Why Good, Black Women REALLY End Up Alone: A Guide For the Confused
(Response to essay by Joy Jones)
by Jamal Sharif
A friend recently forwarded me the article "Why Are Black Women Scaring Off Their Men: A Fighting Spirit Is Important - but Not at Home," written by Joy Jones. Although the article appeared over seven years ago in the Washington Post, the topic remains on the hotbed of debate, even today. In her article, Ms. Jones attempts to explain why many educated, intelligent, attractive, black women end up alone, despite their seemingly well-rounded qualifications. Jones begins her article declaring-
Have you met this woman? She has a good job, works hard earns a good salary. She went to college, got her master's degree; she is intelligent. She is personable, articulate, well read, interested in everybody and everything..Yet she is single.
In taking a good, hard look at herself - and other smart, successful women like her - she surmises that her fate is due to the fact that we independent sisters are "out of touch with our feminine side, and therefore, out of touch with our men." Jones' personal solution involves learning how to stop "competing with black men and to collaborate with them." After reading this article, many brothers, and some sisters, may stand up and shout Amen.
But hold on ya'll - not so fast. This piece may be crafted well enough to fool those who'd like to believe there is one simple explanation for the turbulence that surrounds black love, but it just 'aint so. If the prosecution has rested, let the defense take the stand.
Personally, Jones' article is disturbing. The type of woman Joy Jones describes respresents an extreme group, and their problems by no means represent those that face the majority of professional black women out there today. What is even more unsettling, is that this article, which was viewed by a large majority of white folks - presents a superficial, one-dimensional aspect of an issue that has many dynamics and complexities. The article gives way to African-American stereotypes that Caucasians buy into so quickly - that black women are, as the norm, overbearing, domineering and unloving, and that black men are weak and lacking; their egos so easily threatened by their women's assertive, confident behavior. Jones' article fails to pay homage to the variety of equally important issues that, do indeed, contribute to many black women ending up alone.
By Jones' own description, the type of women who are "scaring off their men" are self-absorbed, overly-ambitious, unbalanced, and ultimately, clueless. They have become obsessively involved in the church, the community, or their careers in the distorted hope that these activities will fill the void present in their lives. Jones adds that these women also "downplay, denigrate, or simply forget our more traditional feminine attributes" while going about their daily lives.
Well alright. I can certainly see why they don't have a man. These women have other underyling issues that prevent them from being able to participate in a healthy love relationship. They don't need a man, they need therapy. Quick. I can assure you, a healthy, balanced sister faces an entirely different dilemma.
As part of my opening argument, I'd like to begin with this. There is no simple formula for why black women often find themselves alone. I will be the first to admit that, as women, we are sometimes the creators of our own pain. Too often we rush into relationships, making poor and unhealthy choices, and wind up being hurt as a result. We then become a victim of our own A.S.S. - Angry Sista Syndrome - and begin blaming ourselves, and others, for our heartache. We begin to judge all men by the less than desireable ones we've encountered in the past, spewing venom about the evils of black men, seldom disposing of the baggage we seem determined to drag from one relationship to the next. A lot of us don't take the time to extract the valuable lessons we need to learn, never analyzing or taking responsibility for our part. Or sometimes, we begin to doubt ourselves, leading to our declarations that we must not be smart enough, thin enough, pretty enough, or, ahem - feminine enough.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have been faced with these issues, myself included. Still, for those women who have slain their internal demons and have learned to become the confident, secure, intelligent, and aspiring black women that God intended us to be - Ms. Jones' article 'aint worth the paper on which it's printed.
Case in point. Jones feels that many black women "have yet to discover that the skills that make one successful in the church, community, or workplace are not the skills that make one successful in a relationship." Really? What black woman alive doesn't know this? If she exists, please find her. She needs to be encased in glass and put on display, for she is a rare specimen in the history of black womanhood. Sisters have been hustling at the office and taking care of our men, concurrently and correctly, for years. Black women have the uncanny ability to do it all. Good sisters are well aware that while assertivesness and organizational skills are needed at the office, the tender and loving approach works better at home. I have yet to meet the woman who has not mastered, early on, which skills are needed in the corporate world to satisfy THE man, and which ones are needed to please HER man. Jones also adds that working, professional, women are often "too busy to prepare him a home-cooked meal." What she forgets to mention is, that while many of us delight in preparing such meals, a significant number of brothers forget to come home to eat it.
Order in the court.
As the defense, I hereby admit into evidence, Exhibit Number One. And you brothers - listen up.
We can be damn good women. But first, you've got to be damn good men.
Love, respect, and admiration from a black woman is something that must be earned. We no longer give it to you, simply for showing up. We want what we're entitled to, and we want it up front. Black women have deposited years of struggle, hope, and tears into loving black men, and by now, I had hoped we'd earned a little credit. So for pete's sake, cut us some slack.
The modern-day sister is in need of the same understanding and compassion that black men have been begging us for all these years. Black women have fallen victim to the same injustices brothers have. We've worked hard to do for ourselves. Today, we can make choices that determine the quality of our lives, unlike our great-grandmothers, who could sometimes aspire to do nothing greater than clean toilets, look after white folks' kids, or work in factories. We have busted our butts in the professional world, having to prove twenty times over that we are intelligent, capable, and deserve to be taken seriously. We have pursued educations and community activism in the desire to better ourselves and our people. Yet, Jones' relays that:
Many modern women are so independent, so self-sufficient, so committed to the cause, to the church, to career..that their entire personalities project an 'I don't need a man' message. So they endend up without one.
I don't know of one heterosexual, black woman - not one - who expresses that she has no desire for a positive, righteous brother in her life. Take note, Ms. Jones. At present, I am alone. However, I am alone by choice, and not due to any deficiency on my behalf. Of course I desire a man. But not just ANY man. And herein, lies the problem.
Like Jones, I am college-educated, well-read, and intelligent. I've been told that I exceed the average level of attractiveness. I'm witty, personable, and interesting, and I have a healthy sense of humor. I'm 100 percent in tune with my feminine side. I have no problem catering to a man, I can flirt without shame, and I can summon every feminine wile from the depths of my God-given, beautiful black womanly soul and use them at the blink of an eye. I know how to make a man feel like a king. Sadly enough, most men never learn of my treasures. Can anyone guess why?
Enter Defense Exibit Number Two.
Intelligent, confident, and secure black women have been labeled as "high maintenance," and it's true. We are extremely selective; we don't lavish a man with our gifts until we are convinced he deserves them. We are more challenging, we require more time, effort, and creativity. Quite often, we end up "alone" because a brother will choose a woman who doesn't require much from him; and he settles for what is easy and convenient. And brothers, just admit it - some of you simply don't want to work that hard. You want the benefits of having a Mercedes, by putting forth the effort required of a Yugo.
Many brothers want the perks without the responsiblities. They don't want to take the time to cultivate the basics that must be established before any workable, mature, rewarding relationship can grow. Some of them ARE just out for one thing. They are the ones so enthralled in trying to see the curve of our behind, they hardly notice that we can construct a compound sentence. In her article, Joy Jones says that "an interested man may be attracted but he soon discovers that this sister makes very little space for him in her life." Well, if the "interested man" is anything like the type described above, she's right - we 'aint got time. But instead of blaming us, perhaps that brother should take a closer look at himself.
And so, the good sisters wait. Instead of bemoaning the fact that we don't have a worthy man in our lives (believe me, the less than desireable ones are always present), we are content with volunteering our time to the community or the church in order to keep our lives meaningful and well-rounded - an asset a righteous man will admire, when one eventually rolls around our way. And he will. Secure black women, who aren't desperate, don't feel the need to throw themselves at any ole' thing that comes sauntering along. We know finding a good man takes time, just as it took time before we became the beautiful, strong, sexy women we are now.
I do, regrettably admit into evidence, Defense Exhibit Number Three. Some black women have contributed, in part, to our men's behavior. Black women have been famous for hanging on through the years, accepting sub-standard behavior, and willing to be the easy win. In turn, brothers have learned to count on it. When we make that change, and begin to expect what we rightfully deserve, we're seen as bitchy, difficult, and unloving. Black men don't want to deal with our "attitude."
To that, I say shame. Shame on brothers who say that we don't know how to love them, and shame on Joy Jones for trying to make us believe it. Shame on black men who benefit from the sacrifices sisters make, only to tell us it isn't enough. Shame on brothers who take part in the mistreatment of black women, and then deny any responsibility when they are faced with the results of it. Black men - it's time to own up. We know all about the conversations you have with your friends, highlighting how you "get over" on us. We've been lied to, cheated on, put down, smacked up, and thrown aside. Forgive us for being tired of it.
Brothers, have compassion for the black woman who is more difficult than you'd like her to be. Sit with her and really listen; she has a story to tell. She has been hurt. She has made her mistakes, and she has suffered from the mistakes of brothers who hadn't yet grown up when they met her. I'm sure there is a sister out there (or two or three or four) who's been affected by some of your mess, too. Do you care? Do you simply want to take from her whatever she's willing to give, ready to bail when things get hard or when it's time for you to reciprocate? Or do you want to take part in the solution, be willing to admit your own mistakes, and stand side by side with a black woman, toward a better future? The choice is yours. And the result, good or bad, is yours too.
In closing, I believe black men and women want to love each other, and I believe we can. We both must realize that a relationship is based on a mutual atmosphere of give and take, trust, and respect. We must appreciate and accept our various personality traits, which are also bound to affect any union. Both partners must be willing to sacrifice in favor of what's good for the relationship, not for the individual. And, if the goal is to work together, we need to look deeper than Joy Jones' article to find realistic solutions.
Contemporary sisters can't, and won't, do it alone. Brothers, when you're up to it, we're always ready to meet you halfway. You know a sista will work with you. Help us prove that when it comes to loving a black woman, there's nothing to be "scared" of. Besides, the good black men don't scare so easily.