Role Reversals among Black men and women Essay

This essay has a total of 1617 words and 6 pages.


Gender Role Reversals Among Black Men and Women
In this paper I would like to explore the role reversals among Black men and women. There
have been few studies about Black men and women and their gender roles in relation to each
other. The standards of gender roles, and how they play a part in relationships and
marriages, had always been based on the White middle and upper class. White men and women
have always been the status quo symbol. Black men have not had the opportunity to have a
defining moment in which their masculinity nor their roles have been defined. What has
caused this role reversal among Black men and women?

Women have always been viewed as feminine, emotional creatures, while men have been viewed
as strong and protective. With the uprising of the women?s movement, the definition of
gender roles for women began to change. No longer were they accepting the roles that had
been ?assigned? to them. Black women were forced into the role of provider. While the
gender roles of White men have never been questioned, Black men?s gender roles have been
like a revolving door- one minute they are the strong breadwinners of the family, and next
they are the unemployed, misogynistic thugs of the streets.

There are many scholars and writers, Black and White, that believe slavery played an
instrumental part in the behavior and attitudes of Black men today. Dating back to
slavery, Black women held positions of power within the slave community as well as within
their own families. Even though slaves lived together, their marriages were never
recognized, promoted or protected. Their coming together was simply a way to produce
more slaves for the slave owner. This ploy was a denial of patriarchy used to emasculate
Black men; stripping them of their rightful position. A matriarchal system evolved from
this, one that is still present today. Taking a look at African men and women prior to
the slave trade, there was a distinct system of labor in which women did the agricultural
labor while men did the hunting. Upon being brought to America, this system of labor was
changed. Men were now forced to do agricultural work alongside women, thus stripping them
of their identity as the ?hunter? and leaving them with no defined role. According to
authors Trevor Bunard and Gad Heiman, ?some scholars have suggested that this
transformation was akin to de-gendering?(143). Was this the starting point of Black men
losing their identity and gender roles that had been established for them?

As we entered into the Civil Rights era, the roles of Black men and women took on that of
their White counterparts in an effort to re-present themselves into the social structure.
They were trying to assimilate into a society that did not match or respect their cultural
expectations. Everyone wanted the cute, little house with the white picket fence, well
behaved children and a dog. Black men were able to obtain a better education and work
more in white collar jobs. Black men had to follow the leader, so to speak, in that they
had to mimic White men and their behaviors. They were still struggling to find their
masculinity, but in some way they were at least being acknowledged for their work. This
allowed the Black man to take control of his family; however, he still had to fight racism
and the right to be called a ?man?. Black women were finally able to relax and let the
man take the lead. She could take care of her household and raise her children. I
believed this lulled Blacks into thinking that they were on the rise to becoming more
accepted, thus allowing them to take their rightful place in society.

In the Moynihan Report, a study done in 1965 towards the end of the Civil Rights movement,
it was stated that the deterioration of the Black society was due to the deterioration of
the Black family (Moynihan). After reading this report and its statistics, it seems as if
Black families have not progressed much beyond the conditions that they were in at the
time of the study. Patrick Moynihan, the author of the study, believed that the lack of
access to jobs and not being able to financially support their family would alienate Black
men from their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, thus leading to the downfall of
the Black family and community (Moynihan).

Would it be fair to say that social construction has led to the disparaging role of Black
men? Or could it be a myriad of factors that led to his dismantled life? As discussed
previously, Black men, since slavery, have been stripped of their manhood and assigned
roles. These roles were equal to that of the Black woman in so much as they were taught
to be submissive. As time progressed, society forced different roles on Black men, such
as assertiveness, independence and aggressiveness, but they were not placed in the context
of the provider. His assertiveness and aggressiveness were directed towards women and
society, not towards his role as provider for his family. The gender roles for Black men
have been set by White men, yet, it has been difficult for Black men to uphold these
ideals due to racism and poverty.
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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