Have Independent Women Forgotten How to Let A Man Be a Man?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Essence Magazine's September 2009 issue, I noticed an article entitled "Who Wears the Pants?", where a man named Keith McQuillon, 42, tells an Essence reporter that independent women today have forgotten how to let men be men. Here is a snippet from the article:
"In 1996 my ex-wife and I split partly because she always wanted to be the one in control. Since then, I've been in only one serious relationship. Too many of the Black women I've dated wanted to call all the shots. Whenever I've tried to lead, I've repeatedly heard, "I'm not going to let a man run my life." Good, because I don't want to, but I do want someone who respects my opinion and wants to meet me halfway. I'd marry a woman who says, "Baby, why don't we do things your way this time?" I've noticed that women of other races seem more willing to let a man be a man. But I'd prefer to find a Black partner to build my future with. And when I find her, I'll treat her with the same love, care and respect that my dad showed my mom."

In my opinion, that quote in and of itself represents a growing divide between men and women today along the line of one particular question: Who really wears the pants in a relationship these days? And what does it really mean to say, "let a man be a man?"

First of all, I find it disconcerting that Keith lumps black women into a category and women of "other races" into another category. While there may be slight cultural (not racial) distinctions among independent women of different ethnic backgrounds, the overriding culture of "independent womanhood", in my opinion, does not really fall along racial lines. Women of all races and cultures today are finding themselves within their own independence and defining their financial and career independence without a boyfriend or husband dictating their steps. Many women, regardless of race, will hesitate and perhaps get very defensive if a man tried to harp upon their independence. In my opinion, black women are not the only women who would tell Keith, "I'm not going to let a man run my life." Even the intense popularity of "Sex and the City" (a show without black female protagonists) illuminates the increasing trend of independent/don't mess with my goals/you can't run my life-type women around the world today.

That said, I will address the main question posed in this article: Have independent women forgotten how to let a man be a man? I have not done any statistical studies on this question, but I can speak for myself when I ask the follow-up question: "What does it mean to 'let a man be a man?'" I find that as a society today, we collectively compare ourselves to generations of the past - the "the way way it used to be, sigh!" mentality that has often led people to make blanket and uninformed statements about gender divide issues today. In the beginning of the article, Keith explains that when he was growing up, his dad was the head of the household, and his mom followed his dad's lead. He states:

"When they disagreed, they talked it out, but he got the final say. Before you get all riled up, you should know I don't expect that. I like an opinionated and independent woman. But I believe in compromise, and I take issue with ladies who aren't willing to."
While I don't take issue with the latter part of Keith's statement, I would note that Keith appears to be torn between wanting to mirror his dad's role as a husband and Keith's own desire to respect a woman's independence and the concept of compromise. And Keith isn't the only man in the world with the same issue. With the increasing trend of independent women in today's world, I really do believe that men have been forced to make an adjustment, and either adapt to the trend or choose to reject it and only seek women who either don't want to be independent or are independent but prefer the man to lead on most decisions in a relationship.

As gender roles increasingly evolve, the question of "who wears the pants" is not an easy one to answer in 2009. On a literal level, both men and women put on their suits every weekday, report to work and earn their money. On a conceptual/figurative level, "who wears the pants" is a case by case situation, where men and women in relationships explicitly or implicitly make an agreement to let the man or the woman make the decisions, or whether they will choose to compromise on their decisions.


I didn't get to read the whole article, however, why does the man or the woman have to "wear the pants" exclusively. In a time when we both contribute to the finances of the home we should both "wear the pants" equally. As women, we are capable of and quite competent at making decisions alongside our men. It's high time it stopped being a man versus woman issue and it started being a man and woman working together issue. Thank you for this discourse, Kris.

sungod said...

i agree with the comment above. I as a young black male watched my father take charge and reiterate that a man should lead the household(quoting scripture to validate his claim) but i do want an independent woman also. i am a laid back fellow so i can come across like i dont wanna lead i do believe in compromise and i just think itz not about whose in charge it is about how can WE resolve any issues

yankeenaijababe said...

How are you doing?I hope all is going well.

In relationships today, I believe both couples wear the pant knowing that if the man and woman both bring in income, then they both have some control over their finances but men would always want to feel empowered in a relationship, so even if a woman is bringing in money, the lady still has to be submissive to her man if not real live tension tend to occur.