Black Women, Tyrese Wants To Save You From Your Terrible Independence

For the past few weeks, as part of my project exploring black women, relationships and marriage, I’ve been immersing myself in books, films, blog posts and other media on the subject. Last week I read Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man and am still trying to wash off the film and stink of patriarchy. I told my husband over the weekend that I am unbelievably proud of black women. As a group we are able to hold our heads high in the face of the relentless narrative that there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed; that, for us, admirable qualities like independence, only make us more unlovable–a narrative not only championed by the mainstream, but, too often, by members of our own communities.

So, singer, actor and (God help us) author Tyrese decided to drop a little wisdom on the black lady folk during a recent interview with NecoleBitchie.com. He warns us about being “too independent”:

Huh.

There is nothing about the descriptor “independent” that is negative on its face, at least not based on Merriam-Webster’s definition above. My parents taught me to be independent. When I became old enough to drive, my father taught me how to check my tire pressure and oil and how to change a tire. I keep my AAA membership payed up, but I know if roadside service can’t get to me, I can take care of myself. To be independent is to be free. Because I can handle an auto emergency, I’ve felt free to crisscross the country on road journeys points southwest to northeast.

What could be wrong with being free? Nothing, unless, of course, you believe that it is not advantageous for women to be “not subject to control by others” or “not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood).” Would Tyrese caution men this way? Would he warn them against not needing women?

Sexism lies at the root of the actor’s monologue. In the regressive language of modern black relationship advice, it is not enough for a black woman to want a man deeply, with all her heart and soul. Male egos must always be fed with the idea that women are unfulfilled and incapable of living without a man. We must avoid being uneducated free-loaders, sayeth Tyrese, while being sure to remain needy and helpless enough to be attractive to men like him.

Tyrese’s “helpful” advice carries the condescension and arrogance typical of mansplaining, plus a dash of amorphous homophobia. What was that weird sidebar about homosexuality? No doubt, some ill-spoken repetition of the idea that gay black men harm black women’s marriage chances with their gayness. Silly.

But here’s another thing Tyrese’s advice is: racist. It is specifically black women who are singled out for some of the most dehumanizing and denigrating messages about their lovability and marriageability. Indeed, Tyrese directs his comment “especially” to black women. Our culture remains in a place where it is acceptable to assume black women, apart from other women, are intrinsically wrong and in need of correction. It is not just mainstream sources like ABC News that serve up “What’s wrong with black women?” programming. Black men like Steve Harvey, Tyrese and Jimi Izrael are getting in on the action. And no one blinks an eye.

Can you imagine comedian Jeff Foxworthy holding on to his largely white audience after penning a book and taking to the airwaves telling white women how their faults are keeping them single? Would Josh Duhamel, who appeared with Tyrese in Transformers, be getting many calls in Hollywood after, apropos of nothing, derailing an interview to to talk about how white women are too damned self-sufficient for their own good? Could Ira Glass say:

[White] women’s unrealistic standards are probably born of bedtime stories about handsome, rich men on majestic horses delivering damsels in distress. Girlfriends often tell similar apocryphal tales about the friend of a friend who nabbed a rich, hung sugar-daddy who saved them from a life of dishpan hands and lower-middle-class drudgery. Through the influence of popular media and the misguided advice they give each other, sisters combine these images and presumptions to draw a composite of a perfect [white] man.

…and keep his job at NPR? His coworker Jimi Izrael wrote that and more about black women, and he is not only featured on National Public Radio, but was excerpted on The Root, where he once penned a column.

Sexism is real for all women. But the combination of femaleness and blackness is particularly devalued, sadly, too often among even black men. Tyrese reveals his expectation that women must bend to meet male needs. I don’t see in the above video a man who values black women and loves them. I see a man concerned that black women might be too capable, too free. Independent women have options and demands, as men do. Independent women are choosy, as men are. A strong man has no problem meeting partners on an equal playing field, but a weak man needs a weaker partner to feel strong. Any man preaching against independence for women unwittingly lays himself bare.

Reprinted with permission from What Tami Said.

 

Comments

  1. @ZenMamaPolitic Luv this article- Exactly why I blocked Tyrese. Seriously. We go way back..but I can’t take his mis-use of Patriarchal Christianity, incessant babbling about what women need to do right, and his own particular-’Stank of patriarchy’; based upon the Intersections of Racism & Sexism. Thank Goodness I never even thought of following Steve Harvey on Twitter; or any other account. I can forgive the court ordered-(late)child support to is Ex-Wife. But ‘forced fatherhood’,'male chauvinism’,and ‘borderline racism’ …just simply have to go. ‘Baby Boy; needs a wake-up call.

  2. I’m in no way rushing to his defense, but I think that bit about homosexuality was in direct reference to what he said before that: that there are men that are “playing both sides of the fence,” which he describes as “confusing.” I don’t think he’s being homophobic — I think he’s just addressing the frustration of wanting to have a long term relationship with a man who is bisexual.

  3. I am so tired of black men trying to tell strong black women who are achieving great things on their own to slow down and depend more on men! Why!? We have so many black women going to college, getting that degree, putting that work in to have a successful career and you have so many black men refusing to do the same thing. Yet, those same men get angry when women want a similarly successful man to share their life with. What’s wrong with that? If you’ve put in the struggle to get better in life, why not expect that same commitment from a partner? There’s a lot of jealousy coming from some black men towards independent black women, so they try to make women feel bad about success! That’s absolutely crazy! Why would a smart lady want to wait for a man to buy her something when she can do it herself? That’s like a child waiting on daddy to buy her a toy. Independence is freedom and that’s everything!

    • Yes Shan!I also think these Black guys are afraid of Black women dating men outside their race.

    • Princess says:

      Shan, I agree with you. It is so frustrating to pay the sacrifice of self improvement and obtaining education or training that afford the “black woman” to self sufficient and then have a black man sitting on the sidelines loosing his grip as if you committed a crime. It is a sense of self insecurity and internalized guilt in my opinion that causes our men to behave in such a way. Why not keep it real and tell your ” black queen” that she is it and that she has inspired you. Well, the male ego I suppose does not yield to the conceputality that a woman can inspire me. Thanks for your post. Princess

    • Alfred Bly says:

      You missed the most important part of his speech. You will be successful and lonely, Keep in mind there are thousands of successful black men. Black women does not have a monopoly on being successful! But these men are defecting to other races of successful women. These are facts.

  4. LOLZ. The host looks like she can’t make heads or tails of wtf he’s talking about! Is he high?

  5. All WOMEN want and need is to been heard and understood. The book has been written to better understand men…when are the men going to make the books that our women write about how to understand WOMEN a bestseller? This is so out of hand right now. It needs to stop. I was kinda sucked into the idea of Mr. Harvey’s book at first and a lot of what he states is true but….we are not the only problem in this situation. No matter how good you try to be to “play” the “game” it can go wrong. I love and am proud of ALL of my sistas out there working it out. I do believe that there are a few bitter ones out there that need to keep their mouths shut about how they don’t need no man….because for you to have to say that indicates that you are really hurting for one, you ain’t fooling nobody. Wanting a relationship is as natural as breathing. It is when you will sell your soul for one, that it becomes a problem. So “WE”, meaning men and women have to learn how to speak each others language if we are going to get this thing together not putting us on punishment for trying to figure out how to love men to the best of our ability. Tyrese needs to sit inside himself and figure out why his marriage failed and then heal from it before he starts handing out advice…Pray for him ladies

    • Princess says:

      Cass, I love the comment sister. I totally agree with you that Mr. Harveys book is only one viewpoint and to be quite frank about 95% of what is in the book a woman who has had a father figure in her life of at least has some common sense to know. To that end, I was never sucked in by the book. Yes the tug of war needs to stop because both sides must balance for the equation to work. OHH for the best part of your comment Cass. The “selling of the soul” thats a perfect description of what a lot of worthy and well educated sisters do just to claim the honors or may I say status quo of “HAVING A MAN” soooo sad. Hopefully when the black man feels like he should sell his soul to have the black sister then we are on the right track. TOOT TOOT. In reality, this is a far fetched idea because all to many sisters sell out and make themselves another hit on the black man’s list. If we stop saying yes in the first hour and get of of the shower maybe the man can THINK about our true inner beauty and see us as treasures instead of a dispensable trophy.

  6. Hey Sistas. Lex here.

    Tyrese was one Black man talking.

    Me? One Black man typing.

    First off Cass,I am in agreement with virtually all that you have to say on the matter. Seeing through the looking glass both men and women would do well to walk in the other sex’s shoes more often. Empathy is a valued commodity in any human being. Here, have some. We need to learn to throw the ball gently and not fling it at the other side’s face in a continuously fruitless and futile pride-fueled contest of one-upmanship. Independence in and of itself is not an automatic virtue. Witness the independence from logic many people in relationships choose to exercise! Getting together for relationships becomes altogether pointless if people seeking such have no intent to actually relate to each other once they arrive in their independent splendor. Breakups, recriminations and angry man-bashing articles on Ms. become a fait-accompli!

    Second off: LISTEN to the man! Tyrese’s opinion has validity! His experience is like concentrated 1,000,000X what the average man’s female exposure in general or Black man in particular would be! Simply speaking in terms of exposure to legions of willing, potential feminine paramours the man is in a position to meet ALL TYPES OF WOMEN! Is it outside the realm of possibility to think that some insight was gleaned by him via this direct experience? It should also be noted that Tyrese very likely has much more experience on the subset of Black women, mainly because 1) His momma’s a Black woman who raised him. 2) He’s a successful male R&B singer/actor that always gets the sistas on your side ask any DeBarge or Robin Thicke. 3) Sistas are seriously gorgeous and we (Black men) love and prefer y’all. Seriously, Tyrese too. So Ty has quite likely noticed similar prevalent mindsets in his dealings with a higher volume of the ladies, again particularly sistas. Negative stereotypical mindsets with women who emphasize their visual appeal to the exclusion of all else in the hopes of snagging a “baller.” are a turn-off and ostensibly at epidemic levels. That “fine moola-moocher” mindset is what he decries from the interview’s outset.

    Witness the rise of an entire thriving cottage industry of ladies seeking out status, recognition and compensation from targeting the exploitation of their involvement with highly visible, successful professional sportsmen and entertainers especially men of color. He’s at a marked disadvantage in a lot of ways. The brotha is a target in the cross-hairs.

    These types of predatory women represent one extreme which he denounces. Sistas on that “I’m-independent-to-death!” kick represent the other end of the spectrum. Neither is extreme is attractive. Balance is sorely needed if harmony betwixt the genders will ever be achieved. TThese women might be fine and independent, but weighing an insidiously parasitical attitude next to a condescendingly dismissive worldview of men just aint fly, cute, appealing nor endearing. Suprise, right? I’d wager my bottom dollar that Tyrese sees and has seen way more than his fair share of out and out down and dirty ho tactics, cat-fighting and fakery for the sake of garnering his attention. This interview is far from an fierce indictment of all Black femaledom. I see a war-wearied brother soldiering for love a la Sade and holding out hope and reaching across the chasm of understanding that still separates Black men and Black women.

    Independence is good for standing alone. Finding someone else who is independent enough to deign to stand with you and risk becoming interdependent means all concerned risking that hard won indie solo status. As any new crackhead will tell you; having a desire become a necessity is a dangerous business. Just ask Pookie.

    Let’s be real though. In any life worth having, love is a necessity. I submit that any person wishing to live a life independent from love isn’t wishing to live as fully as possible. So can we all stop frontin’? Love is not for the faint of heart. The best relationships are about expanding one’s own independent worldview to encompass a larger existence, your life merging with that of another. As beautiful a quality as independence is sometimes “I’m independent, I dont need a man.” is simply code for “I am too afraid to risk being vulnerable.” Just admit it! Don’t rail at Tyrese about it! Then maybe one day we can all get together… independently of course! Going dutch is cool, right?

    Think about it, Ms.

  7. They say if it aint broke,then dont fix it. Any Black woman who is happy with herself and her own relationship wouldnt give a damn about this matter. There are a lot of Black women taking advice from women and and men who have never had a happy, loving, productive relationship. Seek better advice leave the drama to those who are addicted to it. I’d rather be addicted to joy and happiness, alone or with a loving mate.

  8. BTW, I do believe that it takes substantial effort to learn to COLLABORATE with a person who has been alone and self-sufficient for a period. Whether work or personal, successful partnerships require the art of compromise and concessions that can be a challenge for a person who is used to making decisions and movements without having to ask or need anyone else. Collaboration requires more discipline and effort than asynchronous, independent effort.

  9. Just a quote I found somewhere on the internet:

    “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you are wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.”

    (anonymous)

  10. While I totally agree with what you are saying, check your quotes first. The quote you attributed to Ira Glass is not his own. He was quoting the book The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men By Jimi Izrael. A simple google search of a part of that quote will pull it up in google books.

    • She isn’t really saying that glass said that. She’s speaking hypothetically and she says that Izrael said it, it’s right beneath the quote.

  11. i think we can all agree that telling anyone to be dependent upon anyone else in a relationship is damaging and negative. however, i know i tend to suffer from a sometimes unhealthy sense of independence. i was on my own a lot as a kid and learned to only depend on myself because i was the only one i knew i could always count on. i never planned to marry because i couldn’t see myself putting up with another person’s personality for ever. my resolve was only strengthened when i became a single mother at 16; i was going to show the world that i didn’t need any man helping me.

    gosh, was i surprised 5 years ago when i met someone i couldn’t imagine not having with me every day for the rest of my life. he loves my independence and drive, encourages my endeavors, tells me there is absolutely nothing i can’t accomplish. he truly wants me to be successful in my own right and expects me to have a life outside of our relationship. as we got serious, though, i started to realize that some of my lone-wolf traits were getting in the way. i couldn’t accept his input on anything i thought i had covered because i felt like it was a show of neediness. i pushed him away when i needed emotional support because i thought i should be strong enough to get through it alone. i couldn’t compromise on anything, couldn’t ask for or accept help with anything. i had to take a look at myself finally and accept that my independence had turned into isolationism.

    since then, i’ve learned to let go a little. i can (and do) still change a tire, wield a hammer, manage finances, and light a grill just as well as (if not better than) him. i know now, however, that if i’m busy as hell it’s not an admission of weakness to ask him to go change a lightbulb for me. i can let him know when i can’t handle something and he will help without judgement. i don’t NEED him, but it sure is nice to have the backup.

    i think there is, in part, an issue of semantics happening here. often when i hear people saying things like Tyrese in this interview it seems to me they’re really talking about isolationism, not independence. no one should be shunned by a potential suitor for being strong and independent, but it is extremely difficult to make a relationship work with an isolationist. when your attitude and actions push others away you do need to evaluate your own situation.

    • “i met someone i couldn’t imagine not having with me every day for the rest of my life. he loves my independence and drive, encourages my endeavors, tells me there is absolutely nothing i can’t accomplish.”

      If he loves you and supports you, then this doesn’t apply to you. Tyrese comes off as a guy encouraging women to make themselves weak and dependent to feed and stroke fragile male egos. FORTUNATELY you’ve got a man who loves you because of your independence, not in spite of it. :3

  12. Great article!

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