Question: I’ve heard you say that the Superwoman Schema is a double-edged sword. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Dr. Sheffield-Abdullah: The Superwoman Schema definitely is a double-edged sword: There are benefits to it, and there are downsides to it.
What I have found in my own research is that, often times, Black women are reconciling what they think they should be doing with what feels right and authentic to them. They worry about what others say, or what society says, they should be doing versus what they inherently know to be their truth and what they want to do.
What you are seeing with Serena is that she is still reconciling her decision to leave professional tennis. She says, “One thing I’m not going to do is sugarcoat this. I’m going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads.” When she says this, she is living in her own authentic truth, she is speaking it out, even in all of the vulnerability that comes with it.
This is what I’m saying, this kind of double-edged sword. She says, “I’m not ready to do this. I’m torn. I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.” She has this incredible determination to continue to succeed, as if she hasn’t already achieved so much success. She knows that prioritizing her family is not “settling,” yet she is still reconciling her desire to continue to be the greatest tennis player with her desire to grow her family and business. It highlights that as Black women we can be multi-passionate. We can want more than one thing at the same time.