The Courage to be Different

By Nicholas Maurice Young, Ph. D.

Recently, I watched the movie Act Like A Man.  It chronicles the lives of five men, and their dealings with women.  The movie is based on a best-selling How-To manual for women in dealing with, and dating men.  The book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man attempts to provide a philosophical blueprint for women that want to understand the thinking and behavior of men.

The movie follows the lives of the five men and the women that each man desires.  It shows the inherent fallacy of many male-female relationships: Men pursue women with the hope that they will have sex with her; Women pursue men to connect with “Mr. Right,” or the guy that has the right bank account, and social status.   Or, so the story goes.

Why are men and women engaging in this destructive dance of indiscretion?—an exercise that leaves both parties emotionally deficient and intellectually insecure to see the error of their ways?.  I believe that many men and a growing number of women behave this way because many of them lack the courage to be different.

For me, the courage to be different comes in at least three forms. The first form involves being able too see differently about the object of your affection.  For me, the primary problem in this area involves around seeing a women as nothing more than a sexual object.  When I was six or seven years old, I often admired the girls I was around.  While I was initially attracted to a girl’s personality, I almost always was more attracted to her physical features—her breast and ass.  Especially her ass.  Much like the other boys I was around, I always found a woman’s ass the object of my sexual fantasy.  As I got older, my friends and I always measured a girl’s sexual readiness by the circumference of her ass, and the size of the “gap” that we believed existed between her thighs, below her vagina.  For us, having sex with a girl was the primary measure of our maturity and our readiness for manhood.

The second area of courage that I believe is lacking among some Black men involves the ability to think differently about women.  As I suggested above, not being about to think differently about women has led many of us to think that women can be viewed as sexual objects, instead of objects of our genuine affection.  The thinking behind the development of this opinion can be located, I think, in the conversations that many men have with their uncles and fellow young men.  Personally, I do not know many, or any fathers that give their sons this kind of advice.  This possibility is due in large part to the absence of fathers in the lives of young Black boys and men.  I believe that the perpetual paucity of Black fathers in the lives of young Black boys creates a void in the hearts of young Black men about the proper way to think about and see the beauty of a woman.  Hence, the ability of many men to do the third, and final component of courage: acting differently.

I see the ability to act differently as the most important aspect to finding and or locating the courage to be different; however, it is a skill that is dependant on the first two phases of courage.  Acting differently first requires the ability to see a woman and admire her intelligence, kindness, beauty, and recognize that she is the most beautiful creature on the planet.  Second, a man must recognize that he does not have to be like other men.  He must recognize that he can be his own person.  Thus, in doing so, he must see that calling a woman a “Ho” or “Bitch;’ stepping out on his woman; believing that making love to his woman is the same as fucking her (although some women like to be treated this way) is usually the wrong way to show her affection.

In short, I believe that the inability of some men to recognize that some of our problems with women can be found in our inability to recognize that some of us lack the courage to see, think, and act differently about ourselves, women, children, and other people around us.

Your thoughts?



One Response to “The Courage to be Different”

  1. Well, Doctor, you certainly have laid it out there for dissection. I can’t say that I have too many different points of contention with your analysis. but I am of the mind that the old saying it takes, “two to tango” should be thrown in the mix. Not that you didn’t touch on this aspect briefly. I’m with you about African American men and our seriously deficient attitude toward our “Sistas.” I guess I am saying that there is some “Nature and Nurture” elements inherent in our culture as a results of living our history in America.

    I did not see the movie nor read the book by Mr. Harvey. I am not a fan. But, I certainly commend his efforts. We need someone, and something, to stem this tide of negativity between Black Men and Women. A 25-year truce seems to be in order so we can listen to each other.

    To your first observation, I not sure how the “sexual coming of age” will ever play itself out differently. Let’s face facts: there is a certain amount of “nature” that won’t be denied. It would be my guess, however, that you are saying “how the game is played” can and should be approached differently. Maybe so, but it’s during this “awakening” for both genders that the value of Sex becomes both a lure and obstacle to defining a less destructive viewpoint from both participants. As the song says, “I got what you want; you got what I need.” In my mind’s eye, it is all downhill from that point.

    Which brings me to your second point of Black men thinking differently.

    I could be seriously off base with this viewpoint, but I think there is a self image deficiency clouding both gender’s judgement. It is used by both men and women as a protective measure in some ways. And as a hammer blow in others. Trust is lacking in both instances. Then the only action is a sort “Thrust and Parry” mentality. I think the most cogent aspect of this philosophy comes from generations of Women raising (or trying to raise boys) without a Male presence in the home. Currently, 40% of Black households are headed by a single female. And in too many instances, some find no problem with this arrangement. There might be some validity in saying that Black women of this viewpoint have devalued Black men even more so than the dominant Majority culture.

    This is not lost on young impressionable males. And for too many, it carries them forward. And the men they meet or/and emulate come from the same background. Ergo: their viewpoint and mental objectification toward women seems to them grounded in correctness. Being different is the enemy of the group. As a learned scholar, you know the powerful need and bond of “belonging.”

    So, what does the Black woman do? She doubles-down in her. “what’s in it for me” mode and the cycle continues. Who talks to her about breaking away to “think differently” toward/about Black men. A SERIOUS question that needs to be addressed!

    Thirdly, you noted “acting differently” toward our Black women is for some Black men a lack of courage. I agree to some extent. They are ALL worthy of being shown that they are beautiful, kind, compassionate, intelligent, trustworthy – and most importantly – strong! Though this adjective is the source of much conflict between Black Men and Women. It means different things to both. Root Problem Number One!

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