Keeping Ourselves Sane: A Qualitative Exploration of Black Women’s Coping Strategies for Gendered Racism

Abstract

Black women in the United States have historically overcome extreme hardships and continue to do so. They have survived unthinkable bouts of trauma due to their subordinate racial and gender statuses. Black women’s attempts to navigate these circumstances present them with a distinct set of dilemmas, yet existing research gives little attention to how Black women manage adversities associated with navigating entangled systems of oppression. The present study aimed to gain a better understanding of how Black women cope with gendered racism. Individual interviews were conducted with 22 Black women between the ages of 18–69 years-old. We applied a thematic analysis approach for data collection and data analysis. Through in-depth interviews, we identified four themes that underline how Black women manage racialized and gendered status: (a) by redefining Black womanhood; (b) by employing overt and covert forms of resistance; (c) by relying on faith, prayer, and the pursuit of balance; and (d) by expressing their thoughts and feelings in safe spaces. Our study contributes to the larger body of literature by highlighting the complexity of living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. Further, our study includes Black women’s perceptions of their lived experiences and examines multiple modes of resistance to gendered, racist stereotypes. Findings can be used to shape programs, interventions, assessments, and tailored messages that provide awareness among Black women and healthcare professionals to promote positive and healthy coping strategies.

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Spates, K., Evans, N.M., Watts, B.C. et al. Keeping Ourselves Sane: A Qualitative Exploration of Black Women’s Coping Strategies for Gendered Racism. Sex Roles 82, 513–524 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01077-1

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Keywords

  • Gendered racism
  • Coping responses
  • Black women
  • Qualitative
  • Resistance
  • Oppression