond during discussions about life challenges.

“I really want to be able to validate and put into words what many black women go through and experience,” she explained. “And I hope that by doing this research we can identify real outcomes and mental health outcomes.”

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