By: Jabu’ Woodard
This is a topic I keep running into with my female friends. The new age “girl-power” has provoked an era of women calling themselves “independent/ strong black women”. First of all let me start by saying that I believe the phrase “strong black woman” has been vastly overused and distorted from the true origin of the term. The whole “I got my own, I don’t NEED a man” attitude has changed the scope of dating and relationships as a whole. Now granted I believe that women should be strong, having the know how and ability to do for themselves; but at the same time I don’t believe it should come at the cost of devaluing what we as men have to offer when it comes to relationships.
A strong woman was meant and used to describe the type of women that would stand for certain moral and family values, despite how hard it became to maintain a household with everything that a man had to endure during hardships. For African-Americans a Strong Black Woman was defined by how hard she fought to keep her family intact. She was someone who fought for what was right and/or to protect her and her loved ones if a man was not present (typically because black men around this time were getting locked up or killed in mass numbers). In seeing all of this, the term was then created, deeply rooted in the status of a strong woman. However, it was never meant for her to be alone. But with the absence of a man, a lot of young women (and men) grew up looking at their mothers taking care of raising the children, while also providing for them at the same time. With this somewhere along the line developed the mindset that a man was not necessarily needed for women to have a stable and functioning household. And it was this that has since replaced the definition, to that of being someone who “Does not take shit” preferably from any man and “can do bad by herself”, by being able to successfully support an independent lifestyle.
How this has effected relationships is that an independent person has a mentality for thinking of one’s self first. Their priorities and goals are based on their own dreams, desires, and chosen paths for success. An “Independent Woman” isn’t looking for anyone to share “her own” with, nor is she interested in what he has, wants, or desires. An independent woman is in and out of relationships based on if her current mate fits into her current state of mind. In fact, she’s not looking for a partner as much as she is just satisfying a spontaneous desire to fill a void. She has a decent job, nice ride, her own crib, entertaining friends, and very resourceful social skills. But the one thing you’ll never find is an independent woman who is in a steady, committed, long-term relationship with a good, strong, committed man. Why, because that typically puts men into predicaments with unfavorable outcomes. These women have adopted an attitude of if you cannot “add” to my situation then I am more than capable of doing for myself, ergo replacing you at any moment’s notice as she sees fit; and it has been this “attitude” that usually drives men away because as providers men typically need to see value in their efforts and that effort can only be valued by supporters. Typically in two provider situations, two independent people don’t provide equal and true loyalty and there is little to no support for one another, which generally causes tension in the relationship.
Now at the same time you can still find women who are self-sufficient. The difference is she typically has everything the independent woman has except for usually in relationships she displays the characteristics of a support system. The self-sufficient woman has everything going for her, and still has her own, but she is typically looking to team up and share it with someone special. Coming together with a self-sufficient man doubles their efforts as they look to future successes. She can easily take care of her needs, allowing her man to attend to her wants. Now, she could do that also, but for the sake of letting a man be a man she gives him an ego within their bliss. This too allows her to spoil him! You can usually spot a self-sufficient lady because she’s a giver. Volunteering, donating and giving back to her family, friends and community. She won’t mind helping her man reach new heights if he’s not quit self-sufficient yet. She desires a partner, a teammate to plan a future with and share in its success and failures. In turn men find that dating these women have led to a lot less stressful types of relationships simply because they do not clash in regards to roles.
And then you’ll have the so-called “independent women” who are independently living off of anyone and everyone else. What makes this so bad is that they know that they could not do it on their own, but the pride of being status quo won’t let them show any appreciation for the help they do get. Or, she will act like it’s owed to her. Honestly a self-sufficient guy would not mind helping his woman come up to self-sufficient status; as long as love is shown he’ll keep it coming. It’s not demeaning to ask for help, and it definitely doesn’t mean you owe him anything. It’s just for the simple fact that you’re a team trying to reach a common goal, together!
By: Tasmin Pepin-Perry
When I think of the independent woman I envision a woman who has a clear sense of “self”. Meaning she knows who she is. She is aware of how she is perceived by others and how she projects herself to the world. She is a God-fearing woman and she knows that humility can go farther than being conceited. She understands that being independent is not about screaming from the mountain top that “You don’t need a man!” However, she agrees that a man isn’t a necessity to her happiness, but if he’s the right man, he’s an addition to the fulfillment she already feels in life. She values loyalty, generosity, compassion, and honesty. She is driven by her passion whether it is her career, family, or faith, but she uses her passion to fulfill her purpose. She knows when it is important to be strong, but is aware when she should be soft. She is sharp edges as well as curves.
Claiming to be an independent woman can be good or bad depending on your definition and how far you take it. I don’t agree with the existing definition out there. The definition that I had previously mentioned on the Topic of the Week page. For me, I feel women do a disservice to themselves if we base our idea of the independent woman off of the need to prove we can take care of ourselves financially, physically, emotionally, and mentally in lieu of a man. Personally I see the independent woman as a mindset. My definition would be “A woman who is a free-thinker. She does not follow the status quo, the trend, or anyone else’s idea of who she should be and how she should live. Her decisions in life are based off of what is best for her at the time.” It’s a mindset based on the belief that women are capable of making intelligent decisions about their own life regardless of whether it is considered the “societal norm”.
To say a woman is an “independent woman” because she can financially take care of herself is a far stretch for me. For one, if any person is expecting to build a life for themselves they would have to be financially independent. It comes with being an adult. If that makes a woman independent it does the same for a man. For another, if you are an independent woman because you are financially independent than what are we telling those women who choose to be financially dependent on a significant other or spouse? Should they be less proud because they aren’t supporting themselves entirely on their own? I’ve heard women claim a woman who is dependent on a man financially is co-dependent and therefore cannot be independent. Let me give you the definition of co-dependent. Co-dependency is “when you are in a relationship with a person who is physically or psychologically ill and/or has an addiction and you are psychologically dependent on that significant other in an unhealthy way.” Nowhere in that definition does it say if a man financially supports you, than you are codependent. That is not what co-dependency is.
I say a woman who can wake up one morning, decide she doesn’t want to be a housewife, and go to work at a 9 to 5 is independent. She doesn’t need him to support her in the marriage. She is simply lucky to have a man who wants to and she lets him. Those are two very different ideas. Some women choose to let a man support them and others do not. The choice comes from independent thinking. Choosing what is best for yourself and your life goals. More power to the women who are housewives and take care of the household. That is not a job for everyone.
As for the idea that an independent woman takes care of herself emotionally, mentally, and physically. Of course she should be. That shouldn’t even be an idea that only comes along with being an independent woman. Emotional, mental, and physical health are highly important for anyone. The World Health Organization cites that women are two times more likely than men to develop certain mental health conditions like, depression, eating disorders, and panic disorders. The causes can range from lower serotonin levels than men (which contribute to fluctuations in mood), sociocultural influences and beliefs, and the objectification of the female body (which leads to self-esteem and self-image issues). In turn your emotional health is affected because your mental state has been altered. One does not exist without the other. As for physical health the CDC cites that from January-September 2015, 30.6% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over were obese. The prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults aged 20 and over increased from 19.4% in 1997 to 30.6% in January–September 2015. With these distressing numbers I would hope that as a woman or man you are taking care of your health. This is another aspect of being an adult.
Now for the part that has always bothered me. I continuously have heard women, my girlfriends even, make statements that they don’t need a man because they were taught they could become successful on their own. While I agree with the fact that as women we are completely capable of obtaining our own success. It’s not about needing a man. It’s about having a healthy relationship with a man. Sometimes I think we get in our own way as women when it comes to relationships when we think of it as an us versus them scenario. Most men that I’ve met value strong, passionate, driven women. My father is a perfect example of one. We may not agree on everything, but he values every ounce of input I give out and he has never made me feel belittled.
I understand that in the workforce or the “hustle game” we as women have to prove ourselves, and most often we are proving ourselves to men. We have to prove we’re just as competent, intelligent, experienced, trustworthy, and talented as any man we work with. Trust me I get it. As a woman who works in the corporate world in the banking industry I’ve had my share of moments where my skill level has been looked over because the male executive felt that a man in the position could get more accomplished. In turn that has made me more aggressive in the workplace. But that is exactly where that aggression should stay. I should not be carrying that home with me, especially if I’m in a relationship. It’s something I have personally struggled with and I’m not too proud to say I’m working on.
Let me make something clear. I was never taught the idea of the independent woman as we know her now. My mother never told me that I didn’t need a man to accomplish my goals. She never based my accomplishments off of whether I did it with or without a man. She raised me to believe in myself, to value my own ideas and opinions, and work hard for everything that I wanted. She taught me that a man is an asset and not a hindrance. That a man who truly supports me, in any way I see fit for him to, would not view me solely as a woman who he NEEDED to help. He would view me as an individual with her own opinions, ideas, wants, and needs and he would do his best to aid me in reaching my goals if ever I ASKED for help. Sometimes we as women spend so much time battling outside of home we forget to turn the battle off when we get home. He is not the enemy. He never was. Just because he’s doing what comes natural to him (i.e. wanting to be the provider, solve your problems, etc.) doesn’t mean it comes from a malicious place.
I’m tired of hearing women, successful women at that, state men “ain’t shit”. We have to take some accountability for the choices we make when it comes to the men we pick. We will not choose the right man on the first try. However, if we pay attention to what character traits we disliked about our previous relationships and steer clear of those, we have a better opportunity to get it right the next time. No man is going to be a hundred percent what you want. We as women have to decide what we will take from a man and what is a deal breaker and stick to them. We also have to get rid of the idea of “settling” being taboo. It might just be because I don’t define settling the same as others that I don’t find it a taboo word. For me it’s accepting the person I’ve chosen to share my life with for who they are. If you have gotten so far into a relationship that you have surpassed the six month mark (which I think is enough time to have delved beneath the surface) and you reach the one year mark, but all of a sudden you start to realize that some of the traits and characteristics he has you don’t like, at that point you can’t think you “settled” (by today’s definition). What that says to me is that you weren’t sure of what you were looking for to begin with so you thought you’d test drive the model to see if it works for your life. You will settle at some point because he will not be perfect, so this “he ain’t shit” phrase has got to go. It takes two to build a healthy relationship, not just one.
I personally believe you can be independent, but also submissive while in a relationship. Oh and by the way, submission is not a bad thing. The definition is not entirely what you have seen and read in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books or film. There are many ways to be submissive and it’s not always about obedience as some would like to think. Patience, accommodation, deference (being respectful), and being humble are all components of being submissive. Things we as women already are capable of. It isn’t wrong to let a man lead in the household. At times it can even be a relief. Why would you want to come home and go to war when you’ve already been fighting a different war all day? As my college friend Ana White once said “The key to a good partnership is that a man will lead you in a way that you feel empowered to run YOUR household appropriately under his vision.”
Let’s face it women are the harshest critics that there are. I know there will be those who read this and think how horribly wrong I am. That’s ok. I have my opinion, you have yours, and they don’t have to match up. We don’t lead the same lives or have the same goals so our views will be different. If this, however, does make you think outside of your own view than I’ve done what I set out to do. I am not trying to persuade you that my view on the independent woman is the correct view. I am also not trying to tear down other women who believe the opposite of me. I am simply stating my opinion on the matter. However, what I am trying to do is allow an embracing of all of the different types of independent women that there are. I am only one of many. So the next time you meet a woman who claims to be an independent woman and her definition doesn’t match up to yours, don’t tear her down. Embrace her version of independence. For we are a sisterhood and there is enough against us that we shouldn’t be against each other.