-By Jontae Grace
“You cant tell a woman shit nowadays. They don’t listen.”
“By ‘listen’ you really mean ‘obey’”.
“How you gone tell me how to handle mine when you aint even handling yours right?”
These are just a few of the responses I get when talking to men and women about gender roles and relationships. Over the last two decades, we have experienced monumental changes to our society, our economy, and our communities. These changes have completely shuffled the dynamics between men and women, and we haven’t yet learned how to make it work in our favor. Add to all of this the recent movement to reject traditional gender roles, and you get a big mess. In this piece, I will explain why gender roles are good in theory, and how we can use the reality of our genders to overcome the problems we face today.
We must acknowledge that although we are equal, we are not identical. We each have mental, physical and emotional tendencies that are unique, and we also have expectations of one another based on the nature of our genders. The concept of a unisex society is unrealistic, and insults the complexity of humans. So then, our real goal should not be to reject gender roles simply because we can; we simply want the power to choose our own roles in relationships, free from the influence of society and culture. For this reason, we must reopen the conversation of gender roles, and redefine our own framework to make our relationships work in the 2KTeens.
Men have found themselves in a precarious position in the last two decades. To the outside world, we are living the life of pharaohs: gainfully employed, educated, not gay, and outnumbered 3-1 by felines. It seems like the ideal setup, having ample women to smash and even more available to wife. But any man who has tried to build an empire with a woman will tell you that it may be smarter to simply buy a dog for companionship and a yearly subscription of Black Ice Pass for a release.
She doesn’t need your money, she makes her own. She doesn’t need your guidance, she got through undergrad, grad school and corporate america on her own. She doesn’t need your sex, she has a silver bullet at home and a pocket rocket in her purse. Even worse, you can’t tell her anything about how she is running her operation anymore. Advice? Forget it. Constructive criticism? Save it. It seems like all she wants from you is a warm body and a third leg.
What can you offer the woman who already has everything she needs, and can afford anything she wants? How do you stay marketable when your skills are becoming increasingly replaceable? You must evolve, brother.
You have to learn to add value to her life, value that cannot be measured in dollar signs. Gone are the days where all you had to do is go to work and bring home a check. There are qualities, experiences and skills that she can only gain from you, and you must acknowledge that you hold a crucial piece to her life. Remember that you provide balance and emotional stability to her otherwise chaotic existence. The life of a hardworking, successful woman in the 21st century is fraught with daily tests of her intellectual, spiritual and moral integrity. She needs you to anchor her because the waves of life are trying to drown everything that she has built, and everything that she stands for. THAT, is your main role.
Ladies, you have to re-learn to allow men to fulfill their natural role in your life. I know you’re tired of those play-Playstation-all-day, smoke-trees-and-eat-up-all-the-Golden Grahams, use-your-car-and-be-gone-all-day kinda men, right? After all, you’ve done everything in your power to earn a comfortable standard of living in this racist, sexist, capitalist society, and the least a man can do is acknowledge your struggle, right? Daily, you get up and do battle to prove that you are just as competent as any man, only to receive seventy-seven cents on the dollar for the same work a man does. And through it all, you maintain your loving, cheerful outlook on life, AND you are prospering despite the opposition.
The last thing you want is a man – boyfriend or not – telling you how he thinks you should spend your money, what he thinks you should do in this or that situation, and how he feels about you blah-blah-blah-ing. This is your life, your destiny, and your path. You’ve come too far, endured too much and overcome more than he’ll ever realize to get where you are, and you will not be ordered around like the help.
The issue of control is one of the major conflicts in our relationships. There is a common belief that masculine power is the only kind of control that a person can wield in a relationship. Society has designated femininity as weak, submissive, and therefore unworthy of respect. As a result, many women have taken more aggressive approaches to life and love in order to control their own destinies, and protect their interests. This has caused confrontation with men, even the good ones who want to see you win.
Not every man is out to run your life or use you for his own ends. You must learn to distinguish between a man who wants to control your actions to suit his own agenda, and a man who offers his guidance out of genuine concern for your well-being. He will always make decisions based on what is best for you both, not just him. You must learn to trust the man you’ve chosen, consider his counsel, and weigh his opinions. I understand that you may be a little reluctant to defer to a man after years of bad experiences and flying solo, but remember that God places good men in your life to do you good, not harm. In reality, both men and women are meant to yield to one another.
The difference is, men search for a woman who he is comfortable entrusting with the keys to his kingdom. Once he finds her, there are no limits to the power he grants her, no area of his life or his resources that she cannot access. Because she reflects him, he wants to give her the best that he can, materially and spiritually. He wants her to want for nothing, his goal is to shepherd her through the seasons of life with as little discomfort and sorrow as possible.
Women on the other hand, have struggled balancing their newly gained financial independence with the idea of sharing that power with a man. Because she fights with the world daily to carve out her place, she has trouble turning that fight off when she comes home, and our relationships have become a battlefield because of it. In many ways, money was the worst thing to happen to our relationships. Everything was all good when we were both broke and on the same page, but once we started to move up, we no longer made decisions from a position of teamwork, but a place of competition. Relationships have regressed to daily power struggles, each person fighting over the reins.
The truth is, women have always had power in relationships, especially women of color. Our community structures have always elevated grandmothers, aunties, mothers and sisters to positions of great authority and influence. Several communities in Africa are matriarchies – in which social standing, marriage and inheritance transfers through the female line, not the male. Feminine energy is undeniable, and respected without having to be aggressive. Women must learn to harness their feminine energy, and use it to balance this male-dominated world. It can have real effects if used wisely.
When masculine and feminine energies combine, it creates the balance of life. But ladies, I need you to understand that your man is not your adversary. If he has genuine feelings for you, he wants the best for you and will use every ounce of his strength to help you achieve your goals. Yes, he may have an opinion about how to elevate your life, and his view may be unpopular. But listen with your heart instead of your ears, and you may learn something that will go a long way toward helping you achieve your heart’s desire. Remember, you do have help in this race. We are still here with you, on your side. But you have to allow us to enhance you.
Brothas, I know you are confused at this point as to where you fit in a woman’s life. You have been told that you are no longer needed, that you no longer matter, but trust me: you matter. But you have to continue to strive to grow spiritually and mentally if you expect to keep pace with a woman in this day and age. I know you feel like you can’t assert yourself, and everything is a fight. But trust me, white women are not the answer. Well, they’re not the entire answer. You have to try to find that woman who will let you be yourself, and value you for your god-given gifts. And when you do find her, give her the keys.
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