From the start, Tea Cake is portrayed as a sharp contrast to Janie's previous husbands and the male callers in her town. He is intelligent, confident, and well-mannered, but in addition he treats women as equals. Tea Cake shows Janie respect when he challenges her to a checkers game:
". . .she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play" (96).
This first little act shows that Tea Cake isn't blinded by the same female stereotypes accepted by other men like Logan Killicks or Joe Starks. This could be a sign of his age, possibly suggesting he comes from a younger generation, or else it is just an admirable personality trait.
Tea Cake also appears to be a real gentlemen. He is careful not to "wrench a lady's fingers" (96), when the two are playing checkers, he buys Janie a drink, and later on when he walks her home "he tipped his hat at the door and was off with the briefest good night" (99). He doesn't pressure her like the rest of the men in Eatonville about moving on and needing a man.
I think this relationship with Tea Cake is going to be a good stepping stone for Janie in better understanding herself and in becoming a more independent woman.