Photo by Kevar Whilby on Unsplash
Let me just start by telling y’all that Black men don’t be thinking about submission. Because they don’t have to. So much so that when my father saw the question I shared on Facebook and Instagram: “Do Black Men Submit?” he asked me “Submit to whom?”
I thought that was hilarious. Meanwhile, women, churched women, Black women know that when the word submission comes up, we’re talking about marriage. We’re taught, mostly in church, that a man comes second to God in terms of leadership. And if you connect yourself to a man, through marriage, then the assumption is that not only will you be submitting to God, you’ll submit to your husband as well.
We know that. We’ve heard it time and time again. It’s like Bible 101 for women who are married and women who desire to be married. Last year, I wrote about submission after a man tweeted that “Black women are very submissive when in the presence of a real man.”
I ended up being very happy with the piece because it helped me get to the heart of my true feelings about the concept of submission, a couple of months before I got married. It’s an ugly word that’s been twisted and manipulated to represent the oppression of women. Submit to your husband, because he’s a man, period. The implication is so ubiquitous that men don’t even realize that the word could apply to them. Which is why I asked the question. The association is foreign.
I know there are men who follow No Sugar No Cream on Instagram. But they didn’t chime in. When I told my Daddy that I was talking about submission in terms of marriage, he didn’t share any further thoughts. But in this context, I thought it was helpful to hear from Black women as well—because if Black men are submitting in marriage, Black women are [some of] the people who would know.
The comments were interesting. There were women who said that men only submit when it benefits their personal interests. There was a woman who suggested Black men were far more likely to submit to women of different races than to Black women. I found that painfully interesting. But honestly, those Black men aren’t my concern for this particular discussion.
There was a woman who told a lovely story about both she and her man learning to relinquish their quest for power and learning to submit to one another.
alwaysanempress: "I hate this word Lolol...I feel like there are so many silly, vague connotations around what it means. However, I do believe there are Black men that will submit but I think it often happens after a woman has let her guard down and demonstrated that she trusts him and that she can lead without diminishing him. As a newly wed I’ve been thinking about this a lot, after dating my husband for 3 years and being married for almost 1, I think I’m finally allowing room for my husband to be who he is and trusting him to lead. In turn, he ‘submits’ to my leadership when appropriate. I think it took both of us stepping out of our “I was a Boss before I met you, stop trying to tell me what to do” in order to surrender/submit to each other."
But perhaps, the conversation I found most intriguing was a woman who suggested that submission was for women and women alone. She acknowledged that while women submit, a man is commanded to love, in the same way Christ loved the church—meaning that the man should be willing to die in order to protect his wife. It’s a pretty standard interpretation of Ephesians 5:21, where Paul, Jesus’ disciple, was writing to a newly established church in Ephesus about how to live this Christian life. Really the crux of Christianity is about the way we demonstrate love to others. So Paul wanted to make sure if the people were going to be identifying themselves using Jesus that they represent him properly. So he spoke about the ways these new Christians should respect one another and how husbands and wives should behave with one another in the house.
Under a heading that says “Instructions for Christian Households,” Paul says first and foremost: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Now, before he talks about wives doing anything or husbands doing anything, he says Christians should submit to one another. The woman who argued that women should only be submitting to men said that Paul was still speaking to the church at large here. That within the confines of church, we should all submit to one another. She believes he wasn’t speaking directly to husbands and wives at this point.
But to me, the thought that my husband would submit to other women but wouldn’t submit to me, is illogical and insulting.
Like the woman said, after submission being associated with the wife, love is associated with the husband. As many times as I’d read that scripture or heard it read to me, this was the first time something new occurred to me. Isn’t it interesting that Paul says wives submit to your husbands and we take that as a command solely for women. But right after he’s says husbands love your wives. Yet no one would dare suggest that a husband should be the only one loving his partner in a marriage.
Look at Paul knowing, even in the first century, that relationships were supposed to be reciprocal!
When I asked my husband what he thought about the idea of submission in marriage, he said that Paul was likely speaking about attitudes rather than specific actions. Both parties should be open to listening to what one another suggest and follow. Both should operate from a spirit of love, similar to the way Christ did during his life on earth, up until his decision to die for us. He said that in real life, people submit to one another all the time, that making the decision about every single aspect of a relationship was exhausting and unrealistic.
Thankfully, he didn’t say anything crazy, otherwise we’d still be talking instead of me formulating my thoughts on here.
He corroborated what I’d already seen, experienced and knew to be true. Black men submit. True, there are examples of controlling and abusive men who desire to control women. I know those men too. And the truth is, marriage, society and Christianity lend a lot of support in those efforts. A woman raised in certain environments might find herself operating not only against her best interests but even against her core beliefs because she believes by simply disagreeing or outright defying her husband, she’s not only a bad wife but a bad Christian.
And men don’t have that type of pressure when they enter a marriage. Black men submit in friendships, relationships, marriages all the time. But they do it freely, without the pressure of a often quoted and misunderstood scripture hanging over their head. They do it because their wife has a better plan. Because she has a stronger set of skills, more experience, more money, etc.
The only difference is they don’t call it that. They’ll say happy wife, happy life, that they’re keeping the peace, even that they let their women run their lives—because ultimately even men know that the word submission, as we’ve contorted and reshaped it, means accepting a position of subordination. But in reality, submitting is just the natural consequence of a healthy, loving partnership.