Gender Roles and Expectations in Relationships

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Hello Keepers,

African Americans have faced many hurdles to achieving political power in the United States, among them slavery, Jim Crow and disenfranchisement.
Black women, in particular, have hit barrier upon barrier.

Women didn’t gain the right to vote in the U.S. until 1920, and even then Black people – women among them – still couldn’t vote in most of the South. In the 1960s, Black women helped organize the civil rights movement but were kept out of leadership positions.


Today, Black female mayors lead several of the biggest U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. Black women are police chiefs, gubernatorial candidates, and, in growing numbers, congresswomen.

The vice president-elect of the United States Sen. Kamala Harris breaks three centuries-old barriers to become the nation’s first female vice president, first Black vice president and first Black female vice president.


Now, Black women, who once had no chance of even voting for president – much less being president – see one of their own a step away from the Oval Office.

In light of all of these amazing accomplishments, I find that the conversation about gender roles and expectations is quite interesting and the commentary that I have received from both Men and Women is quite interesting.

Here are three major comments that motivated me to write this blog that I heard within the last year:

Comment # 1: I was at a ladies get together last summer (pre Covid) and one woman attendee who was in her 30’s and had been married for about 8 years was advising the rest of us women in the room that we should never consider marrying a man who makes less money than us, she considered it a bad decision all around.

Comment # 2: I was at an event this past summer (A Social Distance BBQ) and there was a gentleman who mentioned that his wife made 2X more money than him as a prominent LA Attorney and despite the fact that his marriage with her had been harmonious, there were still guests at the event who razzed him about being “2nd in Command” at home.

Comment # 3: I was with a lady friend of mine who mentioned that she had created an online dating profile and that she downplayed her actual job title so she would not “scare” potential suitors who may be intimidated by her success.

Okay, I believe we all get the gist of these comments: There is a lot we need to discuss as a community and think about:

  • There is still a perception about gender roles: Gender roles can be defined as the behaviors, values, and attitudes that a society considers appropriate for both male and female. Traditionally, men and women had completely opposing roles, men were seen as the provider/breadwinners and women were seen as the caretakers of the home.
  • As mentioned, Black women are making historical strides in leadership roles in all sectors of America.
  • 40% of Black households with children under 18 in the last forty years are led by a woman as a sole or primary breadwinner.

Here are my thoughts just based upon my life experiences and where I see things headed:

  1. The cost of living is not getting any cheaper, especially in Los Angeles where I live, and two incomes are needed for a variety of reasons: the mortgage payment, medical benefits, school expenses for children, and household repairs and expenses.
  2. Yes, Black women are in positions where they can and do make more than Black Men but let’s Keep it 100: Any job situation can change at any time with job transfers, layoffs, and maybe even when one spouse may start an independent business. The breadwinner can shift between the husband and wife throughout the marriage and decisions about the management of the money is a never ending discussion.
  3. Although I was raised in a two parent home, I still grew up in the era of the independent woman. For me this meant I could do and be anything and my future husband would be someone who would cherish my independence and still be a strong man. I had a relationship in the past where I worked so hard at trying to show my independence that I unconsciously emasculated a potential suitor. I am grateful that he communicated this with me as a basic human need is to be wanted and feel valued. I realized that by just including him in basic decisions I was making and getting his advice, gave him the space to be my knight in shining armor. I became more successful in my subsequent relationships because I kept this in mind.
  4. Men want to be respected and appreciated, when a man is given the space for this, he reciprocates with the spiritual and emotional support. Men are actually turned on by a woman who shows independence, and may make more money than him (Yes! There are those successful marriages out there!) and the right man will cherish our true authentic selves as long as he is not led to feel emasculated.
  5. Women want to be cherished and appreciated, and they want a man who continues to strive to be his best self. Many African American women make more than their husbands and the marriages have remained successful. In many ways, most African American Women are prepared to not have the expectation that a man will financially support them all the time, so by default, African American Women are also more resilient when a job situation changes for their husbands.

At the end of the day, relationships (and marriage) have become nontraditional and relationships do not look like our grandparents/parents’ marriage or what we saw on TV.

There are principals that my parents taught me about marriage, what religion taught me about marriage and then what I and my significant other will create in our marriage.

Life is unpredictable so all relationships will encompass the unpredictable experiences of life.

My New Motto is, “All Rules for Gender Roles Can Be Edited As Needed.”

Just Keeping it 100,

Stephanie

Picture Courtesy of howafrica.com

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