Help. I’m a Black Woman and I’m Not Married.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Akasha Orr

I recently read an article in the current Ms. Magazine called “Singled Out” that truly pissed me off. The article was calling out the media’s obsession with the faltering marriage rate of Black women and primarily focused on a new film called Think like A Man, based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, entitled: Act Like a Lady; Think Like a Man.

Now, I’ve seen the trailer for this movie, and as a movie-buff to the extreme I was ready to buy my ticket! It looked entertaining and hosted a cast straight out of a "who’s who in Black film today" manual, completing the formulaic cast with one sort-of-known White guy who inevitably becomes the focus of a Black woman who has given up on finding a good, Black man to marry her.

I wanted to see this movie until I read this article. My first thought was why is it that only one Black-interest film comes out per year and it almost ALWAYS has a marriage or church-y theme? Is this all that Black folks are concerned about-- getting married and getting right with God? While I don’t see anything wrong with those two things conceptually, I hold that there are other things that Black people are not only interested in (I’m talking to filmmakers here…) but are dealing with as realities in our lives. And while the movie-going experience is meant to be an escape from reality, it can also be the playing out of reality for the purpose of catharsis, greater knowledge and awareness, and overall growth.

My issues with Black filmmaking aside, what really bothered me about this article (please note, the author-Tamara Winfrey Harris’ opinions and mine are in total agreement) was the actual purport in Steve Harvey’s book that Black women can’t get married due to some common missteps. Mr. Harvey’s advice includes: “Ladies are those who let men take the lead in picking a dinner spot. They don’t ask a date in for a nightcap until he has earned “the cookie” (i.e. sex) after a 90-day probation period. Ladies do not fix household items or mow the lawn. But don’t be afraid to make a meal or two-the kitchen is both your and his friend.”

Wow… I was growling the whole time I read that ridiculous advice and seething as I just retyped it! Did Mr. Harvey miss the Feminist Revolution, all 3 waves of it, altogether? If I don’t have a husband, boyfriend, eager-beaver man-friend waiting for me to get desperate enough to give him “the cookie,” am I just supposed to have a household full of broken-down shit and an overgrown lawn? How attractive would that be to some dude who comes over to date me?

I’m not even going to get into the kitchen being my friend bullshit because I don’t think this blog could really contain the language I would need to use to properly put Mr. Harvey in his ignorant, misogynistic, backward-thinking, holy-rolling “married” place. And just so every hard-headed man gets it into his skull, my “cookie” is mine to give to who I see fit, when I feel fit, and in whatever way I want. Back off! Don’t tell me with whom and when I can have sex. And let’s do away with this “cookie” talk while we’re at it. Terms like that diminish a woman’s sexuality to cutesiness and removes the power she has as birthright to.

First of all, what qualifies you, Mr. Harvey, to give Black women advice on getting and staying married at all? Do we have any evidence that your wife is happy, besides the fact that she’s enjoying the luxury of spending your celebrity money?

Secondly, how many Black women have you actually talked to that have simply chosen to focus on other matters in their lives and are not interested in marriage? I know, it sounds so unbelievable to you, Mr. Harvey, but that creature does exist! And what about the lack of Black men (if that is the only race of men you see fit for us to marry) who are our equals in career goals/achievements, family desires, education, political, and social views? If we don’t find men who we feel we are well-matched with, Mr. Harvey, is that our own fault for having the gall to desire such? Are we supposed to marry any man that would mow our lawn, fix our shit and eat whatever we shovel together, no doubt while pregnant, dressed to the hilts and topped off with stilettos in our impeccably clean kitchens? Fuck you.

Walk a day in these breasts, counter every patriarchal assumption and assertion thrown your way, refuse to take whatever you're given, ignore street harassment, and dare to demand what you are worth-- then you can write that book, you self-righteous, indignant, ignorance pusher. You are filling young (and mature) Black women’s minds with falsehoods and 50’s thinking that will threaten the next era of emerging feminists. How dare you.

Let me address the most anger-inducing part of this book/movie: It makes no mention, at all, of the existence of queer women! Women who can’t get married because of another anger-inducing fact in this country-- y’all are afraid of gay people! Some Black women are unmarried, because they are gay/queer and have chosen not to live within right-wing society’s confines and biases. I am one of those Black women. I am unmarried for several reasons, one being that I am a lesbian. I can only imagine Mr. Harvey’s follow-up book being called something like: Act like A Straight; Date like A Gay. Or would he even venture to address this missing issue with his backward thinking advice or simply assert that we queer Black women don’t count because we’re outside of “God’s Plan”?

A few months ago, I got into a conversation with my mother about my future plans and how I fully and happily anticipated becoming a mother in the future. My mother, love me though she does, responded with something like, "I just assumed you weren’t going to do that…that you’d chosen to live a different kind of life." I respectfully informed her that gay/queer people do and want all the same things that hetero people do and want, we just have no intention of settling for your version of it.

That’s the same thing I’d tell Mr. Harvey if we ever came face to face. That ‘marriage’ is an archaic concept that was created by men, to continue their bloodline and add to their property one (or more depending upon the society) chosen woman by her father, sold off like cattle, and has continued to be an exchange of goods for services, which serves men more than it serves women. Personally, I am not against gay or straight marriage, I simply am for a rethinking of it.

I fully intend to establish a life-long committed, monogamous relationship with a woman/queer person whose values and life goals connect with mine. I would suggest Mr. Harvey, and Robin Thicke, who apparently has earned the right to comment on the Black marriage crisis due to his marriage to one of us, do their homework if they really want to understand why some Black women are married and some are not. I’m simply tired of men weighing in on women’s issues…period. Maybe they should mind their own business.  That would actually be my best advice.