Wednesday, September 29, 2010

it takes a village: on the “no wedding, no womb” discussion.


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via Freedom Fighter by aliciasanchezgill on 9/29/10

over the past few days, a new "movement" has been brewing, almost to critical proportions. the "no wedding, no womb" discussion seems to call for (based on what i've read here) an end to single parenthood, and what seems to be specifically mother hood, in the black community. their premise is the "idea that a two-parent household is better than a single, struggling one." it calls for accountability in child bearing, and sexual responsibility. ok. i can get with that. i mean, raising children IS a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly, and who doesn't love the ability to make sexual reproduction choices? that's what reproductive justice is about, right?

i've read numerous articles by various contributors to this blogging movement. It might be impossible to read them all, there are probably a hundred of them at this point- all with slightly different viewpoints, and stories to share. each one is valuable in their own way, and there is no arguing with people's personal experiences– so i won't. full stop. i have also had numerous conversations with people who vehemently disagree with this movement's theory and solutions to what may be a very real issue, worth discussing. I might even venture to say that many of us disagree about the very root of the problem.

i guess i shouldn't really be so worked up about this conversation- it is very clear that no matter what i do, I will ultimately be a dysfunctional parent. no matter how much love, safety, affection, attention, resources i give my children and no matter how much healthy, happy, stable, well-adjusted community they have, they will underachieve because…they won't have a father [in their very traditional sense of the word]. it seems, based on the information page i have read, that this campaign is targeted to mothers who co-parent with men. only. wait. maybe i can't get with this.

But NWNW doesn't NECESSARILY equate to marriage, per se, but commitment–a lifelong partnership between mother and father. Both are "married" to the idea that a two-parent household is better than a single, struggling one.

now, based on this definition of what constitutes "good parenting," I completely fall out of the norms of what society and NWNW deems as healthy for children. i am so glad that it does at least mention that marriage isn't the only option for raising children. but I am so curious about why the idea of a two-parent home is better. maybe there is an assumption that being a single parent always means a struggle. or that being single means "alone" or "without any support networks."

also, they have made their stance on sexuality and gender pretty clear [from most of the blogs I have read]. only men can raise boys [to do manly things, of course, like throw footballs, and such]. i was also perusing, and found this little nugget of a comment, written by the founder of the #nwnw movement herself, regarding her post "funny friday: funny excuses to have kids with no daddy." i wonder if being a lesbian couple in a long-term, committed relationship and adopting children is a funny excuse to have kids with no daddy. needless to say, i did not find this comment by her funny. at all.

Oh OH! I got another one: Having a baby with two parents is SO "heteronomative!" (Da hay-ll does that mean anyway? Should we all be "heteroABNORMATIVE?" WTF with a dash of What the CUSS and OMG. The world has gone MAD!)

so, if the person who created this "movement" cannot even be bothered to read a queer theory book to find out what heteronormative means, and thinks that challenging heteronormativity is mad, and hasn't asked about LGBTQ parenting experiences in a meaningful [and not comedic or condescending] way, I will go ahead and assume that my voice, as a queer, black woman, who will potentially mother, has fabulous support networks and resources, is not valued in this conversation. not to mention that even for those lgbtq folks who want to get married, for many of us, marriage is not even an option.

there are so many times that we as black women are excluded from movements, but it is especially damaging for our communities to not consistently challenge patriarchy, gender expectations and class issues. i believe that we all have a stake in the health and safety of our children. i also believe that the concept of family, for most people of color is so much bigger than a marriage license or institution can hold. and who's to say that's less valid? as an afro-latino, who grew up with afro-latino and afro-carribean neighbors, i knew how important extended family was and is to many black folks from all over the diaspora. some of us are living with our mothers, (and fathers), grandparents, and an aunt or two. it is not uncommon in other parts of the world, to live it different types of family unit models than the one NWNW is suggesting.

how do we undo the ideas that an "institution" is going to make us better parents to our children? how do we create community responsibility in child nurturing that fall outside of institutions that often, are not in place to keep us safe and protected [just look at black incarceration rates]. how do we get past the idea that the ideal family consists of one "man" and one "woman" and move towards goals like "children have the right to good books and lives free of street harassment and sexual abuse?"

i mean, if we want to keep our children safe, maybe we should be talking about the fact that 40% of our little black girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18 [and all of the emotionally, psychological damage that can do to a child- especially when she is not believed], often by a father, or father figure. maybe we should be talking about the school to prison pipeline. or talking about domestic violence, and the fact that black women are killed three times more often by a spouse than white women. we'd talk about lack of affordable childcare, fair wages, fair housing, sexual education, sti and pregnancy prevention.

you see, there's so much more that our community needs. we don't need another slap on the wrist as black women. "women, keep your legs closed" rhetoric is so patriarchal, and dated. and frankly, I'm tired shaming, and tired of having other folks make demands on my womb. i mean, there was [and is] slavery, forced sterilization in puerto rico, anti-abortion laws, rape, sterilization of women with disabilities. no one has the right to tell me what kind of body is ok for pro-creation, and what kind of bank account, educational level or house size is worthy of child rearing. let's talk about radical love instead. i reject the myth that queer families are not fit to love and care for children. I reject that idea that a two-parent model is the the only way we as black folks create loving families.

i care deeply about black children. i'm not saying that our children don't need loving supports. i agree that black mothers cannot do it all by themselves. i'm through with being a strong black woman.  we don't have to be strong black women. but what i am suggesting, is that i, in fact, am my sister's keeper. i have worked at rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, all in love for, and solidarity with black [and brown and queer, and low income] women, and their [our] children. i care so much about us, that I believe it takes more than two parents– more specifically, one man and one woman to raise a child. it takes a loving, safe village to raise our children.


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