I tend to roll with a crew of badass bawse women in addition to being one myself. (It’s 2015 and time’s out for lack of self-confidence.) And because I’m grown and love myself, I no longer date asshole dudes.
But I do date dudes who love badass bawse women. In theory at least. But in practice, I’ve noticed that many brothers (of the cishet persuasion that I date) really do have issues with smart, attractive, assertive, high-achieving women. It doesn’t show up in overt forms of disrespect but in the more subtle, passive aggressive form of diminishing or ignoring a sister’s accomplishments through lukewarm compliments, withholding of affection or praise, or refusal to be accommodating.
So here’s an example.
You call or text your boo to share a major accomplishment or award, something that only enhances your current bawse status.
In reply, your boo says something whack like, “Kudos!” or “That’s great!” or “Congratulations!”
Now your homegirls are all, “you da best, you da bomb, so brilliant, magnificent, I’m proud of you!” #TurnUP #PourUP #Drank
But your dude is still stuck on “kudos!” And somehow, you might find that in the next few minutes, you are back to talking about his challenges or his accomplishments.
Welcome to my world.
What’s up with that? Now maybe you are simply dating someone who isn’t good with words. I’m not particularly into expressing feelings, but since we’re grown, and grown people know how to “use their words,” for the sake of having productive relationships, I’ve learned.
Even if words aren’t your bae’s thing, you’ll sense their support in other concrete, recognizable ways.
But this ain’t that. This is about brothers being far more intimidated and bothered by the accomplishments of successful women than Steve Harvey would ever care to admit. I’ve experienced countless times the struggles of a brother to be genuinely excited and happy to see me doing well and being at the top of my game.
By contrast, I cheer the brothers whom I date on, offer generous affirmation, and give pep talks even it means stopping in the middle of an always hectic and busy life to do so. I call this modeling loving treatment or rather “treating dude with the same care, respect, and thoughtfulness, with which I want him to treat me.”
Now before you tell me that I simply date crappy dudes, please don’t. (Cuz I will ignore you. I’m not here for armchair therapy about what I need to do differently. I’m quite clear that it’s the dudes who need to change.) And anyway, I’m talking about good, thoughtful, funny, interesting, well-read, successful brothers, who have a lot going for themselves. They aren’t disrespectful, or mean-spirited.
But they are often competitive. Not always explicitly. But quietly, they want to be better than you in the relationship. (If you ain’t this dude, great! One of your boys probably is, though.)
In my experience, these brothers want to date the baddest chicks, but they don’t want you to be in any respect better than them. They want you to be smart enough to entertain them, make them look good to their boys and their co-workers, and smart enough to raise them some smart babies. But if they perceive that you are potentially on your game at a level comparable to or above them, they can’t deal.
They won’t admit it. They simply refuse to acknowledge how great you are. Even the science supports the conclusion that dudes actually feel worse when their partner succeeds.
While they may brag to their boys about you, in private, you never hear it. Instead, you are awash in non-compliments or compliments by virtue of technicality only. If you bring this up, you are made to seem unhinged, told you are “picking a fight,” while your partner points to the technicality of his words, without ever having to be responsible for the spirit of what he said.
Dudes are deeply emotionally dishonest about the ways they are socialized within patriarchy to compete, to be the best, and to dominate women and each other. While many men have done the outward work of wanting to be with a certain kind of feminist, progressive, overachieving woman, many have not done the emotional work it requires to be with her.
And there are no societal or cultural structures of accountability that require dudes to acknowledge this, be honest about it, or fix it.
The refusal of these kind of men to affirm us, our talents and gifts, is one of the intimate ways that patriarchy works to put women “in their place.” The unspoken sentiment is “you may have accomplished x, y, and z, but you ain’t that great.”
Here’s another subtle example. I have 50 million jobs, and a ridiculously busy schedule. I mean who doesn’t? But I’ve dated multiple men who can never bring themselves to say, “when can I see you? Or When do you have some free time?” They always say, “I’m free this day or this day or this day or I have this or that to do, but then I can see you.” Now if that syncs up with my schedule, then cool. I’ll usually accommodate. But notice that statements like, “I’m free this day or this day” don’t even require an acknowledgement of the other person’s schedule. It’s a way to center the dude’s time, his tasks, and his priorities. I’ve found these kind of dudes to be often inflexible about availability. Yes, they’ll make time to see you, but only on their terms. They also never have to acknowledge that when you agree to see them, it isn’t that you simply have all this time, but you, too, are making time.
Assuming they aren’t cheating, and I’m pretty sure, in my case, they weren’t, I maintain that this refusal to acknowledge that your busy life might mean they are the ones who need to accommodate you, at least some of the time, and not the converse, is just one more way that dudes who are in some respects less busy or less high profile, maintain power. It’s almost as if that simple acknowledgement is too large a concession of power.
Here’s the larger point. Part of what it means to date as an overachieving feminist chick is dealing with these subtle power struggles and denials of affirmation in relationships with otherwise good dudes.
I don’t have any solutions. I mean is asking to be with a dude that is genuinely , earnestly, proud of you in public and private, too much to ask for?
Usually, I tell the offending dudes about themselves, give them a few opportunities to clean it up, and then remove them from the long-term partner prospect list (and maybe even from my life) if they can’t get it together.
But surely this is not a long-term strategy for finding bae.
In 2015, I would like this to stop. How can we make that happen? Have y’all experienced these power struggles in dating? How do you deal? And what do you think it will take to shift these patriarchal dynamics in dating?