Over at Clutch Magazine, Racialicious editor Tamara Winfrey Harris contrasted marriage advice aimed at black women with the old adage “there is a lid for every pot.”
On a literal lid hunt, one looks for the top that suits the particular contours and properties of the bottom. No one would dream of perching a saucepan lid on a cast iron skillet and expect the fried chicken to turn out right. And you wouldn’t take a hammer to your crockpot to make some random cover fit. But society constantly bangs on black women in an effort to mold us into something allegedly more attractive to potential partners — as if our needs are secondary and as if they don’t really care about healthy partnerships, but just marriage for marriage’s sake.
Image Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy
That panic is rooted in the sense that too many professional women (of any race) not getting married means too many people pushing back on sex-based pay disparities in the workplace. It means too many people questioning the logic of tying health care benefits, property rights, hospital visitation rights, etc. to marriage. To me, these articles and “news” programs are being published and broadcast in an effort to stem this coming tide. And those of us black women who feel offended and mischaracterized by the media onslaught should take this as our cue to claim our rights and our rightful place as trailblazers in the 21st century reconfiguration of family and adulthood.
Rather than take the bait and feel terrible about ourselves when some media outlet tells us we’re both cause and victim of an “epidemic” or “crisis” in the black community, let’s assert that we are grown-ass human beings, and thus deserving of the same social, economic, civil and political rights that married people can access.
A vocal segment of the LGBTQ activist community has been making this argument for a while now. People like Kenyon Farrow, Jasmyne Cannick and Yasmin Nair have long been arguing that rather than making marriage the be all end all, we should be supporting each other in creating custom-made families that work for us. They’ve pointed out the folly of fighting to mimic and reproduce the patriarchal, nuclear families that continue to be held up as the only legitimate model in this country. These writers argue – and straight, unmarried black women would be smart to join the chorus — that rather than focusing on getting more people married, we should be de-linking human rights from marriage and creating space for a broader acceptance of the cobbled together, nontraditional families that many of us came up in. I know I’m not the only one who was raised by a thoroughly capable single parent and the family members she kept close to make sure I was surrounded by love and good care at all times. My family has never been illegitimate.
So where have we been while this segment of the LGBT community has been crafting the arguments we need to be firing off to Essence every time they let Steve Harvey ruminate on how much we should hate ourselves? While segments of the gay community are planning for a time when non-sexual domestic partner benefits are available nationwide, why aren’t those of us who still don’t quite get how marriage would enrich our lives spiritually, romantically or materially supporting that fight? Even if we do think we might want to marry some day, why not join forces now with people like Farrow and Cannick as they argue for the kind of movement that would benefit us just as much as it would benefit them?
–From Unmarried black women: “We’re here, we’re fierce, get used to it.”, full post available at Feministing
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World