“First Comes Love, then Comes Marriage, then Comes the Baby in the Baby Carriage.” #NWNW

October 8th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

So Amber,

I was reading the latest post on The Crunk Feminist Collective, a call for a “No Uncle No Uterus” campaign, and was thoroughly confused for a good minute till I realized it was a critique on another campaign, “NWNW.” And I had no idea what that was.

Thank goodness for Google. Turns out it means “No Wedding, No Womb” and is a campaign of 100+ bloggers writing in support of marriages before pregnancies in black communities.

And it’s apparently created a stir (I love the blogosphere). In my googling discoveries, I’ve found various critiques: one reporter writes, “Regardless, the bloggers associated with “No Wedding, No Womb” aren’t focused on the outcomes for children. The campaign is instead telling black women how they should act sexually. Reducing women to their childbearing capacity is right there in the title: Wombs are blocked off until matrimony.” Another writes, “While Karazin’s heart is in the right place, I have to agree that equating marriage with familial and economic stability is wistfully wrongheaded….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.”

Here I think are the critiques: having a campaign for marriage does not solve poverty; it does not address the institutional and historical causes for persistent poverty; it shames women and promotes a narrow view of family.

So first off, yes to all of the above. Making marriage the solution to poverty and violence is not a good solution. Marriage alone can not solve the inequitable policies hurting families (whatever those families look like). Nor does placing the responsibility solely on women solve anything. There is an element of “slut-shaming” to this, mostly because where are the men in this solution? What’s their responsibility?

But with all that said, I don’t necessarily want to jump on the “oh hell no!” bandwagon against NWNW. I wouldn’t sign up to blog for them, but when criticizing their campaign, neither do I want to deny that there is something going on when 72% of African American children are born out of wedlock. That “something” is not just one thing (or two or three), but I am hesitant to completely dismiss a discussion on marriage and relationships.

I don’t like it when ten year olds ask me “do you have kids?” before asking me if I’m married (or even have a boyfriend). I’ve written before about teenagers’ views on relationships and the brokenness of their understanding. Many of these teens come from families that do not have a solid two parent relationship – whether married or unmarried. In order to understand how to relate to one another, they need to see other strong relationships.

Let me be clear: there are hundreds of issues flying and dancing around this statistic. I think NWNW is too simplistic, lets men off the hook and ignores wider social and political problems. And really, it’s just another tired story about what black women need to do that CNN will probably run with analysis from a panel of “experts” (yay Steve Harvey!). And then there’s the whole issue of it being heteronormative…

But I do think it’s okay to ask (along with a million other questions), how do we solve gender/relationship/family issues on a personal and social level?

Let’s have a holistic approach to understanding the problems facing our children, young people and families. Let’s understand that marriage is only a good solution if it is healthy and stable – and fighting against that health and stability is sexism, racism, classism, all those damn “isms” and the policies that go with them.

And there are fantastic single moms and dads (aunts and uncles and grandparents) who raise healthy, supported children in this world. And there are married couples who don’t. For a variety of reasons. But, how do we address all those reasons? Is there just one campaign or solution?

No. It’s complicated. And so deep. I don’t know how to unravel it all….

My disclaimer: I’m posting this without feeling entirely comfortable with it. With every sentence I write, another sentence pops into my head that problematizes the one before. But since this blog is really a conversation, I’ll consider this post only the beginning.

Sex, Lies and….Teenagers

July 26th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Oh Amber,

So deep. I spent a good chunk of time reading the conversation swirling around Crunktastic’s post and was reminded just how deep it really is. We’re broken – whether objectified or “friend”ified, our notions of gender and each other are broken. We may start to figure out one piece of the puzzle and suddenly we notice the big gaping hole that we didn’t know was there.

I’ve been thinking about youth and gender. Recently, I have consistently been confronted with many teenagers’ screwed up ideas of gender, sex and relationships.

So many boys talk about girls as objects for their pleasure, and they are so unaware of the falseness of this idea that they will do so with women (me) present. They claim to respect women, but they’re operating with an inaccurate definition. A definition taught to them by peers, music, movies and tv shows, and left unchecked by parents and society.

So many girls rely on boys’ attention for self-esteem. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see girls fall into this trap. They’re self-worth has been mutilated – what happened to slapping that boy who dared to touch your ass – like he just thought he could?

Both end up hurt. The boys as much as the girls. Neither know anything about relationships. Did you ever see “When Harry Met Sally?” Harry tells Sally that men and women can never be friends because the “sex part always gets in the way.” Well, when your hormones are raging, your self-esteem is shot, and your concept of “womanhood” and “manhood” is skewed, then sex most definitely gets in the way.

Sometimes I think we focus so much on preventing STDs and teenage pregnancies that we pass over all the other issues related to teenage sex (and why many are having sex) – self-worth, the worth of others, the value of relationships and what they actually look like. Don’t get me wrong, sex ed is important, but so is their emotional and social health.

And yes, media has a lot to do with it. And home. They get these images somewhere and if they aren’t taught how to filter, they buy into what’s being sold. And it hurts them.

And left to themselves, they will grow to be adults who know nothing about relationships.






** I should note that I speak very generally (“they”) but obviously, like any other group of people, teenagers have varying experiences. In this instance, however, I wanted to go general rather than specific.

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