Before you read further, please read this first: The Woman Every Man Needs. Thank you.
When I wrote that piece a few years, I was quite overwhelmed by the response. It seemed that people were genuinely touched by the sentiment of what I was trying to convey which was simply, a thank you to all women who sacrifice so much for the men in their lives while the said man builds himself in terms of their career.
Yet, there was a common thread in many of the responses that I have never been able to shake off. There seems to be a belief that when this man, for whom the woman has sacrificed so much for, when he finally “arrives” at a certain level of success he will then leave the woman. In varying degrees of anger, frustration, scorn, and ridicule, the response, as a friend put it, goes something like this:
“Actually, a lot of these women are left behind when his name is in lights. And the yellow bone kids come out to play… These women become forgotten figments of years gone by…”, a friend commented.
The certainty of this response has always confused me. I think I get it now, if a materially successful man leaves a woman he has been with since before the affluence, then it is due to his flawed character, corrupted by his incapacity to see the value in the woman who “built” him, all the while being mesmerized by the un-tanned thighs of seemingly lesser youth. Their relationship does not end because, well, relationships sometimes do end because, sometimes, people grow apart. No, men leave relationships because they are salacious predators who live on the thrill of the hunt.
On the other side of the field of generalized assumptions, it is impolite to assume that a well-off woman would leave a broken man because of her own selfishly materialistic reasons. No, it is more fitting to presume that she has spent many years trying to “help him get on his feet” and well, he just didn’t get his sh*t together so, after many sleepless nights contemplating her breakup, she took the last sip of lemonade and she left, genuinely broken-hearted yet unwilling to become the woman she saw her mother being reduced to because of the man her father was. Or something similar to that. Her stride out the door will be solemn, yet fierce.
What of the broke man who leaves a well-off woman? Well, he’s spineless worm and wasn’t really man enough to handle a strong woman. It is not that he recognized that this belief that we are all raised with that women are the undying martyrs of relationships is a self-fulfilling prophecy and he actually doesn’t want her to sacrifice herself for him because he’d rather let her live without his love than to see her die for it. Because sometimes a man does recognize that he is not the right man for her. But this is way too far fetched to ever be true, it sounds like something out of 90’s RnB song. You can’t defend a black who leaves a black woman.
Never underestimate the power of women’s ability to sympathize with other women. To suffer in solidarity with each other. To be pained by association. Most men who have witnessed this from a female friend, acquaintance, or girlfriend:
Her: Why are MEN like this?
Her: My friend’s boyfriend did such and such.
Him: But what do MEN have to do with that?
Her: Because that’s what men do!
Him: But, has any man you have ever been with done that you?
Her: No. But…
At times, it will happen that the pain you inflict on the woman you are with may seem like a minor cut, yet, it is one that undoes years of stitches that she has so painstakingly sewn herself back together with. From deeper wounds inflicted by another man from a different relationship; a boyfriend, an uncle, a cousin, a total stranger. The knife he used to was a rusted, twisted idea of what being a man is. Nevertheless, he was a man, as you are and the only difference between you and him seems to be time. You can’t defend a black man for the pain that he didn’t cause.
In the times that we are living in, the black woman is being crushed by the debilitating weight of institute of injustice. Violated from every side by patriarchy, white privilege and, perhaps heartbreakingly so, the violation of a black woman’s sanctity is caused by the black man’s hypocritical complicity in his actions or, even sadder, his inaction. There are stats to prove it; 1 in 4 women is likely to get raped.
There are, however, stats that I have never, namely; how many men commit rape? Is it 1 in 4? 2 in 4? Or is it better to assume all of them have that capacity, just to be safe? But, I am wrong. I can’t ask such. The very concept of “Not All Men…” is an insult most vile to all the women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of men. When all black women do not feel safe, then all black men are guilty. You can’t defend black men who don’t rape.
Elderly mothers are sleeping in cold beds while Fathers are turning the young girls that they are supposed to be guiding into prostitutes soiling cheap hotel sheets. Many young mothers in the hood are left to wrap her bundle of joy and walk alone to the clinic. She glances briefly at the house with the backroom where she was asked, “can I just put the head in”. That was the last whisper she heard from him. Middle-aged, educated and career driven women in complexes have not escaped this fate, although in this case the young’n is strapped in his sleek booster seat at the back of her convertible. Fatherhood seems to be a broken system.
I have been staying alone with my son for several years. I have learnt that a man staying with his child is vastly different from a woman who stays with her child. For one, you are more of a gimmick, a statistical fluke. Also, it is more PC to say that a man is a primary caregiver and a woman is a single parent. If a man is raising his child or speaks about it, there is an assumption that he is fishing for compliments, that he is doing it for as his ego or for spite and, “why should you congratulated for doing something you ought to be doing?” It doesn’t matter that father aren’t actually looking for props, they just want their child to be healthy and happy. Nonetheless, if a man is raising his child then “it serves him right”. Single mothers exist because men are flawed creatures. Besides, “you probably have your mother or someone helping you, so it doesn’t count”, because you still have the economics of patriarchy going for you. You can’t defend black men who are raising their children.
Photography: Gugulethu Mlambo