Recently in a Rolling Stone interview, singer Katy Perry discussed her plans to have children—with or without a man. “I don’t need a dude,” Perry told Rolling Stone. “It’s 2014! We are living in the future; we don’t need anything. I don’t think I’ll have to, but we’ll see. I’m not anti-men. I love men. But there is an option if someone doesn’t present himself.”
The statement alone is not terribly original or fascinating. Single motherhood is nothing new and it is increasingly on the rise. Also, on the rise are women making the conscious choice to become mothers before they become wives – mainly because they know they might not become wives while they still have viable eggs. So, a baby it is!
Now, what I found interesting were the corresponding headlines that accompanied Perry’s announcement. As the news made its way across the Internet, many headlines seemed to literally stamp and applaud Perry’s decision to choose single motherhood.
There was no judgment. No shaming. No shock and awe.
I found myself wondering if a Black singer or actress would have been allowed and was given the same space to make a similar statement – would it have received the same favorable headlines from media outlets?
Could a Black woman celebrity say that she didn’t need a man without getting raked over the coals by somebody? Imagine the millions of think pieces that would have occurred just from that one quote. I’m sure that somewhere, somebody’s faux Black relationship male expert would have been ready to press send on an article that would have included a line about, that’s Black women’s problem now, y’all thinking y’all don’t need a man.
I imagine that if a Black woman celebrity had made that statement and the Internet had gotten a hold of it, then news outlets may have been quick to call this Black woman a “baby mama,” or if not vilify then definitely question her choice in the headline or the accompanying article.
Just last year, TMZ called Toya Wright (the mother of Lil’ Wayne’s first child) a baby mama in the headline that cited her recent arrest. Maybe they assumed that certainly ‘baby mama’ and ‘arrested’ belonged in the same sentence together. Plus, I guess ‘mother of Lil’ Wayne’s child’ is just too long for a headline. Side eye.
A simple wave of the ‘baby mama’ paintbrush and Toya Wright was boxed into an easy stereotype. The word baby mama (especially when accompanied by aBlack woman’s mug shot) conjures up an image that is not favorable and definitely has racial undertones. It has the same weight and depending on who’s saying it can be synonymous with its pre-cursor, the 1980’s welfare queen.
Yes, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made a movie with ‘Baby Mama’ as the title, but that’s what was supposed to be funny about it. Because obviously, both Fey and Poehler’s characters are not the typical, stereotypical baby mamas. So it’s fun to wear the mask, to put on the costume, knowing that you can shake it off at any time because that’s not society’s perception of you. You’re nobody’s baby mama. That title, definition, label and all it accompanies, is reserved for someone else.
Katy Perry is by all definitions, a free spirit. On stage and off. She can have multi-colored hair. Marry whomever. Date whomever without anyone seemingly keeping score or count. There is a freedom and a privilege in her quote where she says, “I don’t need a dude. It’s 2014!” Perry can say this as she sits from a perch of fortune and fame because money not only provides power, it usually ensures access and ease – not always an easy life – but at least the ability to pay for services, goods, luxuries, that working people can only dream about. On Perry, single motherhood has a hint of sexy, of flair, of breaking the rules and doing the unexpected. Oh, how unconventional she is! How modern! How brave! How daring!
When the mainstream media provides Perry’s quote without dissection or question, it’s allowing Perry to be herself in whatever ways that look and feels right to her. There’s no judgment, no pushback, no insistence that she play by society’s rules. No, she is a woman who is allowed to make her own choices and decisions. She is an individual. Multifaceted and multidimensional. She is nobody’s stereotype.
She is nobody’s potential baby mama.