It seems like every week yet another article is written about the plight of the single, Black woman. Judging by the media reports, blog posts, radio call-in shows, and TV specials, you’d think ALL Black women were single and desperately seeking. Add to that the billion-dollar self-help business and men like Steve Harvey and Tony Gaskins cashing in on the fears of some black women, and one thing becomes clear. While the media wins, Black women stay losing. If we bought into the hype, we’d all be out scraping the bottom of the barrel just to find a mate.
Luckily, most of us know better.
Although the conversation surrounding unmarried Black women is usually dominated by men, rarely do we hear the other side of the story. Black women who are single (or happily coupled), but know that the current state of things is nothing to panic about. Rarely do we hear about the millions of single White women or Latinas who are often in the same situation as many sisters–degreed, ambitious, and still without a mate.
Thankfully, there are places in the media that we are able to share our own stories and perspectives.
Recently, Colorlines published a wonderful piece that asked three Black feminists to share their take on the media’s obsession with Black women’s relationships. The article featured Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, CLUTCH’s very own Jamilah Lemieux, and Susana Morris, co-editor of the Crunk Feminist Collective.
During the Colorlines article, Morgan, Lemieux, and Morris comment on why the institution of marriage needs to be revisited, on the prevalence of the Black pathology narrative, and of course, single Black women.
Check out some of the highlights.
Joan Morgan on the need to revisit the institution of marriage:
We don’t really seem to analyze the fact that marriage is a complicated institution as it exists in the 21st Century precisely because it was never designed historically to be about romantic love. It was very financially based, and church-based. It fed the church’s need to consistently support and reproduce itself. Maybe the question is not “Why can’t I get married?” but “Does marriage, in the way that it exists, with no revision possible, fulfill who we are in the 21st Century?” Or is there another way to form productive long-lasting meaningful relationships?
And how can we do that without demonizing women who are single, or mothers who are single, so we don’t see “No Marriage, No Womb”?
None of these brothers are thinking like that. At all. They just reinforce all of these really ridiculous and very patriarchal notions that basically say the job in the relationship is for the woman to fix herself and become what the man wants. And keep adjusting and fixing herself so she continues to be what’s desired — without ever really asking the reasons of his own shortcomings, basically, or their own contributions in the ways that our relationships struggle.
Jamilah Lemieux on the persistence of black pathology narratives:
I think that, well basically anything that’s gonna get website clicks and sell magazines and get viewers, the media’s gonna take advantage of that. I don’t think it’s necessarily deliberately malicious so much as it’s simply opportunist. If black women were not buying the Steve Harvey book, if we weren’t tuning into these specials, if there was no audience for this—and its not just a black female audience, obviously—but if there was no audience there would be no conversation.
But at the same time, black pathology narratives tend to sell. And just the concept of some inherent black deficiency has always been profitable.
Read the rest at the Colorlines website.
If you could tell the mainstream media one thing about their obsession with single Black women what would it be?