Erykah Badu had to break bad when her fans voiced their disapproval over her reproductive life: “HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THE QUEENDOM… AND MY CHILDREN AND MY INTELLIGENCE.” It seems that folk are not pleased that the singer, songwriter, producer, actress and doula has had three children with three different men, so they went straight to her fansite to voice their discontent. Up in arms and all up in her womb, fans feel Ms. Badu is sending the wrong message with regard to family values and marriage. As we know Erykah is sensitive about her ish, so of course she slammed back hot, heavy and hard: “I home schooled (my children) and taught them the ways of good to the best of my ability. the fathers of my children are my brothers and friends. WE LOVE OUR CHILDREN TO NO END. we took our own ‘vows’ and CONTINUE TO UPHOLD THEM.” She then asks, “Would it ‘look better’ to marry and diviorce (sic) and marry again? Would that be morally correct?” Coming on the heels of everyone from The Economist to Tyrese offering their two-cents on the subject of Black women, marriage and motherhood Badu’s dropping science couldn’t have come at a better time. Everyone—fans and media alike—are all on womb watch, policing Black punany as a means to make news, make books, make movies, make mythology and of course make money.
Just this past July, I couldn’t go on Facebook or Twitter without seeing something trite about Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley. On Facebook, updates came hard and heavy: “Lauryn Hill Pregnant Again With Sixth Child!” and “Rohan Leaves Lauryn (And Unborn Child) for Brazilian Model.” On Twitter, it was more of the same just sandwiched within 140 characters: “if lauryn hill have one more gat damn baby and don’t put out a record!!!” I seriously couldn’t have cared less about Rohan’s new girlfriend and whether or not he was responsible for L’s latest maternity moment. I had gone through my Maury moment like 10 years ago. Hearing “you are not the father” and seeing the usual rambunctious merriment of presumed dads was a cheap thrill that only left me bewildered and so very concerned about the state of intimate relations in our society. I found the gossip around Lauryn’s pregnancy very disturbing. Folks, men and women alike, were straight hatin’ on Lauryn for being pregnant “AGAIN” and for bearing, of all people, Rohan “Papa’s A Rolling Stone” Marley’s seed (which we now know this sixth child was not his).
The talk that she just keeps on having children, that she’s not married, and that her baby daddy is a ‘Marley-womanizer’ all congealed into this bruhaha that made Lauryn’s womb sound more like some club where everybody and their mama was trying to man the door controlling who should venture beyond her labia. This summer Lauryn’s vagina was more policed than a NYC Pete Rock hip-hop event. Last I heard a women’s womb was her business, but I guess that doesn’t apply to Black women in show business.
I didn’t hear any of these types of rants from folks when Angelina Jolie spit out her twins– Vivienne and Knox– making for her and her babydaddy, Brad Pitt, their fifth and sixth children. Where’s the rage against a now single Kate Gosselin? These women don’t get the side-eye for being “side-tracked” or for being a baby’s mama they get deals. And wowzers, it’s mindblowin’ to me that no one can seem to muster up enough strength or ire to point their judgmental fingers at single Black men who have several children by more than one woman. Why aren’t fans up in arms over the examples of fatherhood represented by Lil Wayne, Mos Def, Eddie Griffin, Ray Lewis, & Evander Holyfield?
Conversely, both Erykah and Lauryn get framed within a classic “Welfare Mama” type of backlash for being single women who want to have more than one child with more than one mate. And because they’re Black, they are further stereotyped as women that are out of control and unstable. This sentiment is clearly rooted in racism. Society through media tells us that white unmarried mothers like Jolie are chic, rebellious, matriarch trendsetters. Black women in the same context are seen as inappropriate and irresponsible. Hill is an international superstar, who between 1998 and 1999, earned $25 million from record sales and touring. Her “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” sold in excess of 18 million copies. This past summer she headlined along with Nas (who is never criticized for having two children with two different women) and Erykah Badu, the multi-million dollar generating Rock The Bells tour. The idea that she can’t afford to take care of six children is pretty damn absurd.
So what gives? Black women can’t have more than two kids without being thought of as sexually deviant and personally (and professionally) irresponsible? Do Black women have to be married in order to be good mothers? To these questions I have to quote N’dada Vaz who proclaimed on a Facebook thread about L-Boogie’s baby daddy drama: “Free Your Mind. Free Your Snatch!” Too many of us are letting traditional notions of marriage and family set forth by the King of England way back in the day and promoted by Tyler Perry, Walt Disney, and most recently via BET’s hit “Reed Between The Lines” dictate why we marry and what family should look like.
Someone even had the nerve to say Erykah was destroying the nuclear family. Nah son, an institution called slavery decimated the nuclear family ideal for Black folks long before Baduism hit the Billboard charts. I think many of us need to get off of our Virgin Mary, Clair Huxtable high-horse and understand how these conventions are interrupted, deflated and turned inside out by class, race, religion and sexuality.
Last week the NY Times featured a refreshing take on this topic in “Black, Female and Single,” where writer Angela Stanley offers a new perspective on the same ole same ole: “Black women have been silenced. When we are vocal, we are problems. The marriage debate highlights the need for black women to tell our own stories; it calls for an honest and holistic conversation that includes black men and it requires a critical analysis of structural inequities and mass incarceration.” I couldn’t be happier by Erykah’s beautifully insightful rant. She dropped dime on her personal vision of motherhood and relationships and how times call for revised notions of the so-called “nuclear family” and in doing so she revealed how the problem lies within an archaic institution and not within her love life.
Like Erykah, many of us, both men and women, need to get free. Some of us are imprisoned by our very own snatches and some of us are using the snatch as a scapegoat to demonize women for being sexually liberated. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve been sitting on my womb like it’s a friggin’ Fabergé egg, afraid that my pregnancy dreams without a hubby would shatter into a million pieces of self-defeat. Well I can attest that not having a child because I’m single hasn’t made me any better than my sister or any of my grrrlfriend’s who have had children without having someone put a ring on it. Now I want a child more than I want to be married. I’d like to have companionship, but if that doesn’t happen then so be it, I only have one life and one womb. Screw the haters or better yet, to quote Ms. Badu, they can “Kick rocks… Call Tyrone… and Kiss my placenta.”