Joanna (JANET JACKSON) is a demanding magazine publisher whose behavior not only emasculates her husband, Carl (OMAR HARDWICK), but also demeans her personal assistant, Crystal (KIMBERLY ELISE). Little does Joanna know, however, that Crystal's live-in, military veteran boyfriend, Beau Willie (MICHAEL EALY) -- who's the father to her two young kids -- routinely abuses her, having come back from the war not quite right, a problem exacerbated by his alcoholism.
Social worker Kelly (KERRY WASHINGTON) is aware of the problem but not the severity, although she's distracted by the fact that she can't bear any children for her cop husband, Donald (HILL HARPER). Someone who knows of the abuse is Crystal's apartment manager, Gilda (PHYLICIA RASHAD), but while she babysits their kids, she's often distracted by next-door neighbor Tangie (THANDIE NEWTON). That's not only because the bartender is often visited by her ultra religious mother, Alice (WHOOPI GOLDBERG), who's always asking for more money, but also due to the fact that Tangie entertains a different man in her place every night.
That's unlike her younger sister, Nyla (TESSA THOMPSON), who still lives with her mom and has only recently lost her virginity. She spends most of her time taking dance classes taught by Yasmine (ANIKA NONE ROSE) who's recently become the object of attention for Bill (KHALIL KAIN) who charms her into starting to date him.
Hospital nurse Juanita (LORETTA DIVINE), however, would probably encourage her to be cautious as she teaches classes about empowering women when it comes to dealing with men, even when she can't keep her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Frank (RICHARD LAWSON), from moving out and going back to another woman. As the women go about their lives, they must contend with the repercussions of their actions as well as their interaction with each other and the men in their lives.