It feels somehow wrong to write about Ariana Proehl. She’s the creator of a YouTube video calling for the “Death of the Tragic, Scientifically Less Attractive, Unmarriageable, Single Black Woman Narrative” in 2012. Proehl, like many Black women who have sat through a slew of monthly trend pieces, news segments and blog posts analyzing our alleged miserable dating lives and the multitude of causes (always attributed to our generalized disposition, basic expectation and the overall lacking of Black men) wants all the fuss to finally come to a full stop.
“Deading it, it’s done, it’s over,” Proehl says in the video. “So after 2011 I don’t want to read any more articles. I don’t even want to read any more well researched, intelligent thoughtful responses. It’s a waste of our brain trust that has better issues to be attending to and has real issues that need to be solving.”
Sorry, but I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t give Proehl—and the others who champion single Black women– some shine for positivity and truth-telling when I’ve always responded, and by unfortunate proxy, spread the fear-mongering negative news. Proehl might not agree, but what the conversation about single Black women needs more than anything in 2012, isn’t the moratorium she calls for, more like more conversations to undo the damage by giving sensible souls a voice. Maybe just maybe that will combat the idea that their sum total of a Black woman rests on whether a man puts a ring on it, and if she can call her partner, if she has one, her “huszzzband.”
The tragic Black single woman narrative is the deceased horse that seemingly everyone loves to beat. And it’s been effective. I hear traces of panic and fear from many of the clients I work with as a life coach, from the dating and relationship questions I answer on Formspring to casual conversations where women I barely know pull me aside and say with more than a hint of panic and a full cup of shame about being single, “Can you help me meet someone?” The damage has been done, and calling for a moratorium on the issue as a whole won’t clean up the BP-sized spill.
Forgive me for adding to the Single Black Woman Archive of Stories, but I feel compelled to because the affirming, positive stories like Proehl’s don’t get told often enough up on the mountain. When Psychology Today releases a story “verifying” that Black women were less attractive, or when Tyrese adds his two cents about Black women being “too independent,” or author Rick Banks publishes “Is Marriage for White People?”, I can’t go to Facebook or Twitter or e-newspaper or e-mail without hearing about it 50-11 times.
But when researchers from Howard and Morehouse put forth a joint study, as they did in August, declaring that 75% of Black women have been married at least once by 40, or that, despite all the seeming e-complaining from Black men about Black women, more than four out of five marry a Black woman, or that the more educated a Black woman is, the more likely she is to walk down the aisle—essentially deading the idea that we lose bonus points, or men en masse are intimidated by Black women’s education and subsequent income—I don’t hear much chatter. When Angela Stanley, a researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University declares, “This culturally popular notion that 70 percent of black women don’t marry is just a myth,” in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, as she did earlier this month, I don’t get mass e-forwards on BBM and e-mail asking, “Have you seen this?” And I don’t hear and read mainstream media stumbling over themselves to report on it the way they do for, say, a man who releases a video of cartoons mocking Black women’s dating expectations.
If only good news traveled as fast as the bad. That video with the cartoons, created by a long-time married man, went viral with upwards of a million views. Proehl challenges viewers to “think of what it would mean if the Black woman was truly empowered in our society. That would mean we would have addressed issues of race, and issues of gender discrimination in our society, and tied into that issues of class and potentially advance conversations about issue of homophobia.” As I type, YouTube says her video… (drumroll, please) has 2,061 views. That’s worth shooting the Sherriff and the Deputy.
As a fan of Proehl’s video and a cheerleader for her cause, I apologize for adding one more story to the (longest ever) list. It’s still 2011, so maybe this can get read without incurring her—and your–wrath.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk