So we’ve all been present for a few “Where Did Black People Go Wrong?” conversations. You can’t gather more than three Black college graduates (or attendees) in one room without it coming up. The answer always goes back to the decline of the Black family, which is always determined to be a result of the cracked-out 80s and absentee fathers (on occasion, someone attributes it to blue-collar jobs going overseas or the “over”- education of Black women.) I read Midnight on Sunday, and I noticed that Sister Souljah threw out another less-discussed reason, one that likely pissed off a good portion of her readers : Black women.
African-American women got a hard way to go in Sister Souljah novels. First there was Winter in TCWE, a cluck if one’s ever been described, and damn near every woman in the book other than Souljah and the Ob/Gyn she rented her place from. In Midnight, we get a whole new host of chickens—from Bangs and Heaven to the Mom who was half-dressed when the 13 year olds came to the house. At some point in the novel, Midnight observes that there are no real African-American men left who protect and provide for their families or anybody else. And in trying to figure out why, he plays with the idea that AA women aren’t much worth protecting and providing for once you take into account the ones that spread for anybody available, walk around half-dressed, or are only concerned with the base-joys of life like money, fly clothes, and men. And that goes for the degree holders and the nons alike.
Because I’m a feminist, you would think that my knee-jerk reaction to this would be to get offended, but surprisingly the idea didn’t seem so preposterous to me. Actually, it kinda made sense. (I’m also a realist.) I’ve heard countless men complain in so many ways that there are not “real women” left (read the male comments to any post on here. It’s the underlying theme in almost everything they write.) In the “real” world, there was the dude I met, who at 28 was obsessed with having children within two years and expressed that his ideal arrangement would be to have a cool baby mama who gave him full custody of his kids. He just didn’t want the headache of dealing with a wife. There was the 35-year old who also wanted children, which surprised me because he’d always said he didn’t want to get married. (Sorry, I’m a tried and true southern girl, the two go hand in hand for me still.) When I stated my shock, he replied, “Oh, I love the kids. It’s they mamas I don’t like.” I’ve also listened to countless men—friends even, and ya’ll know how I love my dudes—complain about how they are ready to settle down, but there are no suitable mates to be found. Hence, why they just play the field with reckless abandon.
Now admittedly, these men could be making excuses for an advancing age and lagging maturity or they could be raging latent misogynists (a lot of men like p*ssy, but don’t like women. Try not to get confused on that one.) But when I get the backstories on what’s brought them to their “I’ll pass on a wife” conclusions, the excuses are pretty valid. One had an ex he was living with. She moved into his space, and in playing man-duty, he was happy to provide. All she had to do was pay cable while she worked full-time (at a job that paid more than his) and go to school. Cool. He falls on hard times after providing steadily for 2 years and picks up an extra job to make ends meet. Never once does she offer to pitch in on a bill to help hold down the spot she’s living in. Another guy currently lives with his woman, they’ve been together forever and they have 2 kids. I ask, “so why not marry her already?” he argues that she doesn’t know how to keep a house and is generally filthy (I’ve been to their house. The floors were caked with dirt.) He doesn’t get why he should step up to the plate and “do right” by her if she can’t even “be a real woman” (I argued back, “why impregnate her TWICE if she’s not a real woman?” But that’s another blog for another day) Another friend was falling head over heels for a chick, but quickly had to shake himself out of haze when the woman confessed she’d slept with her ex recently and contracted a permanent STD. Another guy’s ex-woman cheated on him with some dudes who she willingly let run a train on her and videotape it. Yet another exceptionally attractive friend wants at least a girlfriend, but has noticed that everyone he encounters immediately wants to do him. The common theme among all of them is ‘women don’t respect themselves anymore,’ they don’t act like real woman and they can’t hold a man down. So why should I act like a real man?
I read Steve Harvey’s interview recently for his new relationship book he worked on and in so many ways, he drew a similar conclusion: ie, there are no real men anymore because there are no real women. We were discussing why it seems so few men are willing to man-up and do right by women, ie, protect, provide, marry. And his answer boiled down to women’s standards—and the lack thereof. In so many words, his argument was men will do anything to be with a woman that they value. But the problem is, so many women have set their standards too low and don’t show that they value themselves (ie, dressing crazy, throwing coochie at a man, having sex with too many people). He argued that the world is full of good Black men who don’t have to be such to get with women because we no longer show act right or require men to do so. So they don’t.
I was thinking about some of the standards that are outlined in Midnight, the ones he observes that African-American women lack (while the book generalizes, I won’t go as far as to say “all”, but I will say “many.”) Like most of us won’t be virgins when we marry, and occasionally we like to put on our freak-um dress and let a lot of it hang out when we want to feel sexy. So yes, on ocassion we are scantily clad. And we do holler after guys on occasion, and we do drink to excess, and a lot of us don’t throw down in the kitchen or keep a tight house (grrr. I know. But if his role is to protect and provide, the cooking/cleaning thing falls back on us. We can’t ask for him to step up and not do the same.) In our quest to throw aside “traditional” values and be independent women who can do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want as often as we want, have we somehow inadvertently caused our men to drop the ball on us because we’re not acting like ladies who are worth the effort?
(And yes, I know this whole post wreaks of “traditional” values that some may call outdated. But it really seems like men’s POV on what a “real woman” is has not caught up with the “feminist” movement that says we can act like they do and all is okay.)
Oh, and shot out to Kewon, because he and I have been having this conversation for years!!