I was in a long distance relationship with this awesomely amazing guy for almost a good year. And through the entire duration of our relationship, we only got to meet and see each other once despite the fact that we only stayed more or less 400km away from each other. These circumstances bothered me greatly because I value my quality time and face-to-face interaction in my relationships. But in this particular relationship I was deprived of that, and whenever we had to meet or had made plans to be together, something would conveniently come up on his side and we’d have to postpone indefinitely. The relationship could no longer handle the strain. Communication was beginning to dwindle terribly. We could not have crucial conversations because of the distance. And I too had also reached my quota of being okay with not seeing my partner as often as I would like and progressively working on our relationship, so I decided to call it quits.
So this one day he contacts me, we get into a “post-break-up” conversation, with him asking me if this is it between us. He opened up to me and told me about the real reason as to why he kept postponing our meetings. His exact words were as follows, “I never wanted to come meet with you without having proper finances, I know the pain of not being able to provide for the one you love, it is an embarrassment”.
“…men are expected to prove and perform their manhood and masculinity by how well they can provide..”
I resented him for this. I resented him for letting money come between and hinder the blooming of our relationship. I deeply resented him for the fact that our relationship would have been something if he had allowed me to help where I could financially, but he would not let me. Being the man and perfectionist that he was it was either he goes big when we meet, or he stays home. But the feeling that held the most weight after he said what he said was that of heartbreak. My heart utterly broke for him because a huge part of him firmly holds on to the idea that as a man he is ought to be able to prove to his partner that he can provide for them although that is not an expectation that they ever placed on him.
And that’s the sad reality of our society; men are expected to prove and perform their manhood and masculinity by how well they can provide not just for themselves, but for those around them. If a man is incapable of playing the role of provider, he often questions his worth, and society sees him as less than and not man enough.
“The patriarchal system does not only oppress us as women, but it also places absurd, rigid ideas of what masculinity is and men are severely punished and mocked for not embodying them.”
A month or so ago, I saw a sombre Twitter thread of a young lady talking about her uncle who suffered from depression after losing his job and not being able to find more work. Thie situation got to him to the point of committing suicide because he no longer felt like a useful member of his family since he could no longer provide for them. The painful thing is that this narrative is nothing new or out of the ordinary. I’m sure if we looked we would find countless stories of men who took their lives because they were unemployed, or family members bashing them for being good for nothing men because they bring nothing to the table i.e. money.
It is for these reasons, why I am so passionate about the dismantling of patriarchy in its entirety. The patriarchal system does not only oppress us as women, but it also places absurd, rigid ideas of what masculinity is and men are severely punished and mocked for not embodying them. Patriarchy is an oppressive yoke that needs to be done away with because it is burdensome to both women and men, although in different ways.
” But what do we do with the men who do not have the typical “male-privilege” markers of financial security? Ostracise them from the dating pool because “ain’t nobody got time for broke ass niggers”? “
My feminism does not in any way allow me to fight against the sexism towards women while being silent and perpetuating the discrimination experienced by men. My personal politics do not permit me to fight for my autonomy in my romantic relationships with the opposite sex by rejecting pre-assigned gender roles while I still want to unrelentingly insist my boyfriend or husband provide for our family and me just by him being male. For me, this is a great contradiction even more so when my pool of prospective partners is limited to black men. I mean, the white-supremacist, capitalist system is already rigged against us both by virtue of being black. And for me as a black woman to pretend as if financial freedom and comfort is something that a black man can quickly attain or have it handed to him on a silver platter would be a great hindsight on my part.
We need to remember that as women, when we place such a burden on men, that they too are not immune to structural inequalities. I believe that both partners in any relationship should have the freedom to be undone and be a work in progress. Life is hard for everyone and in so much men are always praised for being the so-called stronger sex, they too should be allowed to show supposed weakness and not be vilified for it. Sure, it is an undebatable fact that in our current society, men (including black men) are more financially well-off than us women, read black women. But what do we do with the men who do not have the typical “male-privilege” markers of financial security? Ostracise them from the dating pool because “ain’t nobody got time for broke ass niggers”?
“Can you as a man provide me with respect, care and loyalty? Can you provide me with the support I value and desire to realise my dreams and potential as an individual? Because that’s the only provision that I have ever appreciated from a man.”
I know how wonderful it is, the idea of having a man who has the car, the house, the five figure salary, the envied job and all. You are not going to walk yourself into a lifelong, miserable life of abject poverty. But maybe that’s the problem, why is the financial security of the home solely placed on the man? What am I bringing to the table as the women? Why is it not a matter of let’s both actively work together better our home, feed our family and make sure that we are comfortable? Why is it the man who must pay lobola and prove to his family and potential in-laws that he is capable i.e. “monied enough” to take care of his family? (Yes, women are also expected to perform their marriageability, I tackle this in one of my old posts, How Women Are Taught to Chase after Men and Marriage) .
“I never want to place myself in a position where a man feels that he owns me because he gives me money to survive to some extent. This is why for the life in me, I cannot ever get myself to ask a guy I’m in a relationship with for money.”
I am 23 turning 24 in July. I am currently unemployed. I have no car, I still live under my grandmother’s roof and still fully rely on the little pocket money that my mother generously gives me. It’s not where I want to be or envisioned myself to be at this age. So considering that the guys I date are within the same age range as I am, it is quite ridiculous for me to have the expectation for them to have their lives together when I, myself do not. And even if I did have my life together, as society may define it, financial provision is not something I value from a man. You can have the money but can you provide me with love? Can you as a man provide me with respect, care and loyalty? Can you provide me with the support I value and desire to realise my dreams and potential as an individual? Because that’s the only provision that I have ever appreciated from a man.
My other inhibition from seeing a man as a source of financial security for me comes from valuing my independence. I hold firmly to the idea that as women we are ought to create and define our own success and make our own money without the slightest dependency and push from a man. For centuries, our foremothers never had this privilege; they stayed in loveless, oppressive marriages because where will she and the children go? What will they eat, because patriarchy was so rife then, therefore, men had all the property rights. So, I never want to place myself in a position where a man feels that he owns me because he gives me money to survive to some extent. This is why for the life in me, I cannot ever get myself to ask a guy I’m in a relationship with for money. I know I like nice things, and arguably have an expensive taste, but I just cannot, and neither do I expect him to meet my needs and wants out of obligation or demand merely because “You are the man”.
I feel that our mode of approaching and doing relationships hinders us from truly experiencing the fullness and beauty of love. We see each other as utilities to make life more convenient for us i.e. where the man wants a woman to feed and clean up after him & the woman desires a partner who will provide for her. Relationships are premised on “how can you improve my life?” rather than, “what can I do to support and show up for you as my partner because I love you and desire to serve you in a way that makes us both better off? “. It is simply for this reason why I loathe presupposed gender roles in relationships; they allow no room for compromise and individuality.
Finally, I hope we will build a society that raises men who do not embody toxic ideas of masculinity that not only harm the women around them but also suffocate them. Men who will create and find their own sense of worth and value outside of what society deems as externally valuable from them. That we will raise up sons, who are not viewed as financial plans but seen as treasured individuals who are capable of bringing so much more than and monetary provision and value to their relationships.