Archive for the ‘black women and relationships’ Category

Yes, Women Cheat Too, but…Oh, The Bridges of Madison County

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

“…and they brought to him a woman caught in adultery and made her stand before everyone…” (John 8:3)

Did I mention that I believe adultery is wrong whether the one committing adultery is the husband or the wife? Did I  mention that adultery destroys lives? That it leaves families  in ruins. That I think that — except in instances of extreme physical abuse — staying for the sake of the children is not such a bad idea. That adultery makes a mockery of love, vows, witnesses, and notions of commitment ?  Can I remind you that adultery is a sin?

Then how can I possibly sit here and confess that “The Bridges of Madison County” is my all time favorite movie? Hands downHi Five. Pass the Kleenex and popcorn. Why do I catch  myself cheering and screaming at Francesca the lonely farmers wife who finally finds that once in a lifetime love to go ahead and turn the handle and hop out the truck her husband is driving and dash in the pouring rain for Robert’s truck there at the red light before he pulls off and out of her life forever?

Pass the Kleenex and popcorn.

Every time I see that scene of Meryl Streep (Francesca, I mean) in wrenching mental turmoil and emotional anguish over whether to stay or leave, toying with the door handle in her husband’s pick up truck, my heart breaks all over again. I’m a minister, but a side of me – the side that believes that you only get one chance at a certain kind of absolute right love—is screaming for Francesca a lonely farmer’s wife to run away from her bore of a husband and grab the life waiting for her with the man of her dreams Robert Kincaid the wandering photographer (played superbly by Clint Eastwood).

The movie opens with scenes of Francesca , immigrant bride, faithful farmer’s wife, dutiful mother of two self-absorbed teens, on a farm in Iowa aching for something she can not name. On an occasion when her husband and children are off for four days at a county fair, in walks a charming photographer on assignment with National Geographic to photograph bridges in her county. His love brings her back to life. They have four days to cram in a life. And they do. Tenderly. Passionately. Achingly.

“Turn the handle. Jump out the truck. Leave that farmer of a husband you’re married to. Run off with the man you love.” I’m beating the arm of the chair and screaming at the top of my lungs each time I watch the scene of Francesca in that truck. (My heart is racing even now as I type the words and recall the scene.)

And then I come to myself. Dear God, forgive me. I’m a minister.

Neither Francesca nor Robert is young, but they show you that love can turn you into a 16 year old again–love just costs so much more when you’re older.
Francesca must choose between her love for Robert and duty to her family. Duty and Responsibility or Love and Fulfillment?

‘In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once’ says Robert says to Francesca the last night they are together. He’s come to convince her to leave for love.

Fast Forward: Francesa’s husband and children have come back home. Francesca is in town on errands sitting in her husband’s pick up truck waiting for him. It’s raining. She sees Robert standing off in the distance drenched and staring in her direction. She knows instinctively that he’s leaving. He’s off to God knows where ever it is that men who can’t stay in one place go. The expressions on the faces of the two lovers as they stare at each other says it all. It’s now or never.

Pass the Kleenex and popcorn.

Is Francesca’s decision a tragedy or moral victory? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m wrong for encouraging a married woman in her adultery. But, God help me, I can’t help myself. There’s never a time when I watch “The Bridges of Madison County” that I don’t yell at Francesca and don’t feel the casket lid closing in on her as Robert’s truck turns left and drives off.

Lord have mercy on me.

I know better. After all, I am one of the children Francesca left behind to run off for her lover. Decades later, my sister, brothers and I continue to live with the wounds of being the children a bored, aching, unloved mother left behind for the promise of fulfillment.

It was wrong (says the minister). It hurt (says the wounded daughter). But I understand now (says the woman).

Getting Played By A Playa’

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Speaking of books…

I’m gonna break three cardinal rules here on the blog today which I work hard to abide by: don’t judge a book by its cover, never get into an argument about a book you’ve not actually read, and avoid raising a topic that’s sure to get people in arms when you’re dashing to get out the door and probably can’t stick around to see the fireworks through.

I can’t understand why black women have been on a stampede to buy Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. Even though the book managed to make the NYTimes bestseller’s list  for eight weeks in a row earlier this spring I probably won’t get to it anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Steve Harvey. The comic. The entertainer. And on those four times a year I catch his show on the radio I like Steve Harvey the morning talk show host. Steve Harvey is a very funny man. He has a great eye and ear for black eccentricities. Steve Harvey’s also a smart man. harvey

He has figured out how in these tough economic times to parlay his floundering stand up comedy act into a more stable job as a radio show host where his new schtick is to present himself as a slick, streetsmart, non-nonsense, wizened, old skool ex-playa doling out keeping-it-real advice to desperate, lovesick women.

I’ll take folks’ word that there are women out there who need a book Act Like A Lady. I believe you when you say that there are women  who will go to embarrassingly foolish, desperate, scuzzy lengths to be with a man, to get a man, and to sleep with a man. I know a few such women. But do you really think Act Like A Lady will convince these women to wise up and make better decisions?

Even if I were single I’d probably pass on reading a relationship advice book by a thrice married man, whose last marriage ended in a messy and quite public divorce in which his ex wife reportedly alleged adultery and physical abuse against her and their son. It took a $20 million settlement to make her shut up. (Maybe she’s the one who should be writing a book.)  “I’ll fix you,” Harvey probably said to himself when he walked out the court. “I’ll get every last dime of that back by writing a book about relationships and proving that black women like yourself ain’t nothing but a bunch of ……..”

As for the title, Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man. What is that suppose to mean? I know what the writer who says that Harvey stole her book title meant. But what does Steve Harvey mean?

Here’s what I’m guessing: Harvey’s book panders to the symptoms of our malaise. It doesn’t get at what causes women (and men) to do the wild, crazy, skuzzy things they do and do to each other. (Of course, I’m guessing here since I haven’t actually read the book.)

But I have read what sisterblogger What Tami Said has to say in her spot on commentary on Harvey’s book. I agree with her when she writes: I also wonder, with all the problems black men face today, whether Harvey’s time would have been better spent counseling the men he professes to know so well, rather than women.

Why doesn’t Uncle Steve write a book challenging playas like himself rather than writing a book to women who get played? If he really cares about the plight of black women and the black family, especially the fate of at risk children (he has a foundation that focuses on mentoring) then why doesn’t an old playa take what he’s learned and write to young playas about fatherhood and what manhood really means. Act Like A Man will do as the first half of the book’s title. In it a streetwise, but reformed ex-playa of an uncle like Steve Harvey might offer words of wisdom to pitiful males like 28 year old Desmond Hatchett who has 21 children with 11 different women.

Ask me why Harvey doesn’t write to the playas themselves. I’m glad you asked that question. Because playas don’t buy books. But lovesick women do. Beaucoup.

Finally, why in the world do black women continue to gobble up all this misogynistic dribble that’s being passed off to us by (business) men like Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry, dribble that’s being packaged to us as homegrown wit and kitchentable wisdom (the kind  usually transmitted from one generation to the next by women themselves)?  Why do we swoon over this stuff and buy it in the fistful when all it does is blame women for needing love and makes no commensurate commentary about men who exploit that innocent need? How can you trust a writer who doesn’t have anything to say about a system that profits on black women and black men being at each other’s throats and offers us no tools on how to build trust in our relationships?

But like I said, I haven’t read Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.  And I should probably withhold judgement until I’ve read the book. Which I probably won’t do.

Final note. For what, imo, is an honest, intelligent, thought-ful book on why women fall in relationship traps and how we can avoid these pitfalls and what loving your womanself really looks like, see bell hooks’ Communion: The Female Search for Love.

More Talk about God, the Bible, and (Homo)Sexuality

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

We could, I suppose, move on from the “Blame Blacks…Blame Black Homophobia” discussion and post a new topic today. But I’m not ready. And judging from the emails I’ve gotten, others of you aren’t ready just yet either to drop the discussion. This is one of those that we all need to chew on some more, both those who support and those who oppose same sex partnerships.

I want to believe that Something Within fills a void in blogosphere. It’s one of the few blogs  where Christian conservatives and Christian progressives, thinking women on the Right and thinking women on the Left, folks who go to church and folks who wouldn’t step foot in a church if their life depended on it can air their differences–with passion, but without insult and namecalling. I visit a lot of blogs and weigh in on some of them from time to time, but hardly any of them, at least the really smart ones, are blogs by folks who think much of religion. In fact, most of the blogs I visit daily are blogs where pelting Christians, Christianity, and especially the black church scores you lots of points. I try to set a different tone her on this blog.

So, I admit to you: this week is my first time as a black, a woman, and a Christian minister thinking out loud about the issue of gay marriages.  Strange, isn’t it? Life during all those years as an academic in liberal universities convinced me about the rightness/righteousness of standing against homophobia. But I never gave much thought to going so far as to support gay marriages. Until now. Until this week. Your comments these last few days  have forced me to dig deep and think about why not marriage and to find a way to explain to both myself and others why not marriage.

That said, let’s sit with the topic of gay marriages for another day or two.  Let me say that I appreciate the tone and the thoughtfulness of the comments here on the blog. (A few obnoxiously feral comments tried to make their way onto the board, but were deleted.)  I’m happy to see that both opponents and supporters feel free to speak their mind without fear of being slammed.

Here’s another angle on the topic to consider then.

My friend Ruby writes this morning in response to statements by marriage opponents:

Come on everybody. Our history of oppression should tenderize our hearts not harden it? We who know the bitter blows of oppression should be on the frontlines for justice not even because we agree with the issue but because our experience bend us toward what is right!

Perhaps that’s the issue, Ruby. There are many who do not put the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement on par with each other. Why not? Because they don’t see gay rights as a civil rights issue, perhaps? Because they see gay rights as a lifestyle issue and not a human rights issue, perhaps? Because they think homosexuality is a sin or just plain wrong, perhaps? Because they need convincing, as Therese says in her comment, that there’s a difference between same sex loving people demanding the right to marry and, let’s say, a blood brother and sister  demanding the right to marry, perhaps? Where is the line in the sand even for those in the LGBT community? What kind of sex and sexual unions do you oppose? And for Christian conservatives who write complaining that the word  “sin” hasn’t been used much around here when talking about homosexuality, what makes homosexuality a sin? Because the Bible says so? Come on, you and I both know that there are lots of practices the Bible deems reprehensible and unacceptable that modern Christians don’t take to the streets denouncing (e.g., divorce, sex during menstruation, eating pork, shaving your hair if you’re a minister). Why homosexuality?

Now students, you may pick up your pens and start writing…

It’s Called Black Male Privilege

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I can’t write much today because I’m in Cincinnati this week at the National Baptist Convention, USA convention. It’s been years since I’ve been to one of these male dominated church conventions. I’d nearly forgotten. I’d nearly forgotten what it feels like. And it’s been decades since I’ve been to a gathering of black Baptists. Thirty-five thousand of them. Lordy. Lordy.

You wouldn’t know from this church convention that women make up the majority of those attending black churches. Talk about a bastion of male privilege. At every meeting, every reception, every worship service, black men are the ones running things. Black Baptist men, who are a breed of their own. (Mind you, I like Baptists. I’m married to one. LOL) There’s the Women’s Auxillary meetings, of course, where women rule. But that’s another story.

There are plenty of women ministers and lay leaders here, some of them are working in visible positions at this convention, but you can count their number on one two hands.

When I get back home I’ll have a lot to think and write about.

Why am I here? I’m speaking for the Foreign Mission Board. The head of the board is a brother who wants to see change come to this organization. He’s not alone.

Someone sent me an email last week about black male privilege which I kept. It’s called “The Black Male Privilege Checklist.” It consists of 94 ways in which maleness gets a free pass in our society. I opened that email again this morning to check it against my experience of God, religion, and gender at this convention. Check. Check. Check.

Here are some of the maleness is privileged in the area of Leadership and Politics.

1. I don’t have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
2. When I read African American History textbooks, I will learn mainly about black men.
3. When I learn about the Civil Rights Movement & the Black Power Movements, most of the leaders that I will learn about will be black men.
4. I can rely on the fact that in the near 100-year history of national civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, virtually all of the executive directors have been male.
5. I will be taken more seriously as a political leader than black women.
6. Despite the substantial role that black women played in the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, currently there is no black female that is considered a “race leader”.
7. I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors, or knowing about black women’s history, or black women’s issues.
8. I can be a part of a black liberation organization like the Black Panther Party where an “out” rapist Eldridge Cleaver can assume leadership position.
9. I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
10. Most of the national “opinion framers” in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.

I don’t agree with everything on TBMPC. It’s a laundry list of symptoms, and does not talk about causes. But it’s a start. I call your attention to the list today because we do a lot of bantering on this blog about privilege, patriarchy, and gender rights. It’s helpful sometimes to step back and take a look at some of those “unearned rewards” that come with maleness. Thankfully, TBMPC, a list of 94 such privileges, was composed by a man by the name of Jewel Wood. Check out what he says about why he created TBMPC and how he uses it in his workshops with black men.

I think you’ll agree with me that the privileges listed under “Church and Religious Traditions” completely miss the mark.

Church & Religious Traditions
83. In the Black Church, the majority of the pastoral leadership is male.
84. In the Black Church Tradition, most of the theology has a male point of view. For example, most will assume that the man is the head of household.

Woods doesn’t get it; he fails to understand that privilege is undergirded by systems of belief, and religion is one of the ways that relationships between women and men are rationalized and normalized, the way relationships between races and ethnic groups, the rich and the poor, heterosexuals and homsexuals, humans and the environment are “explained.” God said it. We believe it. And that settles it.

Feel free to jump in and respond.

But here’s what I’m wondering: By giving assent to a checklist like this, are we saying that black women are complete victims, totally without power, and void of any privileges that come with femaleness?