No Wedding, No Womb! (NWNW) is a movement of bloggers that have been generating considerable steam since their "day of action" (paradox) on September 22nd. I first caught wind of this event on NPR’s Tell Me More podcast with Michel Martin where Michel interviewed the founder, Christelyn Karazin, and Hampton Psychology Chair, Linda Malone-Colon. As I listened to the points raised during this initial broadcast, I found no real disagreement with those ideas presented and even considered myself a less than ardent supporter of such a notion. It was only later during a discussion around a post on the Contraband Marriage blog by Tichaona Chinyelu entitled "A Hierarchy of Children?" that I became aware of the nuance of my opinion about the entire dialogue. This shall be my first entry in what may turn out to be a series of posts on the subject of No Wedding, No Womb coordinated between myself and Tichaona as we explore the dynamic of opinions that we as men and women share as well as where we might diverge on the issue of marriage, family, and children.
I am an advocate of the traditional family structure as what I consider the strongest form in which children may be raised. I thought this was a simple position to hold but being a man that is in this constant state of flux regarding the implications of his words, I immediately took issue with the word "traditional". It is problematic because it too has become filled with such nuance and connotation as to be altogether useless in shorthand discussion. Traditional is out. Family structure? I knew both my mother and father growing up. I lived in Kenner City. My father lived in Chicago. I had a stepfather named James and a stepmother named Geneva. There was nothing particularly "traditional" about my household(s). I later learned that the proper term was "blended".
My current views on family were largely altered by beliefs that I developed later in life. I was determined that these should form into the future foundation for any child of mine that they should be reared in a household where both their mother and father were fully present. Here is where it becomes further complicated. I have a child of 8 years in age and *gasp* I am not with her mother. It was quite the road of travail as we journeyed with one another from the opening heights of our togetherness, to the deepest emotional slump that side of the recession, and back here to the equilibrium that has developed through the understanding that we two people are integral in the fashioning of a conscious and committed young African daughter.
Many of my immediate thoughts about the campaign were rearranged by this aforementioned dialogue which developed between myself, Tichaona, and Khadijah Ali-Coleman. I consider myself one of those "progressive" black men. <insert chuckle here> I am careful with assigning this quality to myself as I have also become keenly aware of the existence of Black Male Privilege and how it is inclined to color all manner of debate where it concerns an issue that has any direct effect on both men and women where blame can be code shifted from one to the other. I strive to suppress any notions that my opinion is correct about anyone save myself.
With all of those disclaimers duly noted, I submit this for your consideration. I agree with the concept of "No Wedding, No Womb" on the basis of the principle that it advocates. I think that growing up in the context of a committed familial relationship holds the potential to create a healthier space for children to expand their awareness in this world. This is as diplomatic as I can offer in the summation of a single sentence. I don’t want to limit the scope of family by defining it specifically as "marriage" since the commingling of culture in America has given us vastly different forms of commitment to which we might adhere. First grievance: Marriage is a problematic term given the climate of current political debate.
This issue is further complicated by the complex interweaving of systems of belief in America. It is difficult to attack any issue of political or social importance without smashing squarely into a wall of belief that either ourselves or someone else is not willing to cross. Therefore when the conversation amongst the twitterati and blogosphere is dissected upon the forensic table in the aftermath, you have a breakdown of the have-husbands and the have-nots, the values voters and the bleeding heart liberals, religiosity and secularism. The same factors of division that stand in our midst in every other debate where we should probably stop attempting to promote our manner of belief and step back from the fault line where we know solutions go to die. Second grievance: A discussion that held promise of sparking some interesting conversations at its outset has been largely hi-jacked by the moralistic minority.
The inclusion of the womb in the discussion makes this particular matter a hands off topic for myself. I think we would do well to exclude all men from that part of the conversation on the basis that the womb is filled with linguistic, social, moral, and philosophical quandary that I don’t think we as men have truly equipped ourselves to understand outside of our privilege to control the flow and boundaries of discussion. Therefore we have no business debating what a woman should do with their womb whether we are considering this subject or that other political lightning rod. If this is a discussion amongst sisters regarding how they intend to resolve their problem at its root, let them discuss the womb implications first and then come retrieve us when they are ready to speak about the larger solutions for achieving parity in marriage if we discover that it is indeed one of our intended goals. Third grievance: Close the door on sister self talk in order that no one may be accused of boastfulness, arrogance, or elitism and everyone can feel equally understood in explaining their opinion.
The founder of the movement desired to create a quick dispensation of her position by choosing a simplified term, but at this stage, we need more discussion and not less around these issues. NWNW is too small a term to fully engage all of the issues that are to be faced by women and children in our communities. It is moralistic shorthand that attempts to snip away at further discussion regarding the breakdown of educational spaces, the lack of supportive systems for single parenthood, and the ideal that a dysfunctional nuclear family can be far more destructive than a sustainable singular one.