THE BRIDGE: Independent Women

By Darryl James

"Only call your celly when I'm feeling lonely/when it's all over please get up and leave."--from Independent Woman by Destiny's Child

I was already confused over the phrase "Black Woman of The 90's," when the new century opened with the label "Independent Woman."

There are many problems with women referring to themselves as "Independent women," but the most glaring difficulty is that out of any ten women asked to define the phrase, as many answers will emerge.

Perhaps it once had meaning, or could potentially have meaning for strong women who are truly independent, but the fact that there is no singular meaning or movement, makes it an empty label.

Any conversation containing the phrase "Independent woman" fails at the onset, particularly because there are no men defining themselves as independent men.

Women who talk about being "independent" need to also talk about how the label has gone way too far, to the point where it is now inconsistent and in many ways cartoonish, mannish and just plain unattractive. In fact, I often cringe when I hear women talk about being "independent" because it usually means that they are not.

In the quest for so-called "independence," some women have given up substantial portions of their womanhood‹the very things that many men look for in a woman. Most of what remains in " women" is aggressiveness and negativity.

It is not a problem for a woman to be assertive and ambitious, but it is not very attractive when a woman is aggressive.

Women can say what they want about their liberation, but we have not evolved to the point where an aggressive woman is desirable and we never will.

The overwhelming response by some women to men's repulsion to aggressiveness and negativity is that a "strong woman" is hard to handle. It may make you feel good to declare that men can¹t handle a strong woman, but you have to ask yourself what it is that is really repelling them.

My mother was a strong woman, but she never spoke in a derisive manner to my father or to her children and men were never repelled or repulsed by her. When a woman speaks to me in an overly critical and negative manner, I am neither impressed nor repulsed by her strength, I am repulsed by her poor communication skills and distasteful attitude.

The "Independent Woman" phenomenon appears to be rooted in a groupthink program, as opposed to each individual woman defining herself. As a groupthink pursuit, so-called " women" are more worried about looking weak to other so-called " women." Many of them have completely abandoned the concept of building a team, because they already have their relationship defined before the man shows up, relegating his task to "rising to her level."

One of the most repulsive aspects of the groupthink program is the frequent advice to quickly exit relationships that appear to be problematic. A man can exhibit signs of negative behavior, but without taking a closer look, " women" are advising each other to abandon everything without trying to work it out‹"You don't need a man," and now, "it's just me, myself and I. I'm my own best friend"

Ladies, other so-called " women" may respect you and support you for your ability to give up and run away quickly, however, at the end of the day, you may find yourself childless, without any prospects of marriage and thirties with nothing but unresolved issues and loneliness. After all, relationships with spouses and children are based on dependence.

Many women who refer to themselves as "independent," also label themselves as feminists, but those politics are polluted, because many of the things they say have little to do with feminism or an intrinsic movement towards our true purposes together.

When you already have a plan together that has nothing to do with the person you meet, it will more than likely fail.

What we create has to be based on a merger of what we both need and what we both have dreamed of. On both sides, we have to begin to focus on what will bring us together, and what will keep us together. Those things have to be based on what we need in order to survive into the future.

There is too much confusion between the sexes for anyone to make assumptions or hold expectations. What has to happen is two people coming together, communicating wants and needs. When both parties are communicating, intrinsic movement can be made towards building something solid.

I believe it starts with a real conversation.

We need to talk to each other.

Just as it makes no sense for women to sit around in all female groups defining men, it also makes no sense for them to sit around and talk about what we want.

If Black women want to know what Black men want, questions should be directed to Black men.

It¹s really not that complicated. For the decent, grounded Black men, raised by and around strong Black women, we want someone who will support our daily struggle. We need most of what you need, which is to have someone help to make us feel good by partnering with us while we go through our daily stress.

That's dependence.

Being our equal is not the same as being like us. God made us differently, which means that you can be a strong woman without being a man. If you never speak softly and never interact with us in a soft manner, you are less valuable. Our male friends offer us manly interaction. We want feminine interaction from you. Your "sister/girl/friends" may give you accolades for being strong, but we will give you space for being too much like us. Just think about the men who are too much like you.

In closing, there is nothing wrong with being independent. There is something very wrong with declaring independence without the responsibilities that come along with it.

Be strong, be assertive ambitious and focused.

But if you want to be in a relationship, just don't claim to be independent.

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Darryl James launched the only Black owned rap music publication, Rap Sheet in 1992. He is the author of "Bridging The Black Gender Gap," which is also the basis of a national seminar series. James was awarded the 2004 Non-fiction Award for his book on the Los Angeles Riots at the Seventh Annual Black History Month Book Fair and Conference in Chicago. He can be reached at