The Root: Stop Lying to Women About What It "Takes" to Get Married

Future First Lady Michelle Obama with husband and  One Day President Barack Obama Lincoln University President Robert R. Jennings stirred up a lot of trouble for himself when remarks he made in September to female students insinuating that women lied about rape went viral this week. After much public outrage, he apologized on Tuesday.

 “My message was intended to emphasize personal responsibility and mutual respect,” Jennings wrote. “I apologize for my choice of words. I certainly did not intend to hurt or offend anyone.”

He added that he would “choose [his] words more carefully” going forward.

I’m glad that people rose up to condemn that inflammatory portion of his speech about rape. And I’m glad Jennings had a “come to Jesus” epiphany, or at least followed the advice of the university publicist, and apologized for his remarks on rape. But there was another segment of the speech that deserved some ire and an apology: the segment about guys liking to have fun with women in short dresses, but going on to marry the women who wear the long ones.

“Men treat you, treat women, the way women allow us to treat them,” Jennings told the young women. “And let me let you in on another little secret. We will use you up if you allow us to use you up. Well guess what? When it comes time for us to make that final decision, we’re going to go down the hall and marry that girl with the long dress on. That’s the one we’re going to take home to Mom.”

These comments are minor in comparison with the ones about rape. But they caught my attention because they uphold the Madonna-whore stereotype, that women of worth have to be covered up and asexual. God forbid a young woman of legal age with the body to show off in a short dress wears one and explores her sexuality with another consenting adult. This somehow makes her unworthy of marriage.

The young man in this equation? He gets off scot-free. Boys will be boys, right? So what if he’s exploring his sexuality, too, and so what if he explores it with as many women as possible? The conservative woman down the hall with the long dress on? She should be happy to have him, no matter how messy he’s been, right? I would love to hear Jennings’ speech to the male students. I wonder if there was any mention of “No means no,” “Don’t rape,” “Don’t have sex with just anyone,” “Respect your coeds” or “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I’m baffled as to why a college president feels the need to focus on the social and sexual lives of his female students. Why are we talking to college-age students about marriage instead of, I don’t know, their education, their interviewing and networking skills, and their readiness to enter the professional marketplace?

But I’m even more baffled at the lies we keep telling women, that if we do things by the letter, then we’ll get the reward: marriage. There are heaps of educated, hard-praying, knees-covered women who leaned in to that theory and are single. I hear from them daily and they ask, “Why?” and “What did I do wrong?” They all know married women with kids—who might have dropped out of school, might still have their cleavage exposed and a short dress on—and they just don’t get it.

These single women bought the hype about the “type” of woman who gets married. They didn’t know that the only “type” who marries is the type who wants to be and who finds someone she loves and who loves her back. It happens to all sorts of women, no matter the length of the dress they wear or how closely they uphold the Madonna archetype.

The truth is, the game is rigged against women. If you explore your completely healthy and normal sexuality as an adult—and don’t let people actually find out that you do—you’re not marriage material. Want to “save yourself” for marriage? At 22 and inexperienced, those women are often called prudes. I hear from them daily. The guys they want to date want to have sex, and as soon as those guys find out that this particular woman isn’t having it—literally and figuratively—they bail.

We tell women to focus on building a career. That’s fine with everyone until those women at the ripe age of 25 don’t have a husband, at which point everyone and their mom asks, “Why are you single?” It’s also fine to be professionally driven ... until she has too many titles and owns her own stuff, at which point she’s told she’s “too independent,” and has left no room for a man to provide. The New York Post writes articles about the “scrubs” she’s forced to date because she’s risen too high and too fast. And if a woman doesn’t have her own money? She gets called a lazy gold digger trying to profit from someone else’s sacrifices.

It’s an evil catch-22.

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The Root: 6 Things I Care About on 'Beyonce'' More Than Her Feminism

Bey-JayIf you’re reading this, you have an Internet connection. And because you have said connection, then you are undoubtedly aware that Beyoncé Knowles released an album out of nowhere last week on Friday. For the better part of the last 96 hours, the Internet has been going HAM about Beyoncé, the person and super-secret album of the same name.

Leading this discussion has been an intense (and circular) conversation about whether Beyoncé is or is not a feminist and whether bona fide black feminists should support her. This conversation happens every single time Beyoncé drops an album, an empowering (or male-ego-stroking) song or performs at any televised awards show. It’s perhaps more intense this round because Beyoncé featured the TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” by Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the single “Flawless.”

I remain unclear on why it matters if Beyoncé is a feminist or not. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a new visual of a feminist woman that replaces the inaccurate and widely held stereotype that feminists are unattractive, old, bitter and manless. But otherwise, I don’t get it.

There are at least six more things that I find entirely more interesting about Beyoncé’sBeyoncé. In no particular order they are:

1. The Gamble

Beyoncé the album was exclusively posted on iTunes in the wee hours of Friday morning. With no promotion whatsoever it was a gutsy move, one that has proven to be purely brilliant at three days hindsight. From Friday till close of business Sunday night, Beyoncé sold “an unprecedented 828,773 albums,” according to Billboard, and broke iTunes' first-week sales record in the United States. When speaking highly of Beyoncé, it’s usually her beauty and her work ethic that get the mentions. Add brains to that list.

2. Anna Mae

The first single from Beyoncé, “Drunk in Love,” features a verse by Beyoncé’s husband, Jay Z. He raps, “I'm Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don't play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae.” The allusion to the infamous line spoken by Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? has come under fire, although in context, it’s a reference to Jay Z’s sexual prowess, not condoning domestic violence.

Still, I’m amazed at the number of writers who either missed the reference entirely—Vice writer Kitty Pryde, who live-blogged the album, swore Jay Z said “anime” instead of Anna Mae. In a follow-up apology, she admitted she had never seen the film to know the reference, but at the time of her second writing she knew where the line came from and still called “Anna Mae” Annie Mae. A HuffPo article dressing down Beyoncé for going from “extraordinary to common” on her latest single gets it wrong, too, and the author saw the movie.

3. “Rocket”

For nearly 14 years, D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?” has topped my list of favorite sexy-time songs. And now, with the help of Miguel, who penned the lyrics for “Rocket,” Beyoncé has crafted an equally seductive tune that speaks for how the ladies feel. (I’ve had this on repeat for four days.)

Read more: here