Although we’re generally fans of T.D. Jakes, a brief passage from one of his sermons has deeply bothered us. During a Father’s Day sermon, he spent the first segment of the speech arguing that women — and let’s face it, Black women — are trying to be men because they are independent and not waiting on men to “pour into them.” And while we cannot say for sure what “pour into them” means, in the way that it is spoken it sounds like “pour into them” means “take care of them.”
Jakes then goes on to say women are applauded in society for being “tough, rough, nasty, mean, aggressive, hateful and possessive,” and argues that those qualities are born out of pain caused by hurt, betrayal, lying and cheating on the part of the man. However, he then suggests that women should let that hurt go and, instead of replacing the lying, cheating, hurtful man, insist that he be better — something that we would argue women have been doing for years. Even if they have not, we do not necessarily think it should be up to women to make a good man. Instead, we believe men should be good on their own. And just as a good woman should make a man better, a good man should make a woman better.
There were several other messages in the sermon that we did not agree with. First, while Jakes did not say that pouring into a woman meant taking care of her financially, his statement, “I know you can buy your own car. I know you can buy your own house, but until you create a need that I can pour into, I have no place in your life,” suggests that finances are the only way that a man can pour into a woman. But what about pouring into a woman mentally, emotionally and spiritually?
Can’t a man pour into his woman by supporting and investing in her dreams, celebrating her accomplishments, praying for her well-being, being present when she needs him or lifting her up when she is down? And can’t a woman do those same things for her man? Would a woman “pouring into” her man this way be considered problematic? Or does “pouring in” only apply to finances? And what does a woman do if her partner has nothing to pour into her?
The sermon does not give us clarity.
In addition, Jakes claims that women are applauded in society for being “tough, rough, nasty, mean, aggressive, hateful and possessive,” but we would argue the opposite. Not only are women not being applauded for those negative qualities, but they are being torn down and shamed for positive qualities, like being leaders, having successful careers, being educated and financially independent, and being a financial asset to our partners. Furthermore, ironically, we would even argue that men have been known and even encouraged to sacrifice relationships, social life and even family while pursuing their careers. Society has taught them to be competitive and aggressive in their pursuit of financial freedom, and this is rarely criticized.
We’re unsure of what Jakes is advocating. Is he arguing for a society where women do not have high-paying jobs, education, careers or success? We hope not, because studies show that Black women’s success is not only valuable for the entire family — especially considering the inequality Black families face in American society — but also for the entire nation. In addition, Black women’s independence and success do not have to be seen as a slight to Black men. In fact, we believe it’s something of which we should be proud.
This sermon might not seem like a big deal to many. However, the effects of messages like this can be far-reaching and might deter women from pursuing professional and financial success, thereby upholding a system of gendered oppression.
“Not needing a man” does not have to mean that Black women don’t desire healthy romantic relationships and marriages. It can mean they don’t have to settle for toxic relationships and, instead, marry a man because they love them — not needing to depend on them to survive. It’s a gross overgeneralization to say that the majority of successful Black women say they “do not need a man.” In fact, previous research has found that Black women’s attitudes toward marriage are divided. More recent studies suggest that structural issues may play a significant role in the breakdown of Black marriages and families.
Being financially stable should be a staple of adulthood. Shouldn’t adult women and men be able to take care of themselves? To be clear, we’re not downplaying or discouraging women who desire to be taken care of. That is their right, just as it is the right of women who want to financially contribute to their families and relationships.
Overall, we have no problem with Jakes. We appreciate and enjoy many of his messages. However, we also believe that he had the opportunity to use his Father’s Day message to celebrate excellent Black fathers or encourage Black men struggling with fatherhood. Instead, he chose to use a portion of his sermon to focus on berating Black women with a message that does not apply to most of them. Many Black women and Black men do a lot for their Black families, and when we have the opportunity, we should lift them up and not pull them down.