10.25.2011

Questions

(Thanks, Crystal Savage!)
Historically speaking, marriage has been defined to mean what people need it to mean – from a way to secure economic security and partnership to a public declaration of love. In times of slavery, black women did want to be married – but the main focus was on creating a stable family unit, official or otherwise. More contemporary battles over marriage revolve around the changing needs of citizens, particularly those in same-sex relationships, or those with non-traditional families. And who said marriage is still the ultimate end goal? As Samhita Mukopadhyay, author of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life, told me: "All of this conjecture about the failure rates of marriage is based on the assumption that all black women want to get married. There is so much talk about how it is impacting their lives but no one puts anything into studying what they actually want/need/feel." Not surprisingly, black women are lectured to about their love lives, not engaged in conversation.

~ Latoya Peterson, "Don't Lecture Black Women About Marriage"
Why is so important to America that Black American women get married?

I can see why white America wants its women to get married...they want to control who's born and what color hair and eyes they have - I get that. But I'm at a loss at the push for Black women to get married. What did we do to earn all this sudden "concern"?

Because most of the black women I meet, run into, work with, interview, etc. don't mention marriage. They talk about making money, where they want to travel, how they'd like to start a business, and so on, and so forth. I myself, when asked about my future, instinctively bring up writing and expanding my publishing press.  Marriage never passes my lips until someone specifically asks me, "But don't you want to get married?  What about kids?"

By now, bar patrons, you know well enough that I don't want any kids.  But I've increasingly noticed that I'm not eager to get married either.  I have a cute apartment, a 2009 car, and endless ambitions and curiosities I want to explore until I die.  When I picture my future and the different things I'd like to do with my life, it's very difficult to imagine a husband in that equation.  Various significant others?  Sure.  But a husband?  Not so much.

In fact, I've noticed that the most relationship-oriented Black women I've met have been lesbians, and we don't talk nearly enough (in a serious manner, that is) about lesbians, certainly not lesbians of color. It's like there's this desperately clung to myth that lesbians of Latin, African, Asian, and Indigenous descent simply don't exist. We're all straight, we all need to get married, we all have to avoid conversing and researching marital detriments to women (look at the pitiful selection) - I mean, why do researchers shy away from focusing on this?  It's like speaking of marriage negatively where men are concerned is fine.  But say something which discourages women from getting married and suddenly there's a rush for the hush*, and the speaker is asked to show more respect for the institution/sanctity of marriage - what the fuck?

More specifically, what's the obsession with Black women getting married?  Aside for profits in condescending lectures masquerading as self-help, what's in it for TPTB - do you guys ever wonder about that?  Is it fear of the domino effect?  Will unmarried black women with no kids who are enjoying the do-what-I-want life set a "bad example" for other women?  Are they afraid marriage might become obsolete over the next century?  Are they afraid of a drastic decrease in births if more women flat-out admit they don't want any kids and so don't have them?

Is that why we stigmatize all single people, and look at women who don't want kids as being "defective" somehow?  Has the sky-high divorce rate and generation of bad-ass kids taught us absolutely nothing about what happens when people marry and/or breed for the wrong reasons?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*This is what I mean about men being full of shit.  They'll rag on marriage 'til the cows come home, but let a woman flatly concur with not wanting marriage, and not wanting to be shackled to some man, and not wanting to waste the rest of her life on a single dick, and not wanting to breed an army of screaming kids...let a heterosexual woman say that and suddenly, men "pause."  You know that "pause" you get when you not only call someone's bluff, but bend it over and put the good foot in its ass?

28 comments:

  1. Piggy-back on all this. Every single word. Women who are quick to tell me that a good man will make me reform my single-no-baby-havin' ways get dissed even quicker. I know who I am and what I want, and I'm not afraid to go after it. I think deep down, most women are afraid of women like us.

    I think that because we go against the status quo and reject the myths fed to us at our mother's and society's knees; that because we're brave enough to say "fuck you" to the system and do things our way, they're fearful of what they may find within themselves. Something that might shake the core of their foundation; something that might send them into a tailspin; something that scares them too much to want to explore what it is and what it means. I know too many women who are afraid to be single even though they're miserable, and even more afraid of us single women who are happy and free of those stultifying restrictions. Why??? The Lord may not even know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Has the sky-high divorce rate and generation of bad-ass kids taught us absolutely nothing about what happens when people marry and/or breed for the wrong reasons?"

    *holds head up* Who told you that bad-ass children were my birth control?

    ReplyDelete
  3. As for why MSM is so hell-bent on marrying off Black Women, to the point of commanding us to do so interracially, I haven't the foggiest. I'm well stuck on that one.

    Btw, Blogger and LJ seem to be at odds today, hence me using the Name/URL option.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Amaya: I think that b/c some women have gone through abusive relationships with men who play all these mind tricks of what it means to love or b/c they've been instructed by their cultures that suffering is a sign of womanhood it is easier for them to forgo personal happiness of a single and/or less stressful life for a more "productive" life of being a wife and mother, among other things. I think back to reading articles on Filipinas who work in different countries and some do believe that suffering is fine in your current life b/c you will be rewarded in the next life.

    And I have a friend who has had similar issues with abusive relationships as me, but despite all the bad that her boyfriend has done (from getting her to buy a car in her name for him which led to her incurring a $500 debt for impounding, physical abuse, and convincing her that if she loved him she wouldn't wear a condom which led to a very painful ordeal involving an abortion) she still wants to give it a try. I feel like she could be so much happier without him as a burden. And he certainly has no better qualities (i.e. living with mom, no car, no degree) than previous men she's dated, so I don't really understand why she tries to fight an uphill battle especially with a man who is not nearly as committed to a relationship or to improving himself. I think that even when she denies that she's not afraid to be alone or that she's not desperate I have to question if that's really the case. I think she suffers from this delusion that things were significantly better in the past and it's only a matter of time before those good times come around again. The situation is also complicated by the fact that he supposedly proposed to her, but the alleged sincerity of his proposal does not mirror his treatment of her in his day to day life. I'm just hoping this one last try she finally learns to drop him. He's not worth her suffering.

    Also, I've been thinking about conditioning lately and the things girls go through, especially in college, to be booed up. For instance, I've learned a little more about club culture and the standard most women are being compared to. As a black woman, even of a lighter complexion, I can't compete with these girls for biological and financial reasons. I don't have naturally straight hair and were I to straighten it I would want to use high quality ceramic flat irons b/c I actually care about the health of my hair. But that costs money that I currently don't have, so I leave my hair alone, sometimes wearing it out, when I'm in clubs. And I hate wearing heels, but I have wedges that can suffice under some circumstances. I don't wear much makeup, and that can cost a lot, but I can see how it's application can be fun. But when I think about all these things that women think they "need" to do just to be considered feminine or to be able to walk outside the door I just think it's ridiculous. It becomes a slippery slope to the point that you'll never really be able to compete but you'll always be spending money trying to be something that you aren't naturally.

    That isn't to say I wouldn't do some things, but at the end of the day a lot of these guys are not worth this effort. The selection is poor where I'm at so I figure I'd only put in the effort if I want to get laid but otherwise I'm just going to experiment with different things when I have time and resources and just have fun.

    My life would be compromised by early marriage and especially by kids. I'm not ready to settle somewhere and in the future I can see myself living in another country. But right now I want to prioritize my education and career aspirations and certainly my own personal well-being. These menfolk are simply not worth risking and wasting your life and your time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. These menfolk are simply not worth risking and wasting your life and your time.

    Bingo!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Amaya:

    "I think that because we go against the status quo and reject the myths fed to us at our mother's and society's knees; that because we're brave enough to say "fuck you" to the system and do things our way, they're fearful of what they may find within themselves. Something that might shake the core of their foundation; something that might send them into a tailspin; something that scares them too much to want to explore what it is and what it means. I know too many women who are afraid to be single even though they're miserable, and even more afraid of us single women who are happy and free of those stultifying restrictions. Why??? The Lord may not even know."

    Girl, you ain't never lied. Tell the truth and shame the devil.

    Even being a guy, when I tell folks I don't want to have kids, they look at me crazy like I just defied the laws of thermodynamics or some shit. And being a guy and having not brought home a girl for the family to meet, I'm now getting the dirty looks like I must be "funny" or something's defective with me.

    People also forget to that the black household does not operate as the white household. Many of us come from poor or working class households where at best case scenario we saw our parents struggle and stress over finances and work themselves to an early grave to take care of their 2-3-5 kids.

    And how many times have we been guilted by our parents about all of the sacrifices they made for us and how they had to throw away their life for us and we're being ungrateful. So they can't get mad because we learned the lessons they taught us and we simply opt not to make the same mistakes.

    It's been reinforced to me over and over again that children are a burden or that I'm being a burden to adults, why in the hell would I want to have children and bring that burden on myself.

    Then on top of the stresses of finances if you're on a modest budget, we also have racism to deal with.

    Why in the hell would I want to bring a child into this world, just so she can come home crying and I have to tell her about how misogyny is real and how because she has brown skin and coarse hair, she's going to be denigrated by society for being a black female?

    Or in my case, I have to explain to her that the reason that the other kids and teachers are making her life a living hell is because her daddy's a faggot who loves fucking other men. And because she's my daughter, she's going to catch AIDS and go to hell for all eternity?

    Don't get it twisted. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who step up and be parents and take on that responsibility and do it right.

    But for many of us, that's a privilege we don't get to have.

    "It's like there's this desperately clung to myth that lesbians of Latin, African, Asian, and Indigenous descent simply don't exist. "

    THANK YOU!!!!! RVC Bard and I were discussing this. But seeing as white folks flip their shit (especially queer whites) when we point out that POCs can be queer too, I'm not the least bit surprised.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Men are afraid of women being independent from not only the chamber of male patriarchy, but from the hold of marriage and children. Yet, single men with no kids are more respected and even revered. There's little to no pressure from society for them on when are they getting married or having kids.

    This is another case of what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander in the eyes of the goose.

    ReplyDelete
  8. As a single nonsexual virgin male, I can't fathom why is it people's business on black woman or any woman getting married or not. I mean it's their choice. If you force someone to do something it's going to be bad at the long run. People find it odd of my lifestyle choice, and tried to question my reasons. So I say that to say this, leave well enough alone. Not getting married isn't hurting anyone, leave them be.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You know, I do want to get married, but I am tired of the MSM, the church, and unqualified self-appointed relationship gurus, and even well-intentioned friends telling me what's wrong with me and trying to give me unhelpful solutions to my singleness.

    I think it's true that some single men are more concerned with a woman's singleness than the woman is. This guy my friend briefly dated constantly talked about hard it is for single women, especially those over forty, and how my friend should have been grateful to him for taking her out, because there are so many single women at home on Friday or Saturday night who would jump at the chance to be out on a date. Talk about arrogant! Needless to say, they did not last long.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My 20 year college reunion is next year. A sorror and I were building about what we needed to get ready for said event. I said I needed to lose weight. She said she needed to get married since she had never been. There is pressure, but I cee that pressure as being more of a societal and theoretical one rather than an actual one. Who says how you get to define your relationship. The government just wants to tax the hell out of married folks, so they shouldn't be listened to. Preachers try to control you personal activities so they shouldn't be listened to either. And parents have fallen victim to the okey doke for years, months and days to the point where they can't even process new concepts. You gotta listen tot hat still small voince within for true direction. Don't do it if you really don't want to. It ain't all it's cracked up to be.


    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm convinced that the media has a vested interest in showing the white women are best. Always.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Yet, single men with no kids are more respected and even revered. There's little to no pressure from society for them on when are they getting married or having kids."

    Too true. If you take a walk into HollyWTF?!Land, look at George Clooney. Man's way past his 30s, has never had a long-time committed relationship that passed 2 years(at least none that I've heard), but no one in the media is harping about why he's not marrying and having children, or even questioning his sexuality.

    Not so with Oprah. Apparently she's a failure in life because she hasn't had Stedman 'do right' by her, and produced a baby or three. Oh, and her friendship with Gayle? Suspicious! <_<

    As for me, I've seen my mother bust her ass and struggle to feed/clothe/raise/educate me for over two decades all on her own. I've seen her stresses, and I knew from a very early age that being a parent (especially a single one)is NOT easy. With this economy, I'm not even sure when I'll be able to support myself in a comfortable and stable manner after I'm done with school; how can I even think of having a child with such uncertainty? It wouldn't be right for that child at all. S/he's better off staying an egg.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh hey you posted this! (I'm Crystal) When I read the article title I was excited because I am sick and tired of everyone lecturing black women about what they need to do with their lives. We're fine thank you very much.

    The comments on that article though...ugh.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Is it fear of the domino effect? Will unmarried black women with no kids who are enjoying the do-what-I-want life set a "bad example" for other women?"

    "It's like there's this desperately clung to myth that lesbians of Latin, African, Asian, and Indigenous descent simply don't exist."

    "I'm convinced that the media has a vested interest in showing the white women are best. Always."

    I think it's a combination of all of this; racialized sexism and racialized heterosexism.

    It reinforces racial hierarchies by making black women seem like they are unwanted no matter how ambitious or educated they are. I think articles like this make it seem like we are untouchable so in that way, it reminds everyone else who's supposed to be at the bottom of the totem pole which benefits white supremacy.

    It benefits patriarchy because it tells all women (in this case at the expense of black women/lesbians) that their ultimate goal should be a heterosexual marriage. It's like..."WTF is wrong with these black women that nobody wants them even though they are educated? See how unhappy they are? Don't be like them. You don't want to end up like them. So get married." Basically, it triggers that monophobia that is indoctrinated into so many women. It puts black women in their place race and gender-wise and erases those of us who are LGBT so that we all forget that there's a world of possibilites outside heteronormativity and that yes, if you are lesbian/bisexual you can be happy without a man.

    So it's basically just using fear, erasure and racism to keep us in line and make us hate ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  15. There's little to no pressure from society for them on when are they getting married or having kids.

    Actually, the pressure is different.

    The male aversion to marriage is socially sanctioned by TPTB.

    The male aversion to fatherhood is also so socially sanctioned by TPTB.

    Men, however, are still expected to fulfill their heterosexual obligation of marrying women and having kids, for which they will be rewarded with socially sanctioned infidelity, negligence, laziness, and ultimately divorce. Remember, a divorced man - no matter how many times he's been divorced - always is treated more respectably than a divorced woman with children.

    I understand the "No Wedding, No Womb" movement, especially in regards to its focus on child welfare. However, I think single people - women in particular - need to usher in the "No Commitment, No Kids" movement.

    We need to unite to more openly and more bluntly reject the pressure to be straight, get married by a certain age, and breed a bunch of kids most of us honestly don't want.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @ Ankh:

    I was also going to say that there is still pressure for men to meet that hetero obligation, but it manifests differently. Men can usually wait longer, but depending on culture, if you're first or only son your parents might start to pressure you just so you can carry on the family name. But like what I've seen in US culture and Mexican culture infidelity is more acceptable for men than women. You know the double standard of if a man cheats on a woman she should give him another chance, but a man would never be expected to do the same for a woman if she cheats once herself. And they talk about this BS "emotional cheating" that only women are capable of doing. *rolls eyes*

    ReplyDelete
  17. You know the double standard of if a man cheats on a woman she should give him another chance, but a man would never be expected to do the same for a woman if she cheats once herself.

    Indeed. It's one of their "rules."

    ReplyDelete
  18. I find that the older I get the less interested I am in getting married. I haven't wanted children since highschool and when I think about my life goals I don't really see a husband there. Companionship is nice but I don't want to get locked in a union that may not be beneficial for me or the gentleman involved.
    This is no dig at men but I rarely meet a man that I would truly want to share my life with. So many men just seem to be "dead weight" dragging down the women in their lives. It's almost as if these men are marrying these women to save them selves from the supermassive black holes that are their lives.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The George Clooney example is great. How many times do they take pictures of a female celebrities stomach and circle it speculating if she is pregnant? Or commenting that she can't keep a man or get a man to marry her? They are sad and pathetic, but Clooney is a playboy that should be envied. None of the women who get that treatment are nearly as old as Clooney. The fact that he ages and his temporary partners stay the same age is irrelevant.
    @Pepp, yeah, this space that Ankh has created is just about the only place where it pays to read comments. Otherwise, you'll just make yourself sick with it all, b/c it's just a bunch of racists who will talk about how awful black women are and they are allowed to spew vitriol and hate even under an article about leaving black women alone.
    I've mentioned this before on another post, but both the comments and sometimes the articles want to point out all of the flaws that black women have as reasons why no one wants them. But they never point out that women of other races who have those traits still get picked...weight, looks, age, education, employment...none of it is listed as a dealbreaker for non-black women and I'm sure we all know or see women who have seemingly nothing of value yet have a man on their arm or a ring on their fingers. Why is average or below average fine for everyone else, but even above average for us means nothing?
    Let's be honest, the biggest black mark (pun intended) against us is our black skin...if it can be labeled as black, then you are supposed to be inferior.
    The big problem is that we didn't create the system that acts like we are the lowest on the totem pole and it's not our job to fix it, and people should understand why some of us have better things to do. There is nothing wrong with me. I'm not going to act like there is b/c the media hates me the way that I was born.

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's almost as if these men are marrying these women to save them selves from the supermassive black holes that are their lives.

    They are. Marriage extends the lives of men and shortens the lives of women. That's a big honkin' red flag which, I can't help but notice, we don't talk nearly enough about.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @ Ank:

    I read the article about the disadvantages of marriage and the article seems to suggest that based on the evidence women really only have a better chance at longevity if they marry someone of the same age. To me that's just ridiculous. Most women rightfully want to avoid men of the same age b/c many of them are so immature and that immaturity somewhat wanes when men hit their late twenties. And I imagine outside of high school and college sweethearts not many people marry someone of the same age. It doesn't come off as a huge priority considering all the other things you'd want in a potential partner. And then the article goes on to say that women live longer while married than while single. I guess this would make sense if it follows the logic of why women might have shorter lives if they marry younger husbands. B/c there is less social support. And with less social support you see increased risk of mental and physical health problems, ostracism, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think most of the media's obsession with single black women is just the usual black pathology porn that sells so well. It is always, what is wrong with those negros. Plus a healthy dose of lets make all the women feel desperate so they will tolerate nonsense from men.

    From many family/peers there is this pressure to have kids. Usually the person questioning me is a single parent that had kids by some irrepsonsible asshole. Yet they want me to join in the hard times.

    I'm sorry but these cats of mine are enough work/money. I'm not trying to raise a child alone.

    ReplyDelete
  23. @ MG

    Plus a healthy dose of lets make all the women feel desperate so they will tolerate nonsense from men.

    Exactly. It's a way to talk about one thing while pretending to talk about something else.

    This talk of marriage really isn't entirely about Black women; it's about women, but Black women are used as the cautionary tale. When Black women are told our careers and educations are ruining our chances at marriage, this message is actually geared towards all women, because the more educated and financially independent women become, the more resistant they are to marriage, even if only at the subconscious level.

    When I was growing up during the Age of Xena, a popular term back then was "corporate bitch" - we don't hear this term that much anymore, but I recall hearing it a lot during my teens. Nevertheless, God's most fearsome, loathsome creature on Earth was the "corporate bitch". That term didn't initially apply to Black women; in fact, the image which often came to mind when someone said "corporate bitch" was that of a single white woman running a company and not taking shit from men.

    Do we remember that?

    White America likes to use Black people as the cautionary tale for what not to do, and I think that tendency applies here as well. Educated professional Black women are being held up as deterrents to help keep not just us in line, but other women as well.

    Except the "punishment" in this case is really unimpressive. "Waaaaaah...if I have a degree and a good job, the boys won't like me."

    Um...the "boys" can go fuck themselves then!

    ReplyDelete
  24. My mother married beneath her and she spent the rest of her life paying for it. She insisted that I get a full education (which was never a point of contention; I'm *still* in damn school), because she didn't want me marrying just so I could be taken care of. The unspoken flip side of that coin is having to work that much harder in order to garner a semblance of happiness (whatever that means). She wanted me to get a husband; she was old-school, but what she wanted even more was for me to stand on my own and do for myself. My education and experience frees me from having to settle and put up with bullshit, and if TPTB thinks that's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

    A lot of women have that illusion that marriage will solve most of their problems because society has perpetuated it. But as I've said time and again, how in the world can two imperfect people come together and make things perfect?

    I'm the "black sheep" in my family because I've never been wifed up or come close to it. My cousins, however, have gone that route multiple times. One of them just got rid of her 6th husband. Anyhoo, they tried to chastise me for not having a husband and being "too smart," and I casually said: "Not one of you in this room is still with the first man that you married, so when you figure out how to make your current marriages last, let me know and THEN I'll consider it."

    That was the last time any of them brought up the issue of marriage with me.

    ReplyDelete
  25. One of them just got rid of her 6th husband.

    Say what?

    ReplyDelete
  26. What.

    Yes. You heard me. 6th. And looking for #7, last I heard. Funny, though; she still believes in love. However, I don't think love has a damn thing to do with the men she marries. She's the common denominator. You take it from there...

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Amaya, your aunt is like a black Zsa Zsa Gabor...
    yeah, you have to love the hypocrisy of people who keep failing at marriage acting like you are crazy for not settling for the first thing coming down the road. Bleah, who needs that. Education, money, career gives us choices that women a generation or two ago did not have.
    It's interesting how people will marry people who make their lives worse, and I'm shocked by the number of times I've met people who will come out and say "I should have never married my husband."

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm shocked by the number of times I've met people who will come out and say "I should have never married my husband."

    God, yes. I hear that so much. I hear that waaaaaaaay too much, so much that I'm shocked when I meet a truly, no-regrets, happily married couple. So far, I have met exactly ONE such couple. The rest.....

    ReplyDelete

This blog is strictly moderated. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, along with Anonymous posters.