Independent Womyn Aren’t Too Strong, You’re Just Not Stepping Up
“I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, you know what that means. She’s got her own house. She’s got her own car. Two jobs, works hard—you know, a bad b----.” While Boosie makes an independent womyn sound like a good thing, many find the idea of an independent womyn problematic when it comes to relationships. Sure, it may seem like an adults ability to take care of herself and handle her business would universally be considered a plus. However, particularly when it comes to relationships between womyn and men, black womyn get labeled as too strong or too independent.
Take Aunt Vi on “Queen Sugar,” for instance. (*Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched the last two episodes, bookmark this for later.) “Queen Sugar” is about three siblings—Charley, Nova, and Ralph Angel—who inherit a Louisiana farm from their deceased father. Their aunt, Violet Bordelon, is an older, set in her ways, budding business owner who is engaged to Hollywood, a man fifteen years younger who would do anything for her.
In episode 7, Hollywood made a speech at Vi’s 60th birthday party, where he mentioned her taking his last name. By the look she gave, you could tell she wasn’t about that life. She confirmed it when she told Hollywood, who had said he would give her anything she wanted for her birthday, that what she wanted was her name. She basically said she wanted no parts of his name. She wouldn’t even consider hyphenating.
Hollywood responded with a list of concessions he made for her: having a small wedding instead of a big one, not having children, and not trying to help with her business. He said, “it’s getting to where all I’ve got left to give you is my name, and you’re telling me you don’t want that neither. You taking my last name shows that I belong to you.” Now, like Vi, I’m likely not going to take my future husband’s last name (partly because I’m attached to my unique, ethnic, hard-to-pronounce last name and partly because I’m too lazy to deal with the bureaucratic hassle that I hear is involved). However, if my future husband hit me with some line about wanting the world to know he belonged to me, I might reconsider. That flips the patriarchal notion of ownership. Vi, however, was having none of it.
Vi is someone I identify with because I am also the kind of womyn that people might say is too independent. I have two income streams and an entrepreneurial spirit; I’m a homeowner with a car, 401(k), and an advanced degree. The thing about being an independent womyn, though, is yeah, we can handle our own stuff. However, that doesn’t mean we have no need for a partner, which seems to be the fear. For example, Hollywood’s mother warned him, saying “Vi, she’s got her own house, her own money. She don’t need a man except to tell him what to do.” What an independent womyn needs is a partner to take some of the burden and stress off her, no strings attached. I would love for someone to come through and say, “hey, the grass is looking kind of high. Let me get that for you” or “hey, give me your keys and take my car while I go get your oil changed” and not expect payment, monetary or otherwise. However, too many times the men fearing or complaining about independent womyn also aren’t the ones serious enough to take the weight off of the womyn. There aren’t a surplus of Hollywoods walking around.
Unlike Vi’s first husband, Hollywood has shown himself to be the kind of man she can be vulnerable with, and vulnerability isn’t something a strong, independent black womyn shows to just anybody. We often guard our hearts until someone comes along who demonstrates the ability to handle them with care. Hollywood is aware of Vi’s past trauma with her ex-husband and realizes how special it is that she is open with him and has given him all of her love and affection. He does so much for her yet doesn’t ask for anything in return.
Vi is adamant about not wanting to change her name, and the next time they talk about it, Hollywood is fine with her decision. Yet because she loves Hollywood and the name change means so much to him, she changes her mind about something else he wanted. She decides she wants a big wedding after all, so they can show each other off to the world. People talk about black womyn being too independent, too strong, unyielding, or whatever, so I appreciate shows like “Queen Sugar” that negate that trope and show that even independent womyn can be vulnerable and compromise when faced with a person that is deserving and makes it easy and safe for them to do so.