Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shifting: Chapter 5: The Sisterella Complex

[Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America]

In chapter 5 of Shifting, Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden provide explanations and various example of “Sisterellas.” A Sisterella, like the classic Cinderella, is a black woman so consumed with the care of others (e.g. family, friends, businesses, etc.) that they neglect caring for themselves.

The subsection “The Sisterella Complex: The Constellation of Depression in America’s Black Women” explores the depression that occurs as a result and manifest in physical ailments and addictions. As the authors note, “the Sisterella complex is manifest in all the forms of [clinical] depression in Black women” (124).

How did you respond to the idea of the Sisterella complex? Why?

15 comments:

Asher said...

I understand where this complex is trying to say. My mother's friend takes care of her ailing sister, who has a mental illness, for the past ten years. My mother's friend has spent a decade taking more care of someone else, than herself. My mother's friend has had several hospital visits from depression and for passing out because she hasn't been taking care of herself. It's hard to see someone go through that.I think it's great to help and take care of others, but if you can't take care of yourself, than how can you have the strength to help others? Your mental health and psychical health is very important and should never be things that you push aside for the benefit of someone else.

-Asher D

Natasha H. said...

Page 124 reads, "Her identity is confused, her personal goals are deeply buried, and she shrinks inwardly." I can relate to this throughout high school, so many people turned me so many different ways. My math teachers wanted me to be a Mathematics major because I was good at it and took the highest classes. And I like math, but is it really something I want to do my whole life? My family wanted me to go to U of I, my mom pressured me to continue to pursue Spanish, my grandma deep down wanted me to be a lawyer. I was confused. It was hard to even identify my OWN goals when so many other people wanted different things out of me.

On the other hand, no one forced me to do anything. It was my future. However, I know lots of people who are basically forced into a lifestyle or an occupation. I know the Sisterella Complex is prevalent in lots of peoples' lives, but I don't know if it did on mine. My confusion may just be the typical confusion any teenager goes through. The majority of my mom's side of the family suffers from depression, so it was hard for me to overcome sadness during many points in my life. A lack of sleep, a demanding job, honors/AP classes (AP Chem in particular), a boyfriend, family, friends, and many other factors played a role in the amount of stress me and many other people go through. When I took Psychology, me teacher told me that everyone has a point in their life where they should see a psychologist or therapist. That stuck out to me because it felt like I wasn't alone.

Everyone goes through things in their lives and at one point or another, most of us will feel the effects of the Sisterella Complex.

Ty Bruce said...

I believe it is very true . My mother is the ultimate "Sisterella". She puts everyone needs before her own and she works a lot . I feel that there is nothing wrong with caring for others and being a hard worker but there should be limits. "Sisterellas" shoulda have days for themselves or just a day to relax. I also think that Sisterellas grow to have to need of being needed and have a hard time relaxing.
Tyjohnea Bruce

Tayler G. said...

I can agree and almost relate to this theory. I agree with what Natasha is saying as well. I was also confused on my own goals with a lot of pressure on me to be what other people wanted me to be. Along with the responsibilities and expectations my family put on me I was and still am overwhelmed. I sometimes put my dreams and feelings aside and lose sight of them. I didn't really know myself for a long time which caused me to be frustrated and sad.

Jade H. said...

The thing about this complex is that it is absolutely true. My sister is a sophomore in college, but her freshman year tore her apart. She was so busy trying to keep everyone pleased, she couldn't even please herself. She wanted to make sure everybody was okay before making sure she was okay. Doing this was starting to ruin her; it was just breaking her and everyone in my family saw it. Our friends would tell me about what was happening to her, and when I said something to my sister she begged me not to tell our mom. I started to notice she didn't smile as much, she gained weight, and she always looked tired and sad.

Seeing the ones you love most go through the Sisterella Complex is heartbreaking, and sometimes it takes a lot to get through to them. But just telling them what they want to hear won't cut it, you have to tell them the truth. She learned that in order to be happy, she needs to be happy with herself. Seeing the amount of change and growth from last year compared to this year is tremendous. I'm so proud of my sister and how much she has overcome, and I'm happy that she is happy.
Jade H.

Alexis Acoff said...

I agree with the complex because I can relate to putting others before myself in a lot of situations. A lot of significant role models in family are the women of my family such as my mom, granny, grandma, and gran gran, who always put others before themselves and will work tirelessly to meet the needs of others. I will say, however, that some people do find joy in serving others. I personally feel self accomplishment for being able to help somebody out during a tough time, or trying to finish a challenging task. Although it primarily seems like I am not taking time out for myself, I do feel good at the end and don't make everything seem like such a burden. But this could be because I am young and have not had as many pressures placed on me as other older women.

Alona Davenport said...

I can definitely see where the Sisterella Complex is pointing at. My grandma would cook for a house of 8 and wait to eat until everyone had seconds. Many black women of all ages tend to be very motherly and loving. They always put others needs before themselves. Although I can't personally connect because I see myself as quite selfish, I can see many other black women I know falling in this category.
Alona D.

Jessica D said...

I've never heard this term used before until reading this book. I'm use to it just being called depression. I believe there are a lot of women who have the Sisterella Complex, but just don't realize it. My mom could actually be considered a Sisterella because she puts everyone else's needs before her own. She also works two jobs, which means she always working. Sisterella's need time to just sit down and relax for a while, but it's hard for them because they feel like they should be doing something better with their time.

Carlie Bibbs said...

I think the Sisterella complex is very present today. I come from a single parent home where my mother raised my brother and I by herself. She had help along the way from other family members, but at the end of the day, she still had to do a lot of work to make sure we were all okay. I saw her balance between work, trying to go back to school, trying to help us with homework, putting food on the table, looking out for us, etc. and I know it took a toll on her because that is a lot to accomplish for a woman all at one time! I think the Sisterella complex has the ability to strengthen and weaken women though. It strengthens women because once they see that they can handle all that they have on their plate, it builds that confidence within them. But on the other hand, not every woman can handle it, and that is how I think it can lead a lot of women into depression.

I know there are numerous other ways that black women can fall into the Sisterella complex, but I am for sure that being a single black mother is definitely one of those ways. Single mothers don't always have the luxury to just think about themselves. They have to be responsible for their entire family (and sometimes even more).

Perseephone Cole said...

I understand what the book means about a Sisterella. I know several women that I can put into the category of a Sisterella. My grandma is a person who I can call a Sisterella. She stresses a lot because she is always worried about others and their problems. For example, my uncle is very sick and he is constantly in and out of the hospital, and she is always their for him. She has health issues of her own, but she doesn't see them as anything serious, because she is so worried about caring for my uncle. My grandmother doesn't do any drugs nor does she drink alcohol like most "Sisterellas", but she does smoke cigarettes. I feel bad for my grandmother and any other Sisterellas, because they go through a lot of pain. It's crazy because sometimes you would never know how much pain their actually bearing, because they are really good at hiding their own emotions.

Kiara C said...

I completely agree with the idea of a sisterella complex. growing up I saw my mother giving other people money for there rent and having just enough food for us kids and non left for herself. Now in her mid forties she is worn out and stressed out. I see myself putting things that are important to me aside to try and relieve some of her stress and pain, but in return that only leaves me with stress.

Shardai J-H. said...

I understand the idea of the sisterella complex. A Black woman can easily be overcome with the burdens that are placed upon them by society. Growing up I witnessed family members take up drinking to suppress the stress of everyday life. One thing I don't agree with was that it is a manifest of clinical depression. Sometimes one sees depression as something that can be easily overcome instead of a disease that literally sucks all the joy out of life and all of the life out of an individual. One cannot place the diagnosis of depression upon one who struggles to be happy for a long period of time because in most cases, a Black woman will struggle to be happy her entire life. First, one must assess that woman's definition of happiness.

Erica King said...

I think the Sisterella complex is very likely true. My mother is a sisterella herself and she has been for so long that others pretty much expects her to be. She is the youngest of eight children and whenever one of them needs anything she is the one that always find a way to help them even before herself. She gives to others and their children before she even takes care of herself and her own children.

Samiya Barber said...

I feel as if the sisterella complex is so very true because I watched my mom care for everyone else, but herself and it is not a good feeling. She gave up so much to make sure me and my brother's have a good lifestyle, including giving up her dream job, which created more stress. The term "sisterella complex" is new to me, but I know that not being happy within one's self is not a good feeling. It is just a sad to watch someone go through that.

Kayla Daniels said...

I feel the sister complex is very real. As a child of military parents, I had watched my mom nearly tear herself apart trying to make my sister's and my life easier. I never heard of this term but it does explain well what I have witnessed throughout the years. My mom was an active duty member of the Air Force for 23 years and has recently retired, only to work in the same exact place she retired from. As sad as that sounds, she understands that we need the money.