Archives

Strong People Don't Have Needs & Other Myths That Can Kill You

Strong People Don’t Have Needs & Other Myths That Can Kill You

I’ve been tweeting all morning about #rapeculture & #abuseculture, and someone asked me what I meant when I referred to Strong People Myths. I think some/most of us are familiar with the Strong Black Woman Trope right? Right. For those that are unfamiliar with it, it can best be summed up as the idea that black women are so strong they don’t need help, protection, care, or concern. It’s a racialized super human idea that leaves little to no room for real black women with real problems. That myth contributes to black women experiencing higher than average domestic violence rates, & an increased rate of sexual assaults. It is literally killing black women, but it persists & is often referenced as a positive thing despite it denying the basic humanity of black women.

Similar myths flourish inside rape culture & abuse culture and contribute to ideas like “Men can’t be raped”, “It’s her fault for staying with him after he hit her”, “She/he/they didn’t fight back so they must have wanted it” or (and this one is always guaranteed to make me want to throw things), “I would never be in that position” during discussions of domestic violence or rape. The idea that strong people are safe people is perpetuated relentlessly throughout our culture & it ignores not only the reality that anyone can be victimized, but also that it takes strength to survive. It feeds into external & internal victim blaming when people insist that only the weak can be prey. The One True Way To Be Strong So You Are Safe idea is comforting right up until it backfires on people who are victimized.

Meanwhile rapists & abusers have a free pass to continue their behavior since we propagate this idea that only the strong deserve to survive. They face no/limited consequences, get society to do the dirty work of A) blaming the victim for not being stronger & getting the victim to self blame, all while seeking out new victims. It’s easy to say people should have known better before you think about the fact that rapists & abusers don’t usually advertise their intent. Instead they rely on wit, charm, & social pressure to help them find, isolate, & assault (sometime repeatedly) their victims. Then when victims seek help, they know their victims will run right into the Strong People Don’t Get Hurt Myths. Instant insulation from prosecution or social repercussions with the added bonus that the victim will forever doubt themselves!

It’s a sickening set of tropes, and yet it is popular & often lauded as though eternal strength is a reasonable or logical expectation of human beings. It’s not of course, and yes, abusers & rapists are not mutually exclusive or gender specific roles. But they are things that humans do to other humans. That’s it. Every human has needs, desires, wants that they are trying to have met. And everyone is vulnerable to harm whether it be from a stranger or a partner. To pretend that people can be (or should be) omniscient, or that they can’t ever be overpowered is to deny the humanity of survivors. It’s bad enough that people will be assaulted, but to have society continue the victimization is simply ridiculous and detrimental to everyone.

4 comments to Strong People Don’t Have Needs & Other Myths That Can Kill You

  • Steve

    This is so true. I hate how there are so many movies that cater to this but there are hardy any movies that shows a crafty, outgoing black herione who builds and becomes a champion for her cause. I’m also brainstorming a fantasy book and I want to write a female butt kicking high flying hero with an afro. Can you guys tell me any tropes about women to avoid that support rape culture and abuse culture.

  • cinky

    I kind of agree with just about your whole column—hell, black women are human beings,too,and we get tired, stressed/worn the hell out, burned the hell out,and need some comfort just like anybody else on the damn planet. Even that whole “black women are strong” meme has its limits sometimes. I’ve told some sisters that I know that they need to take time out to take care of themselves, instead of just doing everything for everybody else all the time, and neglecting their well-being/health in the process. I came out of an abusive relationship where I fought back every chance I could, but still got my ass kicked,regardless. Anyway,yes, you can be strong, but that alone will not eliminate the problems one comes up against, depending on the situation. What was messed up about the situation I was in was that I knew nobody was going to come and help me, and that I had to handle business my dang self,which was tiring and downright stressful as hell by itself. Nobody ever came to my aid, period–that was the worst part about it. One time,though, a neighbor from across the hall did finally threaten to bust my ex upside his head with a broomstick handle and even let me stay in his apartment for a minute. My ex almost backed the hell off when that happened, thank goodness. And yeah, I did leave his sorry, drug-addicted a** later on, which is why he’s my ex.

    Hell,even strong people have bad s*** happen to them where they aren’t always in the control of the situation. Being strong dosen’t necessarity keep you from being attacked and it sure as hell dosen’t mean you need less attention, especially when you’re a woman—even men can’t always overpower everybody that proceeds to jump on them.

  • This is so true. I work in this area and these beliefs are so common not just amongst service users but also service providers – thinking they have to give their all and self-care is not that important.

  • [...] It’s a sickening set of tropes, and yet it is popular & often lauded as though eternal strength is a reasonable or logical expectation of human beings. It’s not of course, and yes, abusers & rapists are not mutually exclusive or gender specific roles. But they are things that humans do to other humans. That’s it. Every human has needs, desires, wants that they are trying to have met. And everyone is vulnerable to harm whether it be from a stranger or a partner. To pretend that people can be (or should be) omniscient, or that they can’t ever be overpowered is to deny the humanity of survivors. It’s bad enough that people will be assaulted, but to have society continue the victimization is simply ridiculous and detrimental to everyone. [...]