Written by Penelope Farthing
In the dating world, a fairly common question black women get asked is “what do you bring to the table?”, often by men who have little to offer, yet proclaim their many demands. One great answer to that question I saw on a Wendy Williams segment is “I am the table”. Another great answer was “I bring decorations”. These are great responses because they frame the answer in a way that makes sure that the woman is not put in the typical “provider” role, rather, as is expected in a patriarchal society, she is provided for. Women bring their beauty, their love, and their feminine charms to the table and for many men, that’s what they are seeking – a woman to take as his wife, to make the house a home, and care for him and the children that result from the marriage (not the shacking up, mind you).
In some cases, some women will list their educational accomplishments as another of their “mantle pieces” for the table, and why wouldn’t they? It shows intelligence and commitment to self-improvement. And while most men will count a degree as yet another positive attribute, other men, particularly black men (and some women, sadly), will proudly say “That degree won’t keep you warm at night!”.
What the hell kind of comment is that?!
Degrees in many fields open up doors that may have remained locked if a woman only attained her high school diploma or GED. Beyond the scholastic benefits, the networking granted from pursuing higher education can (sometimes) catapult a career in less time than on-the-job experience. Taking the relationship aspect out of it, many careers require a degree to get a job at all. That’s not to say you need a degree to be successful, as that’s not true either. But traditionally, attending university is a common route people choose as the first step on their career path.
In other races, there are whole stereotypes associated with women getting a degree. The term “MRS degree” is a pejorative that refers to women who attend college/university solely to find a well-educated potential husband. These women may not ever use the degree they obtained, or even graduate in some cases, but they put themselves in the line of sight of men who are likely to both still be available, and make a good salary in the future. Is this a guarantee of finding a rich young husband to ride off into the sunset with? No! All men no matter their age or race should be vetted appropriately. But as a young, single, educated black woman in the proximity of young, single, educated men, your chances are much better if you go to school, for your own personal edification, and for mate selection.
A common phenomenon in some Asian communities is the encouragement of the daughters to attend medical school. Of course, there is the prestige and job security that goes along with becoming a doctor, but another end goal is to find a fellow doctor to marry. When the two doctors find each other, they eventually tie the knot and the wife quits practicing to stay home and care for the children. This is such a common occurrence that some communities in India are facing doctor shortages because of the number of women who leave the profession to be stay-at-home-moms instead. But look how that turned out; their degree is keeping them warm!
Think about it. Most women of any race want a financially stable man to be her husband. To reach those levels of success, a degree is often required. Do you think the caliber of men making those money moves want a minimally educated woman to bring around his colleagues, or an intelligent woman who can hold a conversation about a selection of topics? Pursuing higher education lends itself to be desirable to a wide variety of men. This is not a hard and fast rule, as millions of women don’t have degrees and are incredibly successful, healthy, wealthy and wise. I say all this to say that, yes; higher education can keep you warm at night, just with a man who values it more.
I have never seen a nonblack man ever shame or degrade a woman for pursuing higher education. Perhaps “your degree won’t keep you warm” is spoken out of fear; the fear that your degree will enable you to not be completely reliant on him. Conversely, black men have created a culture that is somewhat hostile to the goals, hopes and dreams of black women. The very term “a degree won’t keep you warm at night” suggests that those who say this consider an educated, articulate black woman as a con, rather than a pro. In the words of Mo’Nique, “make that make sense!”
A black woman with an entrepreneurial spirit is criticized, college is often deemed “for white people”. Not to mention, black women outnumber black men in higher education over 2 to 1 (there’s that pesky black man shortage again).
If a man ever tells you that your education won’t keep you warm, he should immediately place in the reject pile. Education can be a key to success, and if someone views your degree as a negative, then he is not worth entertaining.
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