Western Ideals: A Positive or Negative Influence on African Marriages

I must say, after seeing this video:  I couldn’t wait to write this post. In the short clip, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg describes her work/life balance, and how her and her husband operate in a marriage that is 50/50.

Key highlights from the clip (you should watch the whole thing, it’s only 4min):

Can you have it all?

“The data also shows very clearly that men assume that they can have it all- meaning they can have a great career and a great family- and women do not. And that is largely true, because we don’t have an even split in the home.”

“If we would get to an even division of labor in the home, more women can have it all. And really I think it’s more about choice.”

“I have an awesome husband. We are at 50/50.”

“As a family, we prioritize both of our careers, not just his…not just mine. As a family, we prioritize our kids.”

“I tell young women the most important [decision] you’ll make is who your life partner is. It is more important than anything else, because everything else is more easily changeable.”

“When it is a woman who is succeeding, people say to the husband, [“Are you okay?”]. That’s the problem…the problem is we demand and expect professional success for men. It is optional for women, and potentially threatening.”

I was speaking to one of my guy friends, and I think some of his comments regarding the clip were spot on.

Guy: Her comments make sense, but there are so many more variables to consider.

Me: Yup. Especially because she’s white, works for an awesome company, and has money, and is educated.

Guy: I definitely think $$ is the biggest factor, which includes many of the other [factors] (white + education, etc.)

Guy: It takes a special type of man…but I see it as 1000x harder in the black professional circles. [Having] two aggressively aspiring professionals [in a relationship]- those 2 A-type personalities sometimes don’t gel well together when it is time to make sacrifices, neither wants to “lose”…[And] to be honest I don’t know too many Africans that fit that bill.

“We discussed some of this at the DC-Bandeka event…I heard the men say they wanted this and would accept that, but they still have very strong traditional roles set in their DNA.

Me: Not just that, but what will your family say- your parents…African friends.

Guy: Yep, the men weren’t budging on traditional roles. But then the women didn’t help either, because they had the ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours’ attitude… Men [are] supposed to be the “Provider”… Women had the whole we “should” be equal mentality, but then they also said that a man is supposed to be the “Provider”. Both sexes are stuck in traditional roles mentality.

Me: True. We don’t know what we want.

Guy: Exposure to non-African ideas is good and harmful, it seems… Good to change the thought process for the future, but bad because there is a generation caught in the grind of change [between] trying to be traditional and progressive…Men and Women need to realize what they say is not really what they believe.

I’ll get a little personal here… when I look at men that I’ve been involved with and the things that have most attracted me to them, their respect and support for my professional interests and goals has always been at the top of the list. When I also look at the highly successful African women in my life (who ARE married to African men), they all have supportive husbands. And not supportive in name only, but these are men who take action to support their wives, whether it is giving their wife resources to grow her business first rather than using them for their own business (like my uncle did for my aunt), or it is assuming responsibility for the kids school activities and functions (like my father did for many years). Each of the men I am thinking of are also very successful in their own right, however their wife’s success is not in competition with their own. So I think my own opinion on this is quite set.

Recall the piece I wrote earlier where I discussed an article written by TJ O’Kara, a young African man who believed that everything outside of the traditional roles for an African woman is ‘extra’. There’s his school of thought, there’s the more Western-leaning school of thought (where I find myself), and then for others in our generation, there’s a genuine struggle between traditional ideals and Western ones. Should we try to adopt more Western styles of marriage? And have you noticed this struggle in our generation of well-educated Africans?


What a Black Woman Has to Say About Submission… You Might Be Surprised.

I think one of the most dreaded words for an independent woman is ‘submit’. I don’t need to go into much detail as to why some independent women dread this word/concept within the context of a committed relationship, but I want you to take a look at the short video below and see how you feel about Shanel Cooper’s take on submission. Is there really power in being submissive as a woman?

In the clip below, the author of ‘Stilettos in the Kitchen’ lays out the traditional roles of women and men as follows:

Traditional roles of womanhood: taking care of home, cooking, taking care of your children, nurturing, teaching, loving, uplifting, taking care of your man.

Traditional roles of manhood: Protect, provide, conquer, be strong, provide a home for a woman to nurture and love.

Is there something to say about the traditional roles of men and women in a relationship, or have we moved past that in the 21st century? Can men and women have successful relationships with altered roles, or are the traditional roles just the way things are supposed to be?

A rhetorical question was posed in this BellaNaija article* that I thought I would pose to you as well: “How is it that after I have had the same job shift as my husband I am meant to come home to the cooking and cleaning and he comes home to the sofa and latest Manchester United scores?”

**Pay close attention to 2:08-3:17

* If the article doesn’t open at first, refresh the page.