There is such an important point being made here by Stacia L. Brown in Salon. She’s talking specifically about black single mothers but the point can be applied much more broadly. Very often I detect an unexamined prejudice among well-meaning feminists where they appear to embrace a marginalised group of people but their embrace comes with the implicit understanding that this group must be ‘trying their very best’ to live their life according to some very patriarchal standards. This is not acceptance.
Consider the irony. Because black single motherhood is so rarely discussed with nuance and empathy, this segment was high-stakes poker. How this panel represented us to the public was also a matter of grave import. But rather than using part of their airtime to talk to unmarried minority mothers about how they navigate childcare, child loss, and self-care while living under a regime that will indict them for expressing exhaustion, grief, or indignation in public, they spoke amongst themselves about how unmarried mothers could further rehab their image.
For Harris-Perry, it had to do with not defining herself a single mother when she was one: “I was an unmarried mom for quite some time. But I didn’t think of myself as single, because I had my mother. We had created another family structure that [yielded] two parents.” As someone whose unmarried parenting structure also includes my mother, I can’t think of a reason not self-identify as a single parent, other than to distance myself from stigma. And I can’t distance myself from stigma, no matter what I call myself. How can we change the way society views black single motherhood if we refuse to identify as single moms?