Anyone who’s read some of my past columns knows that I’m an outspoken critic of the 'Real Bad Girls Basketball Wives of Atlanta who Love Hip Hop' reality show genre. While I personally can’t stand the straight up coonery that is passing for “entertainment” on cable today, I’ve discovered that the real entertainment is in the comments section of online articles about these shows. By reading them, I’m discovering much more about our community’s perspectives on relationships than I’d ever learn about hair pulling, bottle breaking or conspicuous consumption. A surprising lesson learned via Chad Johnson & Evelyn Lozada’s short lived and ill-fated marriage is how so many of us are still buying into the ridiculous “Ride or Die Chick” meme.
In popular culture, the “Ride or Die Chick” is lifted up as the ideal personification of a supportive and loving mate. From some of the comments I’ve seen, Evelyn’s greatest sin wasn’t her materialism or constant striving for attention. It wasn’t being a volatile bully. It wasn’t even marrying a serial cheater with a propensity towards referring to himself in the third-person – a lot. No, her biggest character flaw was leaving a man who allegedly head butted her. It’s true that Evelyn isn’t the most likeable or sympathetic character on reality TV, but why does leaving Chad make her even more unlikeable? Why should any woman be expected to repeatedly sacrifice their dignity and health for the sake of her intimate relationship?
Let’s face it: a married woman has more intrinsic value in our society than a single one. From the time we are girls, women are conditioned to define our value first and foremost through our relationships. This all consuming need to be someone’s – hell anyone’s woman – is killing our sisters, both literally and figuratively. A few years ago I did an empowerment workshop at a women’s correctional facility in Manhattan. Curious to know what they considered the underlying cause of their incarceration, I asked the fourteen participants why they were in prison. Eleven raised their hand and said they were there as a direct result of choices they made while trying to maintain a relationship. It’s a tragedy beyond comprehension that a woman’s decision to put her relationship before her (and her children’s) well-being can end up costing her the very family and relationship they sought to protect.
Children learn more from what they see than they ever do by what we say. Standing by a man no matter what teaches our children male entitlement and privilege. It also sends a very clear message that it is primarily the woman’s responsibility to keep her family intact. By lifting the “Ride or Die Chick” meme as some sort of ideal we tell our boys and girls that a “good” woman is one that accepts behaviors from her mate that he would never tolerate for a nanosecond. Turning a blind eye on your partner’s illegal activities, chronic cheating or economic leeching keeps a family intact at the expense of you and your children’s spiritual, emotional and physical health.
Look, things happen. People lose jobs. They get sick. They have lapses in judgment. One shouldn’t throw away what is otherwise a good relationship simply because it no longer feels good all the time. However, staying in a relationship with someone who feels they are entitled to doing what they want, when they want, with no real consequences for their behavior isn’t riding for your man…it’s straight up self-destructive.
A healthy partnership is one in which both parties hold themselves responsible for the health of the relationship. And while their mutual choice of a spouse seems equally questionable, at least Evelyn had enough sense to leave a man who literally uses his head to make a point. This isn’t to say that she should be a role model for domestic violence survivors. I’m not saying that she’s a credible advocate for women’s empowerment simply because she left Chad. But I gotta give credit where credit is due. In the face of tremendous public scrutiny and criticism, Evelyn chose not to excuse, rationalize, or justify her husband’s abusive behavior.
Nobody, whether male or female, should stay in a relationship in which abusive behavior is the norm. It’s high time that the “Ride or Die” meme be amended. Instead of expecting a “good” woman to ride or die for her man…how about saying that a healthy woman is one who rides or dies for a good man…and vice versa.
Sil Lai Abrams is a writer, inspirational speaker, anti-domestic violence activist, Ebony.com’s relationship expert, and author of No More Drama. You can follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want her advice? Email [email protected] to have your love questions answered in a future column!