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He [Tea Cake] set it [the checkers] up and began to show her and she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play. That was even nice. She looked him over and got little thrills from one of his good points. Those full, lazy eyes with the lashes curling sharply away like drawn scimitars. Then lean-over-padded shoulders and narrow waist. Even nice! (10.25)
Because Tea Cake treats men and women relatively equally – thinking they both have the right and intelligence to play the same games – Janie finds herself attracted to him. His unconventional thinking makes him even more attractive to Janie, who finds herself admiring his physical assets.
"Yuh can’t beat uh woman. Dey jes won’t stand fuh it. But Ah’ll come teach yuh agin. You gointuh be uh good player too, after while."
"You reckon so? Jody useter tell me Ah never would learn. It wuz too heavy fuh mah brains."
"Folks is playin’ it wide sense and folks is playin’ it without. But you got good meat on yo’ head. You’ll learn." (10.34-36)
Tea Cake differentiates himself from Joe by assuring Janie that women are just as smart as men and have just as much potential to better themselves. Tea Cake’s sense of gender equality is unprecedented and Janie basks in his praise.
[Janie to Tea Cake]: "If it wuz me, Ah’d wait on uh train. Seben miles is uh kinda long walk."
"It would be for you, ‘cause you ain’t used to it. But Ah’m seen women walk further’n dat. You could too, if yuh had it tuh do." (10.44-45)
Janie seems to some extent to see herself as Joe intended – weak and incapable as a woman. Tea Cake sets to work undoing some of the damage Joe has done, assuring Janie that she is stronger than she thinks. To reinforce the idea, he tells her of other women he has seen walk seven full miles.