Womanhood, Manhood and Arbitrary Self-Definition

There is someone very close to me who is struggling to figure out what it means to be a man. A black man, specifically. He is approaching his mid-twenties, and his relationships with his family are strained. He did not get the guidance he needed in a sufficient amount as he was approaching and passing the critical ages where one begins to define oneself. As a result, now, he has molded himself into what he thinks it means to be a black man based on the very negative environments where he has encountered them. 

Nightmarish, indeed.

And we who love him and haven’t given up on him are left wondering whether this can be undone; whether or not it is too late to deconstruct the image of the black man as he understands it and separate what he thinks it means (fighting; aggression; anger; drugs; alcohol abuse; thugging) from the fact that no matter what it means, this meaning is arbitrary as it pertains to a person defining himself.

I was laying here tonight, in bed, freaking exhausted from Guatemala, thinking about this young man, when it hit me that just as he thinks that being a black man means being angry, violent, indolent, etc., I think that being a woman means having a man. That is how I define womanhood. Whenever I encounter a man and fail to make him love me, I don’t see it as que sera sera, I see it as a fundamental failure in my foundation as a woman; someone will be around shortly to collect my vagina.

But,

If I can look at this man, who I love so much, and see that the definition of the black man that he is trying to emulate is completely arbitrary (besides very damaging),

is it also possible that this definition of womanhood that I’ve gathered and imprinted on my heart and self-esteem, that a woman is someone who can always get any man, is equally as arbitrary (and also pretty damaging)?

Yes.

I think I will have to work on redefining my womanhood as it pertains to me, and I will have to divorce that definition of men. And although this may seem nigh-impossible, seeing as how the woman-man dichotomy has been emphasized everywhere for generations, this does not make it any less arbitrary. Just as how stereotypes/images of black men as angry, violent, aggressive, indolent have been around for generations and are also completely arbitrary as they pertain to how one individual young man struggling to figure out who he is in this world defines himself. 

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One response to “Womanhood, Manhood and Arbitrary Self-Definition

  1. i’m right there with ya. We’ll overcome this phase in our lives!

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