Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman

Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance

Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-668-1
Publication: Jul 09

HC: $71.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-667-4
Publication: Jul 09

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-669-8

194 pages
5.5 x 8.25

Explores the restrictive myth of the strong black woman through interviews, revealing the emotional and physical toll this “performance” can have

Read the Introduction (pdf).


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. Interviews with 58 Black women explore the restrictive myth of the "Strong Black Woman." In particular, Beauboeuf-Lafontant highlights the physical and emotional toll of this performance of invulnerability, which leaves many Black women suffering from eating disorders and depression. Drawing on Black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and voice-centered research, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences on normative Black femininity. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary quality of "authentic" Black womanhood, maintaining that the expectation of strength creates a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and imbalances of power.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Half-Told Tale of Black Womanhood 1. More Than “the Historical, the Monolithic Me”: Deconstructing Strong Black Womanhood 2. Living the Lies: Embodying “Good” Womanhood 3. Keeping up Appearances: The Performance of Strength 4. Lies Make Us Sick: Embodied Distress Among Strong Black Women 5. Coming to Voice: Transcending Strength Epilogue: Mules No More, Just “Levelly Human”: A Societal Challenge Acknowledgments Appendix: Table of Participants

About the Author(s)

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.