Blogger Christelyn Karazin recently launched a campaign unfortunately called No Wedding No Womb to encourage black women not to procreate until he puts a ring on it . Guess what? The result has been … vicious blog and Twitter wars. "You’re anti-feminist!" "No, you are!" "You’re an Uncle Tom for making this a black issue!" " You reprinted my post without permission!" Meanwhile, the prospective newlyweds schtup along, unaware and unperturbed, while the pixels fly.
I’m in no position to mock we who bloviate; instead, I write to share their frustration at the intractable complexity of poverty, let alone coalition-building. With a few quibbles, of course.
While Karazin’s heart is in the right place, I have to agree that equating marriage with familial and economic stability is wistfully wrongheaded; so two unemployed teenagers get married, then have kids. All that’s going to produce is yet another exhausted, overextended granny in the hood helping raise more of her grandkids. Problem not solved.
I think what Karazin’s trying to get at, in our sound-bite culture, is that poor women, all women, need to value themselves enough to protect themselves from the avoidable pitfalls in their already difficult lives. We should encourage and help them to sidestep STDs, unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence, doomed relationships, and, most of all, men who are beneath them (and I don’t just mean that they’re poor or unemployed ). Damn the pernicious notion that feminists may not question other women’s choices: We’ve got to find a way to convince poor women (since they control voluntary procreation) that motherhood doesn’t have to be the only rite of passage to adulthood they can achieve. Bringing your baby, "legitimate" or not, home to a stable household of your own, supported by your career (however remunerated) is another. Sleep around if you want. Just use protection. Hook up with a blatant loser if you want, but keep him a booty call, not your baby daddy. Be a single mom. Just don’t do it until you’re ready or because you don’t believe you can accomplish anything else.
Sympathetic as I am to those beating their heads against this rock, it must be said that some of NWNW’s opponents seem so concerned with combating the moralizing inherent in this discussion (i.e., the social construction of blacks as immoral and promiscuous ) that they’re willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. TAP’s Monica Potts is all over NWNW and some of her points leave a distinct chill . We’ve come a long way from the days when Diana Ross accurately described the plight of poor single moms, but it’s still not a good idea to join their ranks; Potts begs to differ.
"Becoming a single-mother actually doesn't destroy the lives of many women. It's not as though low-income women across the country would be going to college in droves but for the children they're having: The chances of them going to college, and finishing, are low. It's not as though being a clerk at a fast-food restaurant was going to turn into a stellar career but for the children that they're having: Low-paying jobs now often remain low-paying jobs in the future." Huh? But she goes on to close the coffin lid : "Without college and a career, it makes little sense to delay parenthood."
So, poor chicks should just procreate at will - how much more could their lives suck anyway? Meanwhile, we college-educated must refrain from suggesting daunting, but workable alternatives. Like delayed childbearing.
Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Overcoming disadvantage is miserably hard and far from guaranteed but shouldn’t we encourage them to try ? Delaying parenthood - yes, while you flip burgers and slowly amass some savings or go to night school - helps. Or we can just go on multisyllabically defending poor women’s reputations, unbeknownst to them, and wait for the rapture when we college grads have ended sexism and the male privilege to abandon their children, brought about free child care, and convinced Rush Limbaugh to do a screeching 180.
Aren’t condoms easier?
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons.