Men are freeloaders and the ultimate threat to the family unit.
I will argue two points: the relationship Black women have with the family unit is abusive, because members of the family 1) view Black women as too strong to be harmed, and 2) perceive Black women as being only useful for the unpaid labor they provide for the family unit. These ideologies are justified by three controlling images used against Black women beginning during American slavery: mammy, jezebel, and mule (Simms 2001, 879-897). I will focus on the depiction of Black women as mules. The “mule” is a controlling image imposed upon Black women to aid in perceiving enslaved women as “insensible brutes and subhuman beast […] only valued for their labor.” (Simms 2001, 879-897). The controlling image of Black women as mules is partially responsible for the habits of modern families taking advantage of and abusing its Black women.
The concept of viewing Black women as too strong to be harmed circulates throughout Black dialogue often. It translates into justification for harassing Black women on their ways to work or on their ways home from a night out. The result of this harmful imagery is Black women being three times more likely to suffer from domestic violence than white women, and domestic/ intimate partner violence being one of the leading causes of death of Black girls and women ages 15-35. Further, 64% of Black women killed by someone they knew were killed by an intimate partner (Dallas News, 2013). These are the most physically, and final results of viewing Black women as too strong to be harmed. The initial and intermediate results, however, manifest as mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and addiction/ substance abuse. 
Viewing Black girls and women as beings who cannot be harmed causes Black girls and women to go unprotected by the family unit. When I was 8 years old, my father, my older brother, and I were out and about when we ran into one of my father's old friends. After speaking with my father for a few minutes, the man turned to me and asked me how old I was. After telling him I was 8, he let out a hearty laugh, patted my father's back and said, "She don't look 8! You better keep her locked up for a long time!" My father laughed with him. My older brother obliviously stood in silence. I stared at the laughing men. My father did not say anything later on in the day about the odd comments made by his friend, nor did he express any sort of disapproval. At age 8, I had a hard time grasping the concept of being sexualized, but I knew for a fact that I felt uncomfortable by a man my dad called a friend. That interaction demonstrated that no one will come to the defense of a Black girl on their own accord, because no one sees Black girls as children who need to be defended. This interaction further demonstrates that the family unit is far less beneficial to Black girls and women than it is for boys and men. The protections offered by the family unit are limited, and are only accessible for women under transactional labor conditions. The family unit will only protect a Black girl if the potential of that child's ability to contribute to the family unit is being threatened. This leads into the point of Black girls and women being perceived as only useful to the family unit for the labor they provide.
Several expectations are in place for a Black woman to be deemed an adequate element of the family unit, and thus able to access the protections of the family unit. In short, she must be useful. She must be able to perform manual labor outside the home, domestic labor (cooking, cleaning, birthing children, raising children, etc.), emotional labor for every single person she comes in contact with, and a range of sexual labor from enduring uncomfortable hugs or kisses from creepy extended family members to having (potentially shitty) sex with their partner all without pay (Collins 2000, 41-53). If a woman is unable to deliver in one of these areas, the level of protection she receives as a member of the family unit is compromised. My first interaction with this dynamic was Thanksgiving when I was 14 years old. When I walked past the kitchen full of my mom, aunt, and other women cooking, my father asked me, "Why aren't you in there? You can't cook yet?" I ignored him and continued walking, but he persisted with, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." I responded by telling him that I was not particularly interested in getting to a man's heart, being that was not a priority of mine. Through a capitalistic lens, family members assess value of Black girls and women based off the labor they can provide. During the entire interaction with my father, however, my granddad, father, brother, and uncle were sitting on the sofa watching a football game. In many situations, men do not have anything to offer to the family, but are still able to access the protections of the family unit. In fact, men have the freedom to be useless and still access the protections of being a part of a family unit.
Men are coddled in many families. Coddled men are often raised with limited emotional intelligence, are not forced to self-police for the comfort of those around them, and have no requirements to meet in order to access the protections of being part of the family unit. Protections of the family unit that are easily accessible for men include unconditional physical protection, economic access or mobility garnered by the family unit, and reverence for your presence, thoughts, and decisions. Further, coddled men access these protections within the family unit without any expectation to perform emotional, domestic or sexual labor. Boys are socialized from an early age to believe that their presence alone is equivalent to the combined presence and labor of a girl. This dynamic is visible in conversations such as justifying Black men's misogynoir with the idea that Black women do not know how to submit to men. There are two concepts working here. The first one is that any man by default is worthy of having a human being submit to him, especially a Black woman. Because so many men are socialized to believe that their presence is equivalent to the labor and presence of a Black women, men do not consider the fact that they may be lacking in the leadership skills that make anyone even THINK about "submitting" to them. The second concept working here is the concept that a Black woman is even expected to submit to someone in order to become a part of their family unit. Again, so much more labor is expected of Black women, than of men. When men request that Black women submit, they are requesting a host of services and uncompensated labor, which is textbook exploitation. Why is submission always attached to the desirability of Black women? Because Black women are only viewed as useful when they can provide unpaid labor to benefit the family unit.
According to Rupe Simms' Controlling Images and the Gender Construction of Enslaved African Women, since American slavery, Black women have been viewed as brutes incapable of feeling pain and objects holding value in the labor they perform. A modern result of this is the Black community's use of ideologies developed during slavery to build a basis for the structure of the family unit. These dangerous ideologies lead to staggering statistics of Black women being three times more at risk of domestic violence than white women. Ultimately, these dangerous ideologies threaten the safety of Black women, the family unit's most instrumental element, thus threatening the family unit as a whole. All the while, the bar for men to exist and access the protections found within the family unit is literally on the ground. These are the factors contributing to domestic violence against Black women, the lack of safety Black women experience when moving throughout this world, and the general concept of men being able to access the protections of the family unit without serving it any purpose. All of these factors join forces to threaten the wellbeing of the Black woman, the family unit's most effective element, thus threatening the wellbeing of the family unit. In conclusion, men are freeloaders, and the biggest threat to the family unit.

"Black women at greater risk of becoming victims of homicidal domestic violence | Crime." Dallas News. N.p., 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Collins, Patricia Hill. “Gender, Black Feminism, and Black Political Economy.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 568, 2000, pp. 41–53.,
Simms, Rupe. “Controlling Images and the Gender Construction of Enslaved African Women.” Gender and Society, vol. 15, no. 6, 2001, pp. 879–897.,
Back to Top