Growing up in Western Civilization, no less, a developing country like Jamaica; we were socialized to believe that women needed men more than men needed women (apart from sexual gratification and being a mere vessel to continue his legacy). Undoubtedly, we live in a society that is patriarchal in its foundation and ideologies, as a result, women have always been looked on as an inferior specie to men. Now I won’t go down the biological road to prove or disprove that theory, but this idea gave rise to the thought that women always and constantly needed men to survive – “a damsel in distress”
Women throughout history have proven that theory to be wrong, there have been countless women that have risen through the ranks to the summit of respective societies and organizations. They have done so without the need for a man behind the scenes supporting them mentally and emotionally. I can already imagine you asking “what about financially?” The truth is, if we have to go there, then it shows just how NOT important a man is to a woman; that he is reduced to providing something that is merely a legal tender, to fund her on her way to greatness. Gender roles in a patriarchal society usually renders the mere thought of male support behind the scenes as “unmanly like”, couple that with the ever-present male ego to tell him that it should be he that is at the forefront.
Powerful women in history usually walk with a poise that sways, bend and fold the world with their every move. They usually display the kind of character (sometimes unknowingly) that says “you can join me on my quest for greatness, but you will not slow me down.” Media Mogul, Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Epitomizing that mantra, Oprah is known to the world as a powerful woman who never got married. Some may see it as some kind of failure, but not Oprah. In her 2019 People Magazine interview when speaking about marriage and kids, Winfrey said “I used to think about this all the time, that I was working these 17-hour days, and so were my producers, and then I go home and I have my two dogs and I have Stedman, who’s letting me be who I need to be in the world.” Stedman is her longtime partner, they have been together since the 80’s. She later went on to say “He’s never demanding anything from me like, ‘Where’s my breakfast? Where’s my dinner?’ Never any of that, which I believed would have changed had we married.”
Once upon a time, men decided that to have a productive and functional society, gender roles needed to be assigned. Men were the head of the household and women took care of the household including children, so that men could go out and become their best selves. Powerful women like Oprah Winfrey do not subscribe to these traditional gender roles. They decide solely on the type of life they want to create and how they will live it; they will get there with or without a man in their life. Like in the case of Stedman in Oprah’s life, a woman’s success is in spite of having a partner and not because she has a partner. Stedman would have seen that Oprah was a missile that was already fired and could only try to catch her up and remain parallel, or risk interrupting her trajectory and facing her wrath.
I’ve often heard women say that they don’t need a man to survive. This kind of rhetoric is often mocked by their male counterparts, who will sometimes say things like “I bet you will need a man to change your light bulb” and other insensitive jibes that says more about the ignorance of the specific speaker than anything else. The fact that a man can only point to things that society traditionally assigned to the male gender says a lot. These are things that are quickly remedied using the transactional method. They are things that a woman can walk into an establishment and purchase if it came down to it. These utterances from men and women highlights the chasm that exists between both genders’ needs. A woman doesn’t in fact need to have a man in her life to change her light bulb and a man needs a woman that needs him to change her light bulb.
There is a saying that goes “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” It is believed that this statement originated in the early 1900’s to highlight the unsung heroes – women. It goes a little bit deeper than that though in my opinion. I believe that men typically don’t get to the next level without having a woman in his corner. By that I mean, men can do “okay” by themselves, but the truly great men cannot do it without a woman in his corner. It can be said men have all the advantages in a patriarchal society to be successful, all things being equal, over women. But there is success and then there is greatness. It is believed that only with the help of a woman are men able to take it to that next level – greatness.
Men like Sir Richard Branson and Barrack Obama are perfect examples of good and successful men becoming great because of (not in spite of) the influence of a loving woman in their lives. When Branson met his current wife of 40 years, Joan Templeman, he had not yet achieved the level of success that he now has, but he was already a pretty accomplished businessman. By that time, he had already owned Necker Island and had already started Virgin Atlantic airlines. Yet with his wife, he was able to go to another level. In an article published in January of this year by Inc.com, Branson is quoted as saying “Having spent 40 years with Joan by my side, I have had the courage to do so many things others would deem impossible. I have been able to take risks–that have been fundamental to my success in business–which I probably wouldn’t have dared to make without Joan’s love.”
Barrack Obama met Michelle Obama when he worked at a law firm as a mere intern. He had just started Harvard law school the year prior and Michelle was assigned as his mentor. The following year he became the first black president of Harvard Law Review, the rest they say is history. When Obama won the presidency in 2008, in his State of the Union speech he famously said, “If you were going to list the 100 most popular things that I have done as president, being married to Michelle Obama is number one.” He is the first to point out the influence his wife has had on his success. In an interview with Vogue in 2013, Obama famously stated that “There’s no doubt I’m a better man having spent time with Michelle. I would never say that Michelle’s a better woman, but I will say she’s a little more patient.”
The irony about all of this is that the patriarchal society in which we were raised, shaped this thought process and brought this kind of dynamic into existence. Women have had to fight for their place in history on their own, while men have had the cushion of gender roles. These gender roles effectively reduced women to ‘merely’ providing support and laying a strong foundation at home, while he went off on his conquests. Throughout history, men have depended on this support to take them to the next level and while some men acknowledge this and aren’t afraid to let the world know, others may not be so quick to do the same.
Men indeed run the world, but women ensure that they conquer the universe.
Written By: Jason McPherson.