How do we convince black girls that they still rock even if they don't have a "rock" on their fingers?
Watching Black Girls Rock is always special for me. I had the pleasure of being in attendance at the very first taping of this amazing award show celebrating black girls and women. Now it's such a big deal that the First Lady of the United States is involved. It's official.
As I was watching this year, a fleeting thought came to mind and then back again when I saw Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband have a PDA moment on stage.
The truth that some don't want to admit is that a lot of black girls won't think they really rock unless they have a man by their side. They can have every accomplishment in the book, from a doctorate degree to owning a successful business, but nothing seems like enough if they can't also say they have their MRS. They aren't happy being alone and successful.
This narrative plays out every week on Being Mary Jane, a show that also airs on BET. Even though Mary Jane has all the trappings of success, a beautiful home, luxury car, a well paying job and success as a television celebrity, she still feels "incomplete" or like she's not enough because she doesn't have a husband and children.
The reason why so many young women idolize strippers and celebrities who sell sex is because they draw the attention of men. They want that attention for themselves, so they emulate these images. Many would much rather "rock" for being sexy and attracting the temporary attention of men than for being a smart ambitious girl who is set for life. And that's problematic because the women who they idolize today will likely be the cautionary tales of the future.
So Are You Seeing Anybody?
The desperation of needing a man in order to be happy and complete is something that is taught to us girls from a young age. We often watch our mothers, older sisters and aunties go through it with men, just for the sake of keeping them around. Every television show or magazine article centers around finding that perfect man for you. And if you've ever gone out with "the girls" you know that the topic of conversation almost always starts with "so are you seeing anybody, girl?"
This definitely isn't a phenomenon that only happens among black women. All women of all races have this obsession with finding a man, but all women of all races don't have the uniquely dysfunctional dynamic of relations with their male counterparts. Non-black women still have a solid pool of candidates to choose from. Black women don't have the same level of support as other groups of women from their counterparts. Black women often have to make serious sacrifices if they want to marry a black man or even a man of another race. In fact, the romantic relationships that young black women find themselves in often are the very things that hold them back from finding success.
So my thought is this: how can we create a shift in the mentality of young black girls to be genuinely happy with their success, even if it doesn't involve having a relationship with a man? How do we convince them that they are enough all by themselves? This would obviously have to start with very young girls for a real shift to happen.
If I had to throw out a few suggestions I guess they would be:
- Older black women have to make better choices in men for themselves to be that living example for their young nieces, daughters and sisters (breaking the cycle in every way).
- Teach young girls the difference between good and bad treatment from men so that they'll demand better.
- Teach young girls the importance of valuing themselves and their own needs over the needs of a boy.
- Show young girls to value their bodies, that it's not something to be shared with everyone (not just talk or religious ideals, but actual facts).
- Encourage young American black girls to explore the world from a young age to meet men from other cultures other than America -- they shouldn't grow up believing that *all* men in the world have the same general mentality as American men.
The main goal of any solution would be for black girls to a) not gauge their level of success as a woman based on their relationship status, b) learn to be complete in themselves first and foremost (a man does not complete you) and then c) learn that they do have options if they choose to get married one day, so that they will choose someone who is good for them. I believe that if they come to a place where they are genuinely happy with themselves and not stressed about finding someone, they will attract a great person into their lives, unexpectedly.
This is a major challenge, because ideas about the importance of having a man are deeply ingrained in women. But I feel that it's a necessary challenge to address if we're serious about teaching black girls that they do in fact ROCK, even if they're rocking without a ring on their fingers.