Writer’s Name: Angela Duirden-Galbreth
Title: Push a Woman in the Corner and She Comes Out Swinging
James Brown said it best, “It’s a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman!”
From the courtroom, to the operating room, to corporate America’s boardrooms, and yes, even in the bedroom, women are taking reigns and holding their own. The days where “father knows best” and the images of June Clever, Marian Cunningham, and Edith Bunker being seared into our brains as they portray “the totality of a woman” are long gone. Today’s generation of women are carving their own paths. With the wind at their backs and destiny as their guide, women are succeeding in powerful, high-profile CEO and managerial positions in fields previously dominated by males. Women today own homes, businesses, are becoming more educated and producing college graduates at a faster rate than their male counterparts. Women are members of the clergy, politicians, commanders in the Armed Forces, and it is highly anticipated that a woman will (in the not so distant future) assume the office of Commander in Chief. Women seemed to have mastered the delicate dance of bringing home the bacon, frying it in a pan, being a mother to the children, and taking care of the needs of their men; all while rocking a pair of six-inch stiletto heels. And, if it fits her fancy, today’s woman can become pregnant without ever being intimate with a man. Yes, she’s doing it all with style, grace, and a double dose of panache!
As a woman, what a privilege it is to rave about the accomplishments of my sisters, but it wasn’t so long ago that women had fewer rights than men, were considered inferior, and dare I say, “weaker vessels.” In fact, it could be strongly argued that the abasement of women’s rights is what actually sparked the emergence of the “independent women.” Push a woman in the corner and she comes out swinging. It was women who fought tirelessly for the passage of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 aimed at demolishing gender wage disparity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination against racial, ethnic, religion, and women. Roe v. Wade 1973, landmark Supreme Court Case giving women control over their bodies with regards to birthing choices. And most recent, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama, amending The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and resetting the 180 statute of limitations for filing discrimination lawsuits for equal pay.
Certainly, many might view the rise of women’s independence as a rebellion crusade. While we all reap the fruits of the feminist movement, this leadership role is not the identified choice of many women but instead an act of self-preservation. How many movies have we seen where male and female roles are clearly defined. From an early age, boys are told that they are the bread winners, responsible for provision and protection of their families. He is “man” indisputably crowned king, and dare not be challenged. Women on the other hand were coined as nurturers, caretakers of the family, and completely dependent on the man for everything. Her primary job was to stand by her man whether she agreed with him or not. She was to clean the house, wash, dry, and fold laundry, prepare the meals, take care of the children, and then have bed rocking, sizzling sex on demand, and she had better do it all with a smile.
However, with more and more men becoming less enthused with their role as head of the household. With others either incarcerated or have chosen to shirk their responsibilities, women from all walks of life began finding themselves left alone with children, financial obligations, and no marketable skills. Instead of settling for “damsel in distress” and waiting to be rescued, women strapped on their red capes and became the hero of their own lives. They begin making the necessary changes to provide a better life for themselves and their children.
As social trends have changed and the foundation of relationships has evolved, women seemed to have developed a knack for independence. But, is there a price to be paid for having it all together and doing it so well? What does an independent woman say to her daughter? Does she have to forfeit love and marriage for success? As I think of my daughter, I so love her audaciousness. At age 9, if she sees something she wants, she doesn’t hesitate. She grabs the bull by the horn and rides that bad boy. Ironically, instead of being celebrated, a woman’s independence is a major contributor in relationship breakups. How could that be? In truth, not too many men can handle a confident woman who boldly wears the badge of achievement. There are some men who feel intimidated by her self-reliance, and steer clear for fear that independent women are high-maintenance, too self-absorbed, and want more than what they are able to give. The way they see it, such women have already accrued the things men are conditioned to provide, so what could he possibly offer her?
While it is true, as “head” and “in charge” is where men feel most valuable, the reality is, REAL men don’t mind if a woman has a successful career, or if she has in an income tax bracket that is above his. Some even consider it sexy. What keeps a man attracted to a woman is how she makes him feel. What matters is that she has space in her life for him and that she isn’t obsessed or overwhelmed by her career to the point that it is a detriment to the relationship. Few men will admit this, but they keep close tabs on the things women say and do. More than anything, a man wants the woman in his life to make him feel important. That she needs him for reasons that have nothing to do with money or power. And if he can’t feel special, respected, or if he feels less than around her, why be with her?
Perhaps, just perhaps, sisters could it be that in our quest to be strong, confident, and independent that we sometimes lose our “sweetness?” In our desire to be heard, we lose that softness in our voice, graced with feminism and tenderness enabling us to stimulate a man’s mind and spirit, beckoning him to a place of rest. Could it be that while we have arrived socially and economically, we have no “emotional” confidence? We are unable to fully trust, or manage our feelings without stifling our hearts. I can say with conviction that sometimes self-sufficient women haphazardly drive men away by being too aloof, never showing vulnerability or emotion in ways that are healthy. In addition, women often flaunt their independent in fashions that convey to a man, “I don’t need you, I can take care of myself!” or “You are not a priority, but an option! I can drop you in the blink of an eye and keep it moving!” Male or female, who wants to be made to feel that they are not needed? No one! Independent women would be better served allowing a shift in paradigm and offering a more sensitive touch when communicating with the men in their lives as not to incite insult or criticism, thus injuring his ego. Male emasculation shouldn’t be a casualty of female sovereignty; quite the contrary. By all means sisters, be strong, confident, and accomplish all that your heart desires, just keep in mind that some things taste better with a 'lil sugar on top!
As power dynamics have changed, more women dare to break the mold of tradition. As more men feel less shame in having a spouse who is the primary financial contributor, some assume the role as stay home fathers. As American society transitions, and as men and women grow more comfortable with their newly defined roles, there may come a time when there are more independent women with men who are dependent on them and have no qualms about it. I’m not exactly sure how that would shake out, though. However, I do believe there is room for the merger of traditional roles with progressive millennium perspectives. The key is striking the right chord, finding the right balance that satisfies the needs and expectations of both men and women in relationships. Now, I dare not pose that women should dummy down or settle for men who don’t meet their standards of compatibility. Nor should women forgo high-powered careers, or negate to pursue their goals for fear of scaring off men. A relationship should never be viewed as a tango of dominance and submission, but rather a mutually fulfilling and supportive union between people who are committed, emotionally secure, and willing to submit the time and energy of nurturing and creating a thing of beauty.