I have been called “strong,” “opinionated,” “controlling,” and here’s the real kicker – “intimidating.” And these comments have come from close male friends!
Black women have long been considered the matriarchs of black society due to the absence of black men in the household. (We won’t get into why and how to fix that problem.) They usually have to play mother and father to their children, and as a result they are the dominant figure in the household. This phenomenon has evolved over time and now seems to represent black women in general, whether there is a man in the house or not.
I was raised by a strong black woman who lost her husband 3 weeks after her child (me) was born. She taught me to take care of myself and not to depend on a man. I have in turn taught my own daughters the same principles, although while growing up they had a father in the household. So the pattern continues. Is that a bad thing? Don’t we want to raise strong, self-sufficient, girls with high self-esteem?
As a trial lawyer, I have to be “tough.” I’m an advocate. I have been trained to be commanding in the courtroom, to formulate an opinion and argue it on behalf of my client. But how does one take the teachings of our culture, the training from our career and then become the demure, submissive wife or girlfriend. Can’t we be accepted for who we are?
So what are we strong black women to do? Should we suppress our natural (or learned) tendencies and pretend to be someone we’re not, or is it the responsibility of the man to “suck it up,” put on his “big boy pants” and rise to the level of his strong black woman to have a mutually satisfying relationship?
The Bible tells us to submit to our husbands, but the Bible also tells husbands to submit to God and to love and cherish his wife like God loves and cherishes the Church. Marriage is a partnership (not a dictatorship) with two people who love and respect each other. You can’t submit to someone you don’t trust or respect so it is up to the man to be someone worthy of his wife’s trust and respect. Despite these biblical teachings, I must admit I have not had a lot of practice in the area of submission, and it is a challenge for me.
Now that I’m divorced and have ventured back “out there,” I see the smaller dating pool and men who want a significant other that looks up to him rather than a partner who looks across at him. Will I suppress who I am to find a man? No. What kind of role model would I then present to my daughters? Instead, I will remain true to myself and wait for the man who is attracted to me for my strengths and accepts and cherishes me for who I am. I know he’s out there. I’ve seen glimpses of him.
In response to She Said: Loneliness and ice cream is a dangerous mix.
Strong, tough, resilient, and unbending; am I speaking of my dad? No, I’m speaking of a woman! Why on Earth would I want to date whom I just described if I’m not gay? Why can’t I describe my woman as: soft, demure, loving, and nurturing? Is it really an impossibility to have a mix of the two worlds? When these definitions collide one of them goes by the wayside and is lost. And it is usually the latter.
What is interesting to me is I rarely hear this debate among other races. I am part of the Black race and maybe these types of conversations occur in other households but I don’t know. I am sure there are strong women within other cultures but I rarely hear these women described in such male-dominated terms. And many of the men in other cultures usually ascribe to the Arnold Schwarzenegger School of Toughness and come off so much more hard core like Marlboro men versus the metro-sexual our society’s men are becoming.
Therefore, are men to blame for this phenomenon? In particular, black men? Is it really a matter of “rising to the level” of our women so they feel equal to look us in the eye? What if my life guide is the Bible and I pull out scriptures that put the Godly man as head of his household and his wife submits? This may not provide insight to black women about being submissive but it is written as Gospel to submit. Therefore, why then does this conversation appear to be such a challenge for the sisters?
I can confirm that I, too, came from a family of strong women, very opinionated and outspoken. However, most of the women I grew up with also believe in the Word and thus attempt to live their lives in accordance. This lifestyle is completely lost in this day and age. In addition, many women and men have misinterpreted certain passages in the Bible and massaged definitions to fit their own needs. However, as it was written in the Bible it is presumed that a man is attempting to hold up his side of the bargain as well.
In my opinion, the root of this problem has propagated the debate whether one can have a strong black woman balanced with a docile demeanor. The root is women do not want to submit to a man – there are too many negative connotations with the idea of submitting, especially to a non-religious man.
But I see other non-religious men have successful relationships with their spouses. And the ones I have witnessed aren’t focused on power struggles within the relationship. They are purely focused on how to gain more as a couple than alone. And sometimes getting to this level of success requires some level of submission; particularly from the woman’s standpoint. The man bears responsibility in this conversation as well but it does require the woman to view the partnership of marriage more from the angle of leadership – allow the men to lead and support him during this time and see how the relationship can grow.