The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing. One watched the lives they led. One could not be fooled about that; one watched the things they did and the excuses that they gave themselves, and if a white man was really in trouble, deep trouble, it was to the Negro’s door that he came. And one felt that if one had had that white man’s worldly advantages, one would never have become as bewildered and as joyless and as thoughtlessly cruel as he. The Negro came to the white man for a roof or for five dollars or for a letter to the judge; the white man came to the Negro for love. But he was not often able to give what he came seeking. The price was too high; he had too much to lose. And the Negro knew this, too. When one knows this about a man, it is impossible for one to hate him, but unless he becomes a man – become equal – it is also impossible for one to love him.
~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
I do not mean to be sentimental about suffering – enough is certainly as good as a feast – but people who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are. That man who is forced each day to snatch his manhood, his identity, out of the fire of human cruelty that rages to destroy it knows, if he survives his effort, and even if he does not survive it, something about himself and human life that no school on earth – and, indeed, no church – can teach. He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakable. This is because in order to save his life, he is forced to look beneath appearances, to take nothing for granted, to hear the meaning behind the words. If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by a fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne.
~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Over the past few years I have come to the realization that the feminist agenda has become the death of femininity. The essence of womanhood is buried deeper and deeper into rhetoric and nonsense with each new political agenda women and men dream up regarding equality between the sexes.
When I was younger, I screamed for equal rights and recognition as loudly as the next woman. However, as I have grown and matured in my womanhood, I realize that there is nothing about manhood that I want or aspire to be. I have come to view the feminist political agenda as a battle cry for aspiring to maleness.
I am not equal to man. Nor do I want to be viewed as such. I am not interested in being slapped on the back, punched in the face or wrestled to the floor. I am not interested in nose to nose combat or shoulder to shoulder competition for rewards that appeal to men. I AM A WOMAN. I was created purposefully and significantly different from a man. I function differently. I think differently. I desire differently. I pursue differently. I plan differently. I live differently. Women and men are different beings. That is okay.
No man is my equal. No man can nurture and birth life within their body. Manhood is a completely different process and experience than womanhood. No man is going to understand firsthand the monthly flow of my blood or the ache of my breasts. No man can fully empathize with my swelling or my birthing. Nor can any man fully appreciate all my concerns about pregnancy – the ability to become pregnant, capability of carrying a healthy child to term, the timing of pregnancy, location of birth and considerations of how to bring a child into the world – in a hospital medicated into oblivion, or cut open to accommodate a doctor’s schedule or someplace focused on my peace of mind and spirit. Women have a creative power that is fed from a spiritual well. And we are losing touch with our true selves with each successive generation that buys into the “think-like-a-man/be-like-a-man” foolery.
Women have a different seat of power than men do, which leads to a different expression of power than men have. We’ve been throwing away our power because we think what men have is so much better. It’s not. Men depend on us much more than we depend on them. Ask one. Then ask follow-up questions. His love or his hate of womanhood is going to be rooted to a woman who was prominent in his life and therefore had great influence in the man he has become.
American women have allowed themselves, and men in general, to minimize the importance of family. The woman is the true power in the home and the man is the natural authority. Why has this become so abhorrent? Power and authority when joined together is magnificent. Women are the incubators and birthers of generations. Yet we have allowed the deterioration of society to make us feel as if we are only sexual organs, paychecks and a vote. That’s what a strict adherence to feminist political theory has gotten us. We’ve degenerated ourselves, yet we are looking to men to build us back up. We have the power to recreate our public image and we are more than capable of doing so.
Women have the power to change how we are represented in the media and the substance of our representation via entertainment. More and more we have delegated the raising of our children to society-at-large, entertainment, schools, neighborhoods, friends and extended family. We lament about a disconnected society without acknowledging that we disconnected from our homes first. The family is the first unit of society. When we disregard our power and influence within our family (with our spouse, children and other family relationships) we are also disregarding our power and influence in larger society circles.
The former head of my department at work implemented what he called the “two-partner” approach to problem solving. He encouraged his managers to call on each other to talk through difficult or complex issues. He assured them that the process of talking through the problem would yield perspectives and solutions that the solo person never would have considered.
In the single female world, we call our girlfriends when we need to two-partner. But I’ve come to learn that girl talk is still one-sided as it is only a female perspective. I’ve also come to realize I have long been at a disadvantage without a male perspective to two-partner through issues with.
But God is good. This has been an exceptionally difficult year, but I can look back and see where God provided male voices I could hear, trust and listen to. As I sit here and write, I am exceptionally happy for their words of concern and guidance.
Usually, I am quick to say that I don’t have any male friends, but as I review this post, I see that there have been men who have stood as a friend to me in various situations through the years. They may not be a daily presence in my life, but when they have shown up, they have been fully present for me in that moment. This year, God has allowed some solid men to offer their voice to some of my decisions, dilemmas and transitions, and I must say I’ve been lapping up their words, suggestions and guidance with the eagerness of a leaderless scout following a glowing arrow in the woods.
A couple of years ago, I sat in on some small group Bible studies with an out-reach pastor in the City. Last spring, I sought him out before I left for Israel because I had some concerns and questions that I really needed to talk through. He was a good person to “two-partner” with regarding my desire to go to Israel and all the associated concerns. He asked for a follow-up meeting upon my return and from there we began meeting every other week to discuss any other Biblical topics or themes that came to mind. He has been a blessing. I had prayed long and hard for someone to discuss and explore the Word of God with. Our one-on-one Bible meetings have been incredibly thought provoking and edifying for us both. More than that, knowing that he’s a traditional Bible teacher who doesn’t believe women should be heard from in the assembly of the church (i.e. he quotes 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which says women should be silent in the church and ask their husbands questions at home regarding the teachings) added a very interesting layer to our conversations. To be told by a pastor, who’s been teaching for thirty years, that our discussions have him looking at the Word from different angles encourages me to continue to speak in faith even when entering a conversation with someone who has different viewpoints; when the Holy Spirit is present, understanding will come.
On the work front, there’s a former colleague who’s been going through huge family growth and transition since we first met three years ago. He provided a voice of reason when I shared thoughts about a cross-country move in the late spring. Based on his experience as a husband and father, he suggested options and scenarios that never crossed my mind. He shared the things he considered when he and his wife made their first big move and when he moved his young family more recently. It was quite eye-opening, hearing the things a man thinks about in such a situation, especially because my own decision to relocate was completely based on my emotions. Sharing with him and hearing his feedback grounded me in a way that I couldn’t manage to ground myself. At the end of our conversation, I said with a little bit of awe, “I really need my own husband; you guys are awesome!”
Over the summer, I was able to connect with an old friend who proved to be a great support in the past. We hadn’t spoken in a while, but from the word, “Hey” it was laugh-therapy with quite a bit of sharing about how our worlds and focus have changed over the years. We spoke about our current challenges and the hopes that were sustaining us. It was nice to “two-partner” with someone who knows how I think and can understand my conclusions without a drawn-out personal history lesson for background. We just jumped right into the listening, guidance and support portions of the conversation. As always, I was uplifted by the exchange.
There was another co-worker who, for well over a year, heard my gripes, joys and hopes on a regular basis. He listened with attentive ears and offered very insightful council. And more often than not, he shared his own gripes, joys and hopes as well. We were both cheerleaders and receivers to one another – often times in the same conversation.
This fall, I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a social brother I rarely see. We had something of a public disagreement last year via social media. We made up, in a way, via other forms of media. Since then, we’ve seen each other a couple of times in groups and got along well. But when we ran into each other a few weeks ago, he made a point of telling me that my public rebuke “had him feeling some kind of way”…. Even though he understood why I did it and acknowledged that a rebuke may have been necessary, he said he wished I would have pulled him to the side and said my piece offline. I thought about it. I heard him, really I did. I briefly defended myself by stating that I responded to the offense in the same forum that I received it. Then I assured him that, in future, I would endeavor to keep any criticisms for private conversation.
I don’t know about you, but that was huge for me. I’ve been telling people for years that you have to teach people how to treat you. The same holds true for me – I have to be taught how to respond to individuals in a constructive way for my relationship with them. Some people don’t pay attention to my bluntness. Other’s pay attention, but don’t care. Then there are those who hear and care, but would appreciate a softer word to respond to. The fact that we “two-partnered” our own relationship was enlightening and encouraging. What I took away from our conversation was the need to pay more attention to the masculinity in the man. To treat a man’s masculinity as something I wish to nurture rather than destroy.
Last in this short list of men who have given me a taste of two-partnerhood, is the neighbor who speaks to me so comfortably about some of his troubles that his wife has two-partnered with me a couple of times regarding him. He speaks to me of things his wife has told him (and me) that she has no interest in talking to him about or she doesn’t otherwise want to hear. I’m not suggesting this is a good practice to allow or encourage, however, I have learned a valuable lesson from them: I pray that when I marry, I learn to have an open ear and heart for my husband always. I pray I don’t become a woman who poisons the well of communication in my marriage.
The men briefly profiled here have provided positive examples of manhood for me over the past seven years. Looking back on what I’ve learned from my interactions with them, I am able to see that God heard my cry and answered my supplication in my book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey, where I wrote a great deal about how I had no positive examples of marriage while growing up. Throughout the book, it was evident that there was an early and long struggle for me to respect many of the males who had impacted my early life. In my early experience, men did not act like men and I saw no need to treat them as if they were. By the time I published My God and Me, I had disposed of all that worn-out baggage and was looking for better experiences for my life.
Now, as I look back on what I term an “exceptionally difficult year”, I see an exceptional shift in my preparation for marriage. God has seen fit to connect me to men whose masculinity is tempered with compassion, humor, vulnerability and wisdom. He connected me to men who communicate and follow-through on their care and concern for my well-being.
I no longer see the negative representatives of manhood from my early life when I think of the man I will partner with. I see a collage made of:
Men who want to be husbands Men who truly want to become fathers Men who are actively caring for their children Men who are dedicated leaders in their home Men who work hard to provide for their family Men who want to communicate with their wife Men who want to share their real selves – the good, the bad and the ugly – with their wife Men who actually want to be MEN – with all the strength and vulnerability that entails
I see a man who will be a confidant, friend, guide, lover, motivator, protector, provider, supporter, visionary and more to this woman who wants to be the same and more to him.