Posted: February 17th, 2022

A social exchange theory perspective.







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Based on the article, Coming Apart, Alice Walker illustrates how Black women are discriminated against and unappreciated due to their skin color. Black women, compared to whites, are not given the same opportunity, quality of exposure, and time (Walker, Apart & Heaney, 2019). This form of inequality has resulted in broken marriages within black families due to white women’s appreciation. White women are more appreciated due to their availability and vulnerability to all men. This availability among men sees white men as men while black men strive for equality. It is well illustrated in Coming Apart, where Alice Walker gives an example of a black people’s marriage. The middle-aged husband receives love, affection, and submission from his wife. However, this is not sufficient for him as every time he comes home, despite the warm welcome from his wife, he always heads to the bathroom (Walker, Apart & Heaney, 2019). 

In the bathroom, he spends 10 minutes going through a magazine where he studies young white women more attractive to him than his wife. The wife is insecure that she addresses the issue. However, the husband is insensitive and labels his wife as a prude, silly. Her husband’s sentiments affect her self-esteem and image in different ways that she keeps comparing herself with other women. In this case, pornography plays a significant role in identifying Black women only by their sex. And so, the middle-aged husband does not view himself as black and does not appreciate his wife since she is still Black and defends the Black community (Walker, Apart & Heaney, 2019). The wife keeps essays that embrace different races, especially the Black community, to convince herself and her husband. 

The wife gets an essay by Tracey Gardner, a Black woman who expresses her anger based on the abuse and coldness she has experienced as a Black woman. The article entices the wife, gets her into high spirits, and reads the essay loudly to her husband. Through the essay, she regains her sense of self-worth and power that she leaves due to her husband’s perception that he is white. Therefore, racial, gender, and color inequality affected how people lived in different communities. For example, the Black community lived as minors in white neighborhoods and faced discrimination. In the pornographic industry, white women were perceived of more excellent value than black women, affecting their perception of themselves. Despite racial, gender, and color discrimination, marital power has also played a crucial role in women’s mental health. 

Mental health is associated with social, psychological, and emotional well-being. Mental health affects individuals’ thinking processes, feelings, actions, handling stress, and relating to each other (Roberts, Calogero & Gervais, 2018). And so, mental health is crucial for every individual, from children to adolescents and adults. Marital power is a dynamic concept within a marriage institution. According to the Marital Relationships A Social Exchange Theory Perspective article, it is a concept that changes based on time and resources. The primary sources of marital power are resources, the level of commitment to the relationship, and self-identification with the marriage relationship (Nakonezny & Denton, 2008). The more resources partner A has, the more marital power they have. The minor resources partner B brings into the marriage relationship, the less power they have. If partner A’s level of commitment increases in relation to partner B’s level of commitment, partner B gains more marital power to partner A. 

An individual’s self-identity in a relationship enables them to gain more power. In most marriage institutions, resource differences have led to exploitation among partners in a relationship (Nakonezny & Denton, 2008). In a traditional setup, men were viewed as the primary providers for their families. And so, they would bring more resources than their wives, which gave them more marital power than their wives. However, wives were more committed to their marital relationships than their husbands. Therefore, to maintain a power balance between the partners, some men used exploitation tactics to bargain their power relative to their partner. As a result, men were more respected within the community while women were degraded to homemakers and slaves based on their input in their relationships. 

Due to society’s stand concerning women, women did not perceive themselves as necessary. Instead, they viewed themselves as housewives, enslaved people, and caregivers and did not make much effort to exploit their talents, abilities, and skills. Most women spent their time taking care of their families, with less focus on their self-identity and worth, which affected their mental health. Some went through physical and emotional abuse for years without speaking out due to men’s empowerment in the marital relationship. They suffered mentally, emotionally, socially, and how they viewed themselves. Their mental state affected how they viewed themselves, reflected in their physical appearance (Roberts, Calogero & Gervais, 2018). However, with women’s empowerment, women have gained marital power and are able to take care of their mental, social and emotional well-being in an appropriate way. 

Through various movements, organizations and groups, women are able to know, understand and defend their rights. They experience freedom, take advantage of opportunities and grow themselves in different capacities. Hence there is a direct relationship between inequality and power. With inequality, certain groups of people cannot exercise their control freely. On the other hand, inequality affects one mental health and the ability to exercise an individual’s rights and power (Sweeting, Hunt & Bhaskar, 2012). The lack of an appropriate balance between the three factors affects each aspect differently. Thus, there is a need to ensure that all elements are well balanced for fairness within a community. 



Nakonezny, P. A., & Denton, W. H. (2008). Marital relationships: A social exchange theory perspective. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 36(5), 402-412.

Roberts, T. A., Calogero, R. M., & Gervais, S. J. (2018). Objectification theory: Continuing contributions to feminist psychology.

Sweeting, H., Hunt, K., & Bhaskar, A. (2012). Consumerism and well-being in early adolescence. Journal of Youth Studies, 15(6), 802-820.

Walker, A., Apart, C., & Heaney, S. (2019). The Second Sex. Subjects That Matter: Philosophy, Feminism, and Postcolonial Theory, 71.

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