This post was catalyzed by my viewing Michael Baisden's show on Monday night. I knew ahead of time that Baisden was problematic, thanks to the incisive blogging analysis of Gina from What about our Daughters.
Still, I tuned in anyway figuring that I would see some Black folks and enjoy some political conversation about something other than church. I expected to hear about Black life, white racism, culture wars or something like that. Instead, I encountered yet another representation of the gender wars that plague all people but that seem to have a peculiar hold on Black folks. Baisden's subject: Are women too strong or are men too weak? Who's the boss? Who wears the pants? The panelists, whose names I did not investigate, can generally be recognized as Brother Dark Ages, Brother Progressive, and Sister Relationship Expert.
I won't go into all of the details about the conversation I heard before I turned off the TV to keep from hitting it with a hammer. I won't talk at length about the informal poll asking brothers whether strong women were "turn offs" or "turn ons," or Baisden's incredulity when brothers answered "turn on." Suffice it to say that even Brother Progressive felt compelled to announce emphatically that he "is and always will be the head of [his] house."
I was, in a word, demoralized. Apparently it really is impossible to shake the problematic, fallacious, and certainly sexist notion that the only time a sister should be in charge is when a brother cannot be found. Strong Black Woman comes to the rescue until a brother shows up to be The Head. Guess it was church politics, after all.
The scariest aspect of the Baisden show was the absence of a brother who would publicly defend his belief in gender equality and shared leadership in the Black family. When Brother Progressive seemed to be going in that direction, he immediately was forced by the scorn of the other men, especially Baisden, to affirm his manhood by positioning himself above his wife. A male friend, who is married, explained to me a few weeks ago that sometimes brothers are almost embarrassed when they are with a woman who is "too" accomplished. That's what I saw in Brother Progressive. Shame.
Here's my question: How will we ever have happy, constructive, mutually uplifting Black love relationships that lead to successful marriages and families if we spend all of our time competing with one another to be the boss? Alternatively, will we really be better off if one of us simply decides always to defer to the good but certainly fallible judgment of the other? Must leadership be so much a game of "Who's on top?" And if really successful relationships are based on sharing power, but Black men are too ashamed to say so, how will younger brothers ever know that it's okay?