From Hottentot to Superwoman: Issues of Identity and Mental Health for African American Women

Suzette L. Speight, Denise A. Isom and Anita Jones Thomas

in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Multicultural Counseling Psychology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199744220
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 From Hottentot to Superwoman: Issues of Identity and Mental Health for African American Women

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We are well aware of the gendered and racialized nature of our social world, from structures and systems to internalized ideologies. The social constructs of race and gender are often viewed comparatively, in parallel, or as additive elements. What is often lost is the particularity of the intersections, the unique social locations, and the myriad ways these two combine. For African American women, the “and” of race and gender marks a troubling and complex sociohistorical context that impacts the identity development and mental health of African American women. This chapter examines the social context from the story of Saartjie Bartmann, the “Hottentot Venus,” through the produced images of enslaved African women, to the contemporary projections of “the “strong Black woman.” This discussion is held alongside an examination of theories of identity development and the implications for mental health. Ultimately, this work raises a call for further research and continued dialogue on the development of an authentic sense of self in African American women so that they can speak with their own voice and see themselves through their own eyes.

Keywords: African American women; identity development; race; gender

Article.  12194 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Counselling Psychology

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