Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By request – my thoughts on No Wedding, No Womb!

A certain Stacey from Baltimore sent a bitch a request for my thoughts on the No Wedding, No Womb!  movement.

Okay, Ms. Stacey – you asked for it!

Full disclosure – my parents were married for several years before they had children.  They separated when I was around 11 years old and officially divorced when I was in college.  So, some of my thoughts on this issue come from that experience – that weddings are easy, marriage is work and what we really need to do is focus on empowering women.

Shall we?

The fantabulous Michel Martin interviewed the woman behind the No Wedding, No Womb! Campaign on a recent edition of her Tell Me More show on NPR. Christelyn Karazin is the founder of the No Wedding No Womb movement – you can listen to the show and read Martin’s interview here.

The “out-of-wedlock” birth rate for black babies is 72 percent.  Although many debate the particulars, there is little debate that unplanned pregnancies present challenges to parents, families and communities.  And I use the term unplanned pregnancy deliberately, because I believe it is a mistake to approach this issue from a wedding centered or marriage centered perspective.  Trust me, divorce has a huge impact on parents, families and communities too…and, with a 50 percent failure rate, this bitch often wonders at the lack of attention people pay to the cost and impact divorce has on society.

Something tells me Impact of Divorce is playing jacks with his cousin Cost and Impact “out-of-wedlock” Birth Rates.

My opinion is that we need to focus on empowering black women…on advocating for and creating a lifelong commitment to sexuality literacy…and on comprehensive sex education, which should include an exploration of self worth and reproductive health.

We need to acknowledge the fact that the same community that stigmatizes women who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term has also failed to embrace and advocate for comprehensive sex education…many of the same people who cut their eyes at a pregnant teen have rejected the call to teach our youth about safer sex and are pretty damned silent when it comes to the issue of sexually transmitted infection rates among black teens.

The old "you play, you pay" is anti-knowledge, clearly does not work and will only continue to get us nowhere fast.
Planning parenthood must…it absolutely must…involve more than a call to wait until someone puts a ring on it.

And the cold reality is that planning parenthood must…absolutely must…involve more than promoting marriage.

Are we listening to young black women?

Catch the knee!

Not thinking about our own experiences, but listening to a generation that has it’s own experiences.

Do we get involved in the lives of black youth…volunteer and support our young sisters…talk openly about sex and pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or sexual exploitation and abuse?


I’ve been a volunteer with young black women for over six years and I’ve struggled to get grown black women to join me at the grassroots level.  

I’ve struggled to recruit my sisters to volunteer at local shelters for teen mothers and teach them about basic household budgeting, reproductive health and prevention, and basic women’s health.

What I like about the No Wedding, No Womb movement is that is calls for a discussion. 

Lawd knows we need one.

We need to start talking about sex from a sex positive perspective that empowers women, frames sex as something to be enjoyed and celebrated rather than something to be dispensed as a reward or withheld like a carrot.

We need to address marriage too…because right now that rickety institution is an unstable solution at best.

But on a whole, a bitch supports the call for black women to think about this shit…to talk openly about single parenting and the many challenges facing our communities.

I also hope that this movement includes a discussion about same-sex marriage, because some black women couldn’t get married if they wanted to.  And don’t sleep – same-sex couples face many of the same challenges if they become single parents. 

I’ll wrap up with this – that black folk discussing the consequences of unprotected sex and/or unplanned pregnancy is a good thing. 

I support the dialogue and pledge to actively participate.

Because I’m an activist advocating for the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls.

I believe that will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives.

That's reproductive justice…no weddings required.


Pamela said...

A-the freak-men, Shark-Fu.

Anonymous said...

You're an inspiring bitch. Thanks for that. I will have to look into volunteering my time as well. I have a particular invested interest as my niece is now a single mom after her 'husband' fooled around, got someone else pregnant and left her hi 'n dry. That's including the leases to the cars, rent, etc. So yeah. I'mma do what I can. Thanks.

DesertRose said...

Preach it, Shark-fu.

Anonymous said...


This post is why I've been reading your blog from day 1 (seriously, ever since I saw the link to here from Rob Thurman's post). Your ability to articulate the thought most progressives have with few powerful words is simply amazing!

The Roving Reporter said...

I think your take on this movement is great because it not only mentions the importance of marriage, but also emphasizes the importance of education.

A lot of folks shoving this "movement" down the throats of others seem to only think that marriage is the only solution to having babies out of wedlock.

Amanda said...

A lot of folks shoving this "movement" down the throats of others seem to only think that marriage is the only solution to having babies out of wedlock.

There is nothing wrong with their focus. If that's not your focus then create a movement for it instead of trying to blast others for theirs.

Shark-Fu said...

I'm a reproductive justice activist - that's the movement for me.

Having said that - I see this campaign as something taking place within the reproduce justice movement.

So let's have a dialogue 'cause the last thing we need is 50 campaigns at war with each other and accomplishing nothing as a result.

M. Denise Wilmer Barreto said...

You had me at "which should include an exploration of self worth"


We have to get at healthy full relationship with self before we even THINK about being in relationship with others.

Great post - I'd never see your writing before but I will now!

Deion said...

I prefer you words on this movement, than any I've read on the site. I have no problem with their message, but I take offense to their tone.

I'd feel better if they were preaching about education and guidance not only for the young women they want to prevent getting pregnant, but support and love for the ones that already have gotten pregnant. I read my first essay the site yesterday, and the author referred to a child of a single mother that moved into her neighborhood as a "hoodrat kid" and proceeded to talk about the shame that it was that this woman had to move into this home all by herself with a kid in tow. It didn't sound like she spoke any words of encouragement to this young woman, or offered to help. It sounded more like she found her feminine sensibilities insulted and her property values already dropping.

Needless to say, I was turned off and after a brief exchange with a couple of supporters on Twitter, no doubt agitated by non supporters, I don't think I'll be going back.

Anonymous said...

What about those GROWN women having babies out of wedlock?! Please if you don't feel marriage is the end all be all then don't complain about babies out of wedlock. It's like black womne want to have it both ways stop complaining if you don't want marriage.

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