I speak from the standpoint of a womanist/feminist, heterosexual woman that admires and respects men, especially black men. I can honestly say that I have never been mistreated by a man. Disappointed by my preconceived notions about what my man should be and how he should love me yes, but I am clear that it was of my own making. I still maintain what some may call an unrealistic standard. Yet, I am clear that I am not looking for the perfect man, but a man that is perfect for me. I have managed to do most of the things I've wanted to do without having to depend on a relationship with a man. Would it be sweeter with someone to share it with, of course. But life is about choices, and I choose not to force a relationship that is not meant to be and one in which I don't feel like my best self at least 90% of the time. Choices in life come with a price. In my opinion, no price is too high for me to feel valued and loved. While my heart remains open to love and companionship, in the meantime, I love my own company, I love being able to make decisions solely with me in mind. I don't consider myself selfish, but I am oh so self-filled.
Reconciling the Contradictions:
This blog post is not about male or female bashing. Instead, I am offering a good dose of pull up. So brothers, put on your big boy boxers or briefs and sisters put on your big girl panties. This is about the NAKED TRUTH (i.e. self-hatred as a result of internalized oppression).
DuBios often spoke of the dual consciousness that exists for most black people in America and I suspect the world. That duality of consciousness often causes us to behave in ways that on the surface appear diametrically opposed. Each day we must reconcile what it means to be a person of African descent, a person of color, or a woman of color living in world whose mores and values we didn't make. We were not at the table when decisions about standards of beauty; what constitutes manhood or womanhood; what defines success were all decided. Moreover, at the time, black people were only considered three fifths human. Nevertheless, as with all species, we did what we had to do in order to survive. We adapted.
As a result of our enslavement and/or our colonization, we have had to create a blueprint for survival that is neither purely Western, nor purely African, but instead, a complex, and often conflicting paradigm of social norms and behaviors. Many of our ancestors came from African cultures that were matriarchal. As result of this mismatch, our relationships cannot and will not resemble those of the dominant culture, therefore, we need to stop expecting them to.
Historically, women have done a lot of the adapting and changing. Even today, a NYT bestselling author, calls on women to "Act Like a Lady and Think Life I Man". However, the author simultaneously says that it is not in a man's nature to do certain things (i.e.take down his woman's cornrows). I beg the question, what about a woman's nature. Historically, men have been hunters and gatherers; the providers. The contextual reality based on the evolution of culture and society has required women to work outside the home and be providers, caretakers and the nurturers. No where is this more true than within the African American family, where historically the black man has been disenfranchised from certain economic opportunities. Black women adapted and were determined that the family survived by any means necessary. That is our historical legacy. It is then unfair to ask women to just turn off their take charge role when it suits the needs of the men.
Sadly, some of our adaptation has lead us to doubt our on worth as men, women and as humans. We are so out of order that black men have to ask permission to be men. How many times have we heard the phrase," woman, let me be a man". WTH? Men of our fathers generation didn't have to ask permission. Though far from perfect, most did what they had to do to make sure that the family was provided for. They paid the cost to be called, "the man." More important, if a man has to ask permission from me to be a man, his emotional needs are greater than anything I can give him. If he has to get a permission slip from me to be what and who he was born to be the problem runs much deeper. Often this need for permission stems from the brother's inconsistencies as a man. Brothers have to step it up not just when it works for them, but everyday you live. We need men who are not afraid to walk as a man among men; self-determined and comfortable in their own skin. It takes self-help and healing by both men and women to bring this about.
You didn't see Sojourner asking the suffragist if she could be a woman. She reminded white women, white men and even black men that she was a woman too. When Truth made her famous statement, "Ain't I a Woman, she was not asking permission but reminding America, that despite her status she was indeed a woman. She stated "that she had borne 13 children and saw them all sold in to slavery". She reconcile the contradictions and adapted. Though she may not be put on a pedestal like white women, she was no less of a woman.
Mind you, there are a lot of good brothers in our community, yet they are not the ones who get the spotlight. We must shine the light on these models of manhood. Men who are holding it down must reach out to those who may have never seen or interacted with a positive example of black manhood. Men in general and black men in particular must be willing to reconcile the contradictions and adapt to the current male/female dynamic. Your wife may make more money than you, you may not have a nine to five, but can you cook, wash dishes and take care of the children, while your wife brings home the bacon, with the understanding that the one who brings home the bacon and often time fries it up does get an equal vote. This my brothers is what reconciling the contradictions in a world we didn't make looks like.
Sisters you must stop measuring your man's value and worth by American standards. We must stop shaming our men because they do not make the salary, drive the car, or can't shower you constantly with gifts. Now I am not calling for anyone to settle, (Not advocating for you go to the prison to find your man unless that's the man you want). However, I am saying that we must be realistic in our expectations and be willing to see that the true measure of man has little to do with his bank account. The questions we should be asking are: is he a person of integrity, can I trust him, is he an independent thinker, is he willing to sacrifice his needs for the good of the family. Most of all, does he place the Creator first in every aspect of his daily living.
Now when I speak about a God fearing man, I am not talking about the one who hides behind religion and maintains archaic notions about the role of men and women. I know I'm going to make a few enemies here, but I'm ready to take the hit. A lot of the disharmony that we experience in our relationships is perpetuated by the church. Literal interpretations of biblical references has confused the situation in many ways, rather than brought clarity. The whole notion that God put man in charge and that women should submit to the will of man often serves as a hindrance to meaningful relationships. Sojourner Truth addresses this notion. She states: "Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him". This outdated notion about who God left in charge, doesn't work. Ultimately, if we put the Creator in charge of both of us, then we can truly move forward.
It is imperative that we a adopt a new paradigm for relationships between men and women. One based on mutual respect and shared leadership. Complementary roles, based on strengths, rather rigidly defined preconceived notions. This shift will require the elimination or at least the deconstruction of gender roles built on patriarchy and sustained in large measure by religious institutions. Only then will men and women be able to engage in meaningful relationship based on mutual respect and shared power, rather than domination and submission. Change and adaptation must come from both sides. This is how we begin the process of Reconciling the Contradictions and Adapting to a World We Didn't Make.
(Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to leave your constructive comments. Meaningful dialogue is welcomed. Part II. of this series will address the differences in how men and women select a mate).
Wishing you pure, joy, peace and pure love!