It’s Not You, It’s Men: Gender roles in relationships

Recently, the OWN channel released the news that it would not be renewing the show, It’s Not You, It’s Men, for a second season (Clutch, 2016). The primetime talk show was hosted by actor/singer Tyrese and rapper/reality star Rev Run. The male hosts attempted to explore the reason behind women’s (particularly Black women’s) unsatisfactory love and sex lives.

By looking at just the title, one would assume that the focus of the responsibility would be placed on men, right? The hosts even claimed in the beginning that they were willing to explore the man’s role in the decline of so many young adult relationships.

According to relationship therapy research, in order to repair a troubled relationship (one that is not an abusive relationship), it is best to look at how each person may have contributed to the problem. Often times, it is not a “you problem but a “we” problem. The goal is for the couple to find ways to work together to solve their issues (Gottman, 1999). Because of this, it is not a good idea to place the entire blame on one side versus the other, stating that “all men” or “all women” are the cause of the decline of successful relationships.

I’m assuming that the show was attempting to look at how societal/racial perceptions of gender roles affect how people interact with each other in relationships. If this is truly the case, the show should have explored how societal expectations, race, beliefs, values, and scripts in sex and relationships play a role in the formation of gender stereotypes, which in turn influence the ways that people may interact with and view their relationship partner. Or in simpler terms, how society places unrealistic and gender-biased expectations on people and their relationships.

Even so, I was still excited to see two men attempt to take responsibility in a society that too often shames women. So, I looked forward to what I believed would be a conversation that does not often occur on television. However, I was upset to find out that their show did not really claim any male responsibility, but instead further blamed women for creating problems.

Mind you, I was only able to watch a couple episodes and clips. From the material that I did watch, however, it did not seem like a fair and balanced conversation. Instead, the hosts often deflected responsibility and put the blame on their female counterparts.

I will give you a couple of examples. First, in one episode, Tyrese repeatedly stated that he would not marry someone who was “bad at sex.” This statement, while understandable in terms of desiring pleasure, puts the majority of the blame on the other party. Instead, it would have been nice to have a conversation on how to improve sex for both parties, instead of blaming one person for failure. Granted it’s not HBO, but I would have wanted to ask Tyrese what exactly he meant by “bad sex,” and if he ever considered expressing his needs to his partner and collaborating with her to find ways to sexually satisfy both of them. If they had this type of conversation, the shift would have gone away from “who did bad to whom” to “what can we do together that works for the both of us?”

Another unfortunate example was when Amber Rose appeared on the show. The hosts basically blamed her wardrobe choices as the reason behind why she gets repeatedly sexually harassed by fans. First of all, this type of blaming NEEDS TO STOP. It shouldn’t matter what anyone is wearing. Fewer clothes do not mean more reason to touch. You may disagree with them, not like them, or be completely aroused by whatever someone is wearing. You can feel what you feel, but know this: there is no reason to touch someone without their consent. NONE. I applaud Amber for standing up to them and explaining why their thoughts on the matter were completely wrong. It is difficult, however, to know if they actually received the message.

During another episode, a relationship expert appeared and told the audience that one of the reasons women cannot get married is because they are “sluts.” That’s the word she used. First of all, she claimed to be an expert because she was married three times. Unfortunately, being married a couple of times is not enough of a reason to claim that you are a relationship expert. Being an expert involves being knowledgeable about research and theory on relationships. If you read books like Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (which is based on research from thousands of people across several countries), you would find that while there are a bunch of reasons as to why young people are not in long-term relationships, being a slut is NOT one of them.

All in all, I was saddened to see a show that could have sparked some really meaningful conversation about gender and racial stereotypes fail to live up to its promise. If another show attempts to tackle the same theme, I would hope that it would be from a strengths-based, collaborative, and affirming perspective.

 

References

(2016). It’s not you, it’s men [Television series]. In J. Simmons (Producer). USA: CBS Television Distribution.

Ansari, A., & Klinenberg, E. (2015). Modern romance. New York, NY, US: Penguin Press.

Clutch. (2016). OWN cancels Rev Run and Tyrese’s it’s not you, it’s men talk show. Retrieved from http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2016/08/own-cancels-rev-run-tyreses-its-not-you-its-men-talk-show/

Gottman, J, (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically based marital therapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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