I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that ABC New is running articles about the ills of single ladies, since they have several stories/videos about “crazy cat ladies,” but I am of two minds about this piece about single, black, successful ladies. The premise of the piece is an attempt to look at a potential racial divide between when black women get married and when white women get married.
From the video:
Forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married, double the number of white women who’ve never tied the knot.
For starters, there are 1.8 million more black women than black men. So even if every black man in America married a black woman today, one out of 12 black women still wouldn’t make it down the aisle if they hoped to marry a black man.
What “Nightline” looked at were the large numbers of professional black women who have groomed themselves for success with B.A.s, M.D.s and J.D.s. Seventy percent of them are still without the more elusive title: M-R-S.
Fear-mongering statistics aside, it is frustrating to read this. I realize that watching this through my feminist lens is frustrating because ABC News is reducing these women to letters and numbers, ignoring the role that socialization has on women to feel they need to get married. Where, after all, are the specials on panacea around single men? Those stories would look different, if produced at all, and I think reducing it to biology is too simple (aka the biological clock). The reality is many men want to be in stable relationships as well.
But if I am to look around at women I know including successful women of color, they do want to get married and while I don’t necessarily agree with that desire on their part, I am their friend and I too am on the mean dating circuit and can most certainly feel their pain. Factors such as racism and displacement have forced our communities apart in ways that are reflected in dating and marriage.
So how do we reconcile this tension? Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story is when Steve Harvey “relationship expert” chimes in about how all these ladies are “fine,” so it is crazy they are single. Get it, they look nice, it doesn’t matter if they are educated and successful. Oh and they are overlooking good guys, so it is probably their fault. And Harvey hits the nail on the head without realizing he does–irrelevant of your successes in life, you have to put that behind you if you want to find a man. Men don’t have this same pressure, they can be as choosy as they want if they are successful and even sometimes when they are not. This would be why heteronormativity sucks.
Perhaps I am a bit oversensitive to this kind of thing because I obviously fit the single, black, female criteria. I just wonder why a person’s career success should automatically translate into success in finding a mate. Did I miss something?
I know there are friends of mine of many races and backgrounds that have a desire to marry, but I don’t get the sense that they feel entitled to it simply because they have achieved success.
Whenever I hear or read stories like this, I have to really wonder, what is the point of tossing out the “forty-two percent” have not married statistic. Then they take it further and highlight the difference as “double the number of white women”. Seriously?
Similarly, I think that is what frustrates me about the media constructed panics around single black women, a parallel I think that can be drawn for women of color, more generally. Historical reasons such as racism, colonization, migrations and culture have made the ways our lives form different. Becoming successful in America comes with it not only financial success, but white weddings and 2 kids and 2 cars and a dog and a cat. It comes with it assumptions about your sexuality which make illegible that fuzzy space where people that may not fit those molds exist. I realize my proposition is radical, but I think we really need to push past the idea that the only way to be a legitimate “woman” is to be married and allow people the cultural freedom to feel comfortable in the space they are in.
And just for reading all of that…go on and have a dance break.