Tyler Perry recently went online and shared his wisdom regarding black women and romantic relationships. According to him women, though he means Black women, need to lower their standards. He talked about how Black women are making more money than black men and therefore it’s unrealistic to hold out for a man who earns more than you. His advice? If there’s a ‘good man’ who cares about you and can only pay the electric bill, you should say yes to him. Live with this man and take care of every other expense from the mortgage/rent to food to childcare and everything in between. Otherwise, you risk ending up alone and is there anything worse than being sans a man? Let’s examine his advice a little closer.
Why is all advice directed at women?
For some reason, most relationship advice is directed at women. It’s always about what women are doing wrong, what they are not doing at all but should be, and what they could stand to improve on. There’s no shortage of relationship advice geared at women. Tyler Perry, a man continues in this tradition of talking at women. I think a great rule of thumb for men everywhere is to talk to other men. Women have endured generations of being talked at by men in a patriarchal society. If you have the wisdom to dispense re: heterosexual relationships, talk to the other half, the men, and resist the impulse to talk at women. We’ve had enough of that, historically if nothing else.
Why do men imagine they know what women want?
Tyler Perry’s message is underpinned by the belief that black women desperately want male companionship, black male companionship. He also imagines he knows what women want from men, in this case, a good man. Men and women do not define a good man in the same way. Consider something like emotional intelligence and vulnerability. Women rate this highly, men not so much. Men like Tyler Perry have no idea what women want, they also don’t define things like women do. What a man considers a good man is rarely what a woman would consider a good man.
Why is it always women who must settle?
Tyler suggests that women adjust their expectations. He implies it’s unrealistic to hold out for a man who out-earns you and suggests black women settle for the good man who is available. First of all, what is with this artificial scarcity and underlying fearmongering? Men are not running out. Second, why is it women who must adjust their expectations downwards? If indeed black women are out-earning black men in the United States, why is he addressing black women and not black men who find themselves on the wrong side of this issue?
Tyler could have easily chosen to advise black men to shed patriarchal views that place the pressure of providing on men. He could have told them to detangle their sense of self and self-worth from their wallets. He could have easily encouraged them to step up in other ways. He could have said, if your female partner is the primary breadwinner, you can find other ways to contribute, contribution is not always financial. He could have pointed at stay-at-home moms and how indispensable their labour contribution is to the success of their partners and their families. He could have told them to do better, all while elevating stay-at-home moms who are often denigrated, and their work devalued. Instead, he suggests black women expect less. What nonsense.
What do relationships look like when women are the primary breadwinners?
In a society in which your value as a human being is linked to your financial wealth, not having money is one of the worst things that can happen to you. This linkage of your sense of self and wealth is even worse for men in a patriarchal society. So men who are poor or broke are somehow not manly enough. Being a man is having money and power and when you don’t have that, you’re basically a woman. This is the feminization of poverty.
So what does it look like when you’re a woman with more money than your male partner? Because you have the money, it’s assumed you have the power. This makes men feel powerless and weak, they end up insecure. Research finds that men’s self-esteem suffers and they become more uncomfortable and stressed when women earn more than them and the chances of divorce increase. You can only imagine how much fun living with a perpetually insecure and stressed-out man is. It’s no surprise that the divorce rates are higher. One study even found that when women earn more than men, the men are more likely to cheat.
Should you get married if all you can afford is the light bill?
The way heterosexual relationships are structured, men are supposed to bring the money, and women are supposed to do the rest. That’s how the roles are divvied out. Women take on the housework, childcare, emotional labour, and everything else in between. What happens when the woman also has to bear the financial burden? You would assume that because it’s a partnership, the man would take on the traditionally female-coded roles and you would be wrong. Women who earn more than their husbands still do more of the housework. In fact, when they outearn their husbands they do even more housework than they did before. So what you’ll have in this situation is a woman bearing all the burden related to survival while the man comes along for the ride.
I’m convinced that a man who loves you, even a little will not subject you to that. They will not marry you or move in with you thus increasing your financial stress. They just won’t. Black women have to deal with too many societal hurdles from racism to misogynoir for a man who loves you to make himself one more thing you need to support and worry about.
Marriage is and always was an economic arrangement. Even though it’s couched in the language of love now, it still has significant economic implications. To ignore that is to engage in aggressive self-deception. There’s nothing wrong with women making these considerations in a capitalist society. Plus, black women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. When they get with men who can’t support the family, they are judged for picking wrong. When they hold out for financially secure men who can support the family, they are called golddiggers. There’s just no winning.
Why won’t Tyler Perry address the cause of black men’s poverty?
If according to Tyler Perry, too many good black men can only afford the light bill, why is this case? Why won’t he talk about what has led to this? If that’s the case, then we have a serious problem. All those black men represent working people who cannot afford to live without having someone’s income supplement theirs. That’s a serious enough issue without suggesting black women engage in missionary marriages. Why won’t he talk about things like policing and the prison industrial complex and how black men are disproportionately victimized hampering their chances of getting gainful employment? Why won’t he talk about workers’ exploitation and how unconscionable it is that someone should work and at the end of it only be able to afford to pay for the light bill and a few dates? Why won’t he talk about running inflation and an impossible cost of living? Why won’t he talk about patriarchy and misogyny and how difficult it is for men to live peaceably with women who out-earn them?
If he cares about black men and black people even a little bit, he should concern himself with digging deeper to get to the heart of the issue. The thing is he doesn’t care even a little bit about black men, black women, or the community at large. All he cares about is reminding black women to know their place and not reach too high. All he cares about is maintaining the status quo. Women have done the whole settling thing before, it doesn’t work. Women are demanding more than ever from men and going so far as to opt out if they don’t get what they want. I think Tyler Perry knows and sees this and he’s trying to get ahead of it. Except it’s too late. Women are rejecting patriarchal notions that see you as valuable only to the extent that you’re desirable to men. Women are choosing themselves even if it means not getting men. Women are deliberately divesting from men.
Tyler Perry, a billionaire is too wedded to the patriarchy and the exploitative capitalist system to care about black women or the black men who are not winning the capitalist game. For this and many more reasons, nobody should be taking life advice from him.
Here is what he said.
To All The Men With Advice For Women About How To Keep A Man
Relationships: Why Feisty Women End Up With Mediocre Men
Opinion: Marriage Is Not About Happiness
Opinion: Your Wife Is Not Your Family Or Relative
Opinion: On Men Have Needs And Women Withholding Sex