The Man Behind the Woman?

Recently I was watching a political debate, and I was reminded of 1 Timothy 3:2-7 that gives the qualifications of a church leader. One requirement is that this person lead his own house well and questions whether he can lead the church if he doesn’t. Though the incumbent of the debates was a political and not a church leader, some have wondered about these verses when it comes to the man. I don’t know who rules his house, but I found his response to a question to be quite curious.

The moderator asked the politician if he thought it was appropriate to have a family member who is not on his staff to be on conference calls giving directives to paid staffers. First he got defensive and said he didn’t know what the question was in reference to. He went on to say that it is inappropriate to have nonpaid family members giving directives to staffers. But the final comments centered on his defending that he is in charge of his political office, not his wife, “who is a volunteer” like others. Then finally he said, “she’s a strong black woman” and he wasn’t going to apologize for that. 

I was confused. What does his wife being a strong black woman have to do with whether or not he runs his office? What allowances was he making for his wife by saying she’s a strong black woman? Then I wondered, ‘Do her attitude and appearance overshadow his leadership? Does she speak when she should be silent? Does she push when she should stand still? Does she direct when no one has appointed her director? Is playing the strong black woman card easier than the leading my house well card?’ I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I tell you this: I never want to be called a strong black woman because I don’t know how to restrain myself when restraint is necessary. The meek shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). If I’m meek, having my power under control, I will gain a lot more than if I push for my influence. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for a great inheritance, the one promised through meekness.

Copyright 2008 By Rhonda J. Smith

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11 responses to “The Man Behind the Woman?

  1. Oh, the things I could say about this one. But I love how you’ve kept focused on the ISSUE, not the drama or the CHARACTERS. There’s a lesson in the madness; way to go starting the discussion!

  2. I am not sure I understand the example even if I understand the discussion. The example, I think is one of a wife directing paid staffers. I don’t see a problem unless she directs theem in a way that is belittling or demeaning. But I am sure all the preseident’s wives have directed paid staffers at one time or another and they probably should have. For example, I can easily imagine a scenario where the first lady would say to a staff the president will not be disturbed right now because she can sense his temperment. I see know issue here. Maybe I need more details to see an example of a wife crossing the line. I think this issue can not be productively discussed with absolutes. The real discussion must take place in the detail.

  3. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Marla, help me understand what you mean when you say “this issue cannot be productively discussed with absolutes”? I’ll be better able to continue the discussion knowing what you mean.

  4. Hello Rhonda
    Because I don’t know how the wife interacted with the paid staffers except that she did, I would be making a judgement that applies to all cases. Are we suggesting that she should never direct paid staffers or never direct them inappropriately? I just don’t think this can be discussed with hard and fast rules.

  5. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Marla, I understand where you’re coming from, but my comments were not to make any hard and fast rules about a wife supporting her husband with his political office. The question from the moderator implied that the wife had overstepped her bounds. Whether she did or not, I don’t know. I’m just wondering why the politician retreated to calling his wife a strong black woman in that context.

  6. I think that is an interesting question one rooted in stereotypes of black women. I think the writer played into the stereotype of the aggressive black woman who does not understand protocal and the husband either played into the stereotype or he attempted to place a positive spin on behavior – demanding that we are acknowleged and not rendered invisible -that is often unjustifiably held in contempt by mainstream society.

  7. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Thanks, Marla. I certainly understand what you are saying.

  8. Ok, so let’s not even go there with the husband/wife dynamic just yet. Even though I’m not sure what exactly was the transaction between the wife and the staffers, she sounds out of order. Even if what she directed them to do was “right” in the long run, it wasn’t her job. If I’m a teacher and I can’t be in my classroom for a time, my husband can’t just walk in and assign a 10 pages of homework to my students just because they should be doing it. That’s not his job. And there are people who are paid to step in when I’m not available. So though she may have been helpful, she was out of order.
    Second, to offer “She’s a strong black woman” as a justification was wholly irrelevant. He may as well have said “She’s a mother of 2” or “She’s a Capricorn.”
    Last, I think I’d have to disagree with you, Marla, about the writer feeding into the assertive black female stereotype. I can imagine any sound political journalist asking the same question of such behavior whether the unpaid wife was white, green, or purple. Now Mr. Obama’s response made it an issue of race but I really think that the question itself wasn’t racially motivated.
    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  9. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Cece, you mentioned Mr. Obama. I didn’t say who the politician was, but I must say that ‘Out of Control’ wasn’t talking about him but someone else.

  10. I think society (black/white) have coined black women as “strong black woman” because of the dynamics of our history. Slavery is the product of how black women particularly have volved. Due to the dynamics of being separated (bought and sold and the family split up) the woman had to take the responsibility of leading the family. And even when the man is there, her mindset was to take the lead. Addition to the nature of women in particular. We can’t forget Genesis – the man not taking responsibility to rule in the garden i.e. his wife, and the wife’s desire being for her husband and the husband having the responsibilitly to rule over her.

    Help me here Rhonda, it that the under current of this battle?

  11. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Absolutely!!! Black women were forced to take the lead during slavery. Various family dynamics now call for black women to lead their families, but what is the mindset when you lead? This is the question. Do you think YOU do it all or do you give credit to God? Do you believe “I don’t need no man” so when he comes to you you push him away because you don’t make room for what he can bring to your collective table? We do have a biblical legacy from Eve, wanting to take the lead. And though every woman is not married, the Adam and Eve account is an archetype for relationships. It seems to suggest that women want to lead their mates, and we have to fight that when we lead weren’t invited to do so.

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