Friday, October 1, 2010

The Personal is Political: No Wedding, No Womb Pt. II

I'm a fan of Ashley Judd and Marisa Tomei (who got her start as "Maggie" on "A Different World"), so naturally, at some point in 2001, I didn't turn the channel when a movie entitled, "Someone Like You" aired, since they appeared on screen. Unless they're of the Jerry McGuire or Bridget Jones variety, I try not to consume hoards of romantic comedies centered on white people. And you know why, including all the intelligent white folks reading... I'm trying to maintain a high level of self-esteem, a somewhat healthy body image and the hope that Mr. Right will show up with a Malcolm X fedora, a Morpheus trench and set of shades and wearing flip flops like "Black Jesus". We shall see...

In any event, "Someone Like You" is, well, this review is so doggone good and gets right to the point, so let's just read it aloud together:
Consider Someone Like You, in which heroine Jane Goodale (Ashley Judd) is summarily dumped just before embarking on a live-in relationship. This so devastates her that she begins compulsively poring over psychological, anthropological, and philosophical tomes, all in an effort to make sense of the inconstant way the male animal conducts himself. Eventually she alights on a possible explanation in the natural world -- the reluctance among bulls to mate with a given cow more than once -- and less-than-scientifically projects this characteristic across great swaths of the mammalian kingdom to conclude that unfaithfulness is inherent to the male gender, regardless of its species.
Her research for this theory, which she dubs the "New Cow" theory, takes for experimental subjects not only Ray (Greg Kinnear), the aforementioned ex-lover, but also Eddie (Hugh Jackman), a womanizing coworker with whom she must move in after her falling out with Ray leaves her homeless. As Eddie brings home one sex partner after another, Jane psychoanalyzes him relentlessly -- culling information for a monthly column she eventually begins writing for a men's magazine, yes, but also trying, by proxy, to distill Ray's actions into an abstract principle. This will let her turn her recent breakup into an inevitable act of nature and she can thereby avoid the unthinkable alternative, the possibility that something in her identity leaves her singularly susceptible to rejection: "If this theory's wrong," she wails to Eddie later in the movie, "men don't leave all women -- they leave me."
The "New Cow" theory was bunk and, ladies and gentlemen, such is the case for the "No Wedding, No Womb" campaign. By the way, if you're thinking of any words that begin with the letter "H" right now, I'm judging you---and me.

As I explained in Part I: Sloganeering and Slacktivism: The No Wedding, No Womb Campaign, organizer, Christelyn Karazin, was so ashamed of her symbol of unprotected, premarital sex---pregnancy---that she bought a cubic zirconia ring and wore it on her wedding finger to protect herself from the ridicule and judgment of strangers. I guess she didn't like it, so she put a ring on it.

Is that a ring you're wearing? Look, Bish, don't judge me!

But without a general understanding of Women’s History and previous attempts at policing women’s expression, in general, and their sexuality, in particular, delineations and reformations of the Victorian-era-derived “Cult of True Womanhood” will continue, in spite of itself. This is why the dichotomy continues and why, even in Black Christian churches, various choirs (hilariously) reformulated Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and turned it into some type of spiritual hymn (or Deacon remix), curiously wagging the finger (like Mother Wisdom) at single women in the congregation.

What? Y'all think I waited? I'm way too flexible for alla that!
And, yet, if my understanding of the song, “Yes” on the “Dangerously in Love” album is correct, one could easily conclude that Beyonce had sex before and during her premarital relationship with Jay-Z. Perhaps if she spoke more about their (obviously) effective use of birth control, as opposed to pretending as though “Sasha Fierce” only gets down on the dance floor, then “Single Ladies” might be understood in its proper context. But we can’t blame Beyonce’ for other peoples’ misinterpretations of her lyricism and imagery or how she manipulates the confining dichotomy she didn't create. That's probably why this Saturday Night Live skit with Justin Timberlake always leaves me in stitches. But I digress...

Uh uh Oh, oh oh oh oh oh ohhhhh...

I find myself usually alarmed (and then quickly annoyed) whenever I see attempts at moral suasion without any substantive, socio-political analysis or inclusion of social justice or any form of direct action. For example, listing the many statistics which showcase the results of “single parent” and/or “fatherless households” relative to education, crime, poverty, etc., is important but short-sighted, especially when the focus is placed upon people of color---and No Wedding, No Womb, is nothing if not focused upon African American women who have the highest rates of female-headed households in the country.

This is What an Effective Campaign Looks Like *side eyes* NWNW

We all have concern for our families and children in America. But to deny or otherwise diminish the role of the system of white supremacy, the impact of structural inequality, poverty, discrimination against the working poor and to exclude any direct action (or even moral suasion!) against the injustices of ongoing segregation, disinvestment from public education, the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex upon people of color, in particular, is wholly irresponsible and ultimately, as Christelyn, participants in “No Wedding, No Womb” and many others have seen, ineffective and irrelevant to the daily realities of our lives---despite seemingly good intentions.

Why would I talk about the system of white supremacy, structural inequality and the relationship between that and the condition of Black families? Because in 1960, many of our families were in tact, not only as nuclear families but extended as well (yes, the African village some wish to deny exists). But something else happened in 1960 and it was the dramatic, climatic rise of an extraordinarily successful campaign that would further ignite the Civil Rights Movement. I'm going to get to that in my next post.

Y'all see all this hate? Whatev, I'm not turning back the clock! I'm not your Auntie!
Suffice it to say, the Conservative backlash to the Civil Rights Movement's successful display that separate was NOT equal, was intended to make Americans think that the reason why equality (measured in equal results) isn't necessary is because there is something inherently wrong with Black people and Black culture. Thus, if the country is "separate", it's because Black people separate themselves from real, hardworking Americans who value education and family.

It's a white supremacist idea, rooted in economic competition, disguised as a "New Cow" theory. And too many people have fallen for it, including too many persons in the Black Church. Mind you, George Bush's Faith-Based Initiative checks helped, didn't they, Eddie?

"You like my cologne? The secret ingredient is holy water. Praise Him!"

Another such person who seems to be entirely ignorant or in deep denial of what's happening here is Christelyn Karazin. But she has many in the Black blogosphere who unconsciously, unknowingly and unfortunately harbor and perpetuate these notions as well. Quite often, they appear as a brigade of intelligent Black women (and they are) whose painful life experiences with Black men and their clear inability to understand or counter the system of white supremacy has led to the "Black men ain't sh*t" messaging of internalized racism. In some ways, they beckon my compassion, as we have all been hurt, but like Ashley Judd's character realized in "Someone Like You", the "New Cow" theory is not the solution to our problems; and neither is internalized oppression. Instead of theories, take a look at the facts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on parenting, especially non-marital parents (thanks, @saigrundy).

We don’t need a professional, Black, Bristol Palin who feels the need to prescribe an abstinence to which she didn’t subscribe. The fact of the matter is, had Sarah and (ex-patriate promoting) Todd Palin been pragmatic about their daughter’s curiosity and engaged in full sex education and birth control (even with an emphasis on abstinence) as opposed to turning a blind eye to the realities of a teenage life in America while preaching abstinence-only, then we would not have to suffer through seeing her on “Dancing With the Stars” or Levi Johnston’s pitiful run for Mayor or his interview with Lawrence O’Donnell but no, they didn’t spare us, so I won’t spare them.

"Hmmm, how can I get out of this and still shame other women to please my Mom?"
And as much as I might like to, I can’t spare Christelyn; because when she appeared on Michael Dyson’s radio program, she would not even own up to her own campaign. Despite being the organizer, she insists she’s not the leader. Despite focusing upon African American women in her own narrative, she denies that the focus on fatherlessness leans disproportionately towards Black men. And she insists that despite having intense shame about being a single parent, “No Wedding, No Womb” has nothing to do with shaming single mothers today. She even went so far to (hilariously) suggest that she doesn't even really mean "wedding", per se, but to simply be "wedded" to the children. Oh Christelyn... please immediately head over to the stellar Co-Parenting 101 Website and free yourself.

On the NWNW FAQ page (which she tweeted to me), in answering the question, “What gives you the right to do this?”, she responded: I’m a baby mamma’ LISTEN TO MY MISSION: [which was a plug to the theme song] I do this for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter, and all the children of our future.” I find this more than interesting because a “baby mamma” is actually a woman who has a child and is not married. According to Christelyn, she found a man who happens to be white, they fell in love and he accepted her and her child as a package deal. So, technically speaking, she is NOT a “baby mamma”. But what would make her say such a thing? Being plagued by having been one…

I should note that almost 24 hours after having written a large portion of this post, I asked Christelyn a few questions on Twitter and she never responded. I was extremely respectful to her (see below). My questions were:

Start from the bottom and scroll up. That's how Twitter works.
And she blocked me. I learned shortly thereafter that she had blocked many others who questioned or disagreed with her point of view in any way, shape or form. Way to go Christelyn, excellent campaign strategies you have there…

There is just too much that doesn’t add up and there are tons of other ways to support children, create a more egalitarian society and provide holistic education about safe sex, the realities of parenting and available options for birth control (including abstinence), that can and will continue despite a campaign that cannot sustain the shame upon which it is founded.

I'm amazed at this album cover. It's brilliant!
I love Salt N Pepa's fun, sexy and outspoken feminist imagery, so when “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Do You Want Me?” debuted on their “Black’s Magic” album, released December 8, 1992, it was perfect for my burgeoning sexuality and, apparently, many others’. “Let’s Talk About Sex” became the anthem for a number of different campaigns more than happy to have a theme song that would allow parents and guardians to more comfortably enter into conversations about sex and reproduction with their children. After all, we couldn’t rely on Grease’s “Reproduction” and the characteristic bass line, “I’ve got your pistol right here” forever.

Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that can be
Let’s talk about sex
Let’s talk about sex!

Notice how we have a great song which invites open conversation and learning without shaming or placing a heavier emphasis upon the female body? You had no idea Salt-N-Pepa were this deep, hunh? On this same album, “Do You Want Me?” provided an anthem that helped me decipher man-speak and manipulation and gave me a phat beat with which to jam as well:

You said it loud / and I heard ya
Never tried to hurt you
Some say I’m old fashioned
I like to take my time and do it slow, you know?
But don’t try to rush it
So, ride it like a horse / and let nature take its course
Get to know each other
Be my friend, no just my lover
Share your thoughts with me
Love my mind, not just my body, baby!

Do you really want me, baby?
Let me know
Cuz if you really want me, I suggest you tell me so
Got no time for playing games, that ain’t even why I came
Cuz I may be / the kinda guy you like

Those lyrics became an anthem. I was not ashamed to say I was old fashioned and I loved how the question was posed to the man, asking "Do You Really Want Me, Baby?" while rejoicing in the phat beat that could make our booties shake but did not require us to give them up.

“No Wedding, No Womb” does actually have a nice theme song (which is why they call this a multimedia campaign) to which I promptly did the snake and began gyrating my pelvis:

So maybe, like other artists, this campaign should stick moreso to its singing than anything else.
We must be ever vigilant so that we do not end up evaluating each other using a standard of measurement created by white supremacist thinking - bell hooks
Jesus Be Solange’s Womb Producing Julez.

Special Shoutout to Saida Grundy @saigrundy for her excellent timeline, @alvinthethird for the bell hooks quote and Twitter's continued elucidation on #NWNW


DryerBuzz said...

You had me at "trying to maintain a high level of self-esteem . . . " that's all I'm trying to do.

Noble Giant said...

I love how you tied the black conservatives into this movement. They need a new vision after seeing their idols fall (Eddie Long and TD Jakes to a minor extent). They really don't have too many outlets left, watching the Republican Tea Party demonize anyone that doesn't look like them and such. And after reading a bit about Salt-n-Pepa what happened to feminism in female rap lol. Poor Nicki Minaj is stuck with carrying the current female standard/sexpot formula.

ESP said...

Yes, amen.. Out-of-wedlock motherhood is not the problem. I just heard someone on NPR talking about how Scandinavia has a HUGE proportion of co-habitation families, and they do just fine. Why? Because those countries provide an actual (string of bad words) social structure to support children!

Also: Yay S+P! Shoop!

Moon said...

Kudos again!

Dr. Goddess said...

Thank you, DryerBuzz! It's so good to have you so early (that's what HE said)! LOL!

Yes, Noble Giant, they are all related and it's funded, especially if it can become a media gimmick.
As for rap, we're working on that. I hope you're following and The Fembassy online and on Twitter!

ESP, Amen, Praise the Lawd! Thanks for that fantastic example of Scandinavia! Exactly! shine just like it!

Thanks to you all for spreading your brilliance all over my blog! Yes, indeed..

Michele Renee said...

Tell the truth and shame the devil!! The focus should be on parental skills if we really care about our kids!! Anybody can get married, doesn't make them good parents!!

Vizionheiry said...

Excellent, hilarious analysis. I don't think this conversation can occur without a serious inspection of what happened after de-segrataion. I see that is forthcoming in your next post.

Now that I know your ideal man, I'll tweet him your way whe I see him post on Twittuh...if he ever does!

Soccer Jerseys said...

What an impressive title you have for your post?

Dr. Goddess said...

Thank you, Michelle! You hit the nail on the head. This is why I support so heavily; because I believe that teaching parents SKILLS no matter what their relationship status will help the children we all claim we care so much about. Further, we cannot do this without proper support for PARENTS, period. We need economic/social justice, proper education and employment for ADULTS.

@Vizionheiry, you know I love your name and I always have so much fun with you! Yes, please let me Twusband know I want him to come back to our family. LOL.

@SoccerJerseys Thanks, I work hard on titles and picture captions. They're the highlight of my blogging life, especially if I have to address nonsense.

Thank you all for spreading your glittering love all over the characters that make up my blog!

jenifer daniels - the friendraiser said...

church! not Eddie Long, Snoop.

Jaz said...

You had me at:

"Quite often, they appear as a brigade of intelligent Black women (and they are) whose painful life experiences with Black men and their clear inability to understand or counter the system of white supremacy has led to the "Black men ain't sh*t" messaging of internalized racism."


"We don’t need a professional, Black, Bristol Palin who feels the need to prescribe an abstinence to which she didn’t subscribe."

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Thank You Dr. Goddess. I've already posted on my own blog, but of course it wasn't AS was ALMOST there tho :)

I am definitely following you ma'am.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post! The exact same sentiments I was trying to say in my blog post on the topic! Where there is shame, there is no understanding and summing up the problem of Black single motherhood to women not making the man wed them before they give it up is anti-feminist and anti-progressive. I hope these ladies don't want to go back to the days of Scarlett O'Hara! Thanks for sharing!


Dr. Goddess said...

Dear Jaz, thank you so much. I'm sure your post is just fine and I'm headed there to read it! I'm more and more horrified everyday by what I'm choosing to dub as the BMAs (the Black Men Ain't Sh*t) Brigade. I feel bad for them and, yet, the idea that there is no hope or growth to be had for Black men is just sad.

Kelli, same here. I am thankful for you all posting! Sorry for the delay, I've been working on two (real) campaigns and also procrastinating on Twitter (LOL).

Shame is such a powerful psychological place and so (self) destructive. As I've shared with Christelyn, I want her to be free of her shame and, by extension, free everyone else of her need to do the shaming.

A girl can dream...

RiPPa said...

The bell hooks quote knocked me off of my feet and made me utter a Michael Jackson, "Hee heee!"

Yep, that's the crux of it all.