In 2011 I dated a man that did things and said things I never even thought men had the capacity to do. Now in 2014, we are getting married and I am very happy with our relationship. I realize though more than ever I can’t really seek extra advice from many on how to be a good a partner, because their view of my gender rules over who I am.
My life was very confrontational, and I learned if I didn’t come back and state my business then I’d be trampled. So my personality developed by force into a person that knew she needed to be bold to survive. In my adulthood I calmed my ways but remained no nonsense. No drama. No disrespect. Some of this came from seeing the women in my life be dominated by abusive men. They are some of the most resilient women I know. However, I saw how they viewed their gender hurt them further. Mainly those views were shaped by church. How the wife must be meek and humble. Seen and not heard. So that the man can feel in control and “be a man”. The trade off is that he’d treat you like a Queen because of these actions. Unfortunately I have rarely seen this tradeoff occur.
I have seen abuse of all kinds. The husband cut off his wife while she is talking. Family tension from the adults to the kids. The kids in fear of the father’s tyranny and resentful of the mother’s passiveness. Everyone else’s feelings overruled, just as long the gender roles are established.
Now as an adult I have claimed black feminist politics as my viewport on how a relationship should look like. The amazing thing that happened though is meeting someone that was okay with that. I felt bad for thinking men weren’t capable but after a while I accepted I may be alone for the rest of my life partnership wise. I didn’t think a man would let me be a free woman without me handing over my dignity. So I didn’t pursue relationships. Mind you, my fiancé wasn’t wearing daishikis or wearing ankhs (like some “conscious” brothers, who can be just as sexist by the way), he came in the form of your hip hop culture raised, Bronx repping, man’s man, “brotha”. The unique qualities were: he was comfortable with himself, his manhood wasn’t constantly threatened, he was openly sentimental, and he didn’t feel the need to dominate me. I was shocked and these traits are what allowed my framework for being who I decided to be co-exist.
He wasn’t really familiar with my framework but his openness aided me to explain that to him. So he could decide for himself if that was what he wanted. We built our love off of these open conversations. During the “sharing quirks” stage of our relationship I revealed I liked washing with men’s body wash because it’s a soothing scent. He thought it was strange but he didn’t jump to ridiculous conclusions. Like I was secretly lesbian or something. Even during our arguments we may have both fell on gender roles to deal but then we pull ourselves out of that cycle and communicate until there’s peace again.
I learned that men are capable of emotional range. They can be sentimental. They can co-exist with a woman without needing to conquer something. They can change and deconstruct patriarchy in themselves. He showed me what feminism taught me was possible: a man that was able to make and create a life with a woman without having to default to sexist notions, in order to feel whole.
I get exhausted with the advice I get from many women. Especially patriarchal married women who claim that being meek and humble is the key to being a great wife. It tires me out that women keep telling me to cook, clean, pole dance, smile, wave, etc. because “that’s what works best”. There are even women who are puzzled on how I got a good man with the “attitude” I have. That I don’t deserve him because I am a feminist who can’t “truly appreciate a good man”. They think that because I don’t “submit” that I want to dominate. Which is not the case, but assumed. We equally compromise and equally decide. The fact that is considered being a “bad wife” is sad to me. However I realize that even though I don’t have many resources for this walk I’ll trust that me and him can build that road together. No one knows us like we do. We have put aside what society says we should do based off our sex and decided we should base our relationship off of who we are.