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When they were alone Tea Cake wanted to put his head in Janie’s lap and tell her how he felt and let her mama him in her sweet way. (19.116)
Tea Cake, in times of distress, wants Janie to take on an ultra-feminine role and comfort him just as a mother would. While men often put down women’s "weakness," in times like these, they define the same softness as "sweet" and tender.
Tea Cake began to cry and Janie hovered him in her arms like a child. She sat on the side of the bed and sort of rocked him back to peace. (19.123)
Tea Cake is able to show his vulnerability to Janie, but not to other men. Interestingly, we only see him show his vulnerability when Janie takes on the role of mother, rather than that of a wife. This is probably because he feels the need to protect a wife, but feels comfortable being taken care of by a mother.
And twelve more white men had stopped whatever they were doing to listen and pass on what happened between Janie and Tea Cake Woods, and as to whether things were done right or not. That was funny too. Twelve strange men who didn’t know a thing about people like Tea Cake and her were going to sit on the thing. Eight or ten white women had come to look at her too. They wore good clothes and had the pinky color that comes of good food. They were nobody’s poor white folks. What need had they to leave their richness to come look on Janie in her overalls? But they didn’t seem too mad, Janie thought. It would be nice if she could make them know how it was instead of those menfolks. (19.155)
In a strange moment of identification, Janie feels a kinship with the white women who have come to listen to her trial. By pure fact of their womanhood, she feels they would understand and sympathize with her more than would the jury of men.