Behind every great woman, a man? Part I

It is often said that “behind every great man is a woman”, but is the reverse true? In the first of a three part series, let’s define what makes a successful woman…
Oprah Winfrey and her partner Stedman Graham. Oprah is largely seen as the more successful of the pair, with a reported net worth of $2.9 billion, while Stedman is said to be worth about $10 million. Photo: Getty
Today the first update on my Facebook newsfeed was this: “You can tell a good man by the success of his exes. If all are successful then he’s a good man since he built them. But if they are still where he found them then he had no impact.”

Hilarity ensued.

After I picked myself off the floor, where I had been prostrate with laughter for a good five minutes, I decided to give this statement a second thought. Perhaps he was on to something. Maybe my inner feminist was being too hasty here. I picked up my cell phone, dialed the numbers of my best girlfriends, and over a bottle (or several) of wine, we proceeded to thoroughly dissect this pearl of wisdom.


It has long been implied that a man is nothing without a good woman

We were split into two camps. There were those who felt that this great Facebook philosopher had hit the nail on the head: that the measure of a man’s goodness (or lack thereof) was in the current state of his past lovers. Then there were those who agreed that this statement was the most ridiculous thing since the synthetic weave.

After the last of the wine was drunk, and the last of my friends had wobbled out of my apartment, I got to thinking. For years, the saying “behind every great man is a woman” has been bandied about. Women the world over have taken credit for their men’s accomplishments. It has long been implied that a man is nothing without a good woman. Even the quintessentially macho King of Soul, James Brown, in one of his most famous songs, crooned: “It’s a man’s world, but it ain’t nothing without a woman or a girl.”

Why then, was I rendered catatonic with mirth when a man attempted to do what generations of women before him have done?

Before we delve into the psyche of the guy who has decided that because his exes are all at the pinnacle of their respective fields, that it follows that he must be a great man, let us begin by trying to define a successful woman. She lives her life completely independently. She is probably very well educated, and has secured herself an ultra-well-paying job, or she is in charge of a very lucrative business. She probably drives something gleaming and German. Her closet is bursting with designer clothing whose total net worth would rival the GDP of a small African state. Because she knows she has overcome all kinds of barriers, her eyes glint with a steely determination. She gives off an aura of absolute confidence. She has arrived, and no one can take her accomplishments from her, no sir.
Folorunsho Alakija and her husband Modupe. She is often said to be the richest black woman in the world. Photo: PhotosOfNigeria
You see, the independent, successful woman has spent her life fighting. Fighting that boy in kindergarten who would show his affection by pushing her down or pulling her hair. Fighting the girls in primary school who thought she was strange because she always had her nose buried in a book. Fighting the teacher in high school who advised her to drop Physics and take Home Science instead. Fighting the countless men who prefer to gaze down her shirt to actually listening to what she has to say. So if she hears that there a man from the hazy past who actually dares to say that she wouldn’t be as successful if she hadn’t met him, her scorn will know no bounds…

This article was first published by Love Matters (Kenya), and is republished here with their permission.
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