Tyler Perry and the Baby Daddy Discord

by Mame Kwayie

I was perusing Facebook and Twitter when I read postings from two prominent Black media outlets touting that superstar entertainment mogul, Tyler Perry, had nearly become a “baby daddy.” The stories cited Perry’s cover story for the August 2011 issue of Ebony Magazine, where he candidly discusses his anxieties upon learning that he nearly became a father. Perry says this:

Back in December, when we thought we were having a kid, I got a little overwhelmed. Now I got overwhelmed when I first got a dog because I knew I was responsible for this living creature. So think how I reacted to the thought of having a child.

I was far more intrigued to hear about the “she” in Perry’s life that completed the “we” in his statements than his revelations about possible fatherhood. And until reading the aforementioned internet headlines, I’d never given much thought to the use of the baby daddy/baby mama terms. However, the headlines’ word choice made me feel some kind of way. Why not say Tyler Perry nearly became a father, instead of the heavily-connotative “baby daddy”?

This moment took me back to a few weeks ago when I mentioned to my girlfriend that I was having dinner with our mutual friend Michael, his ex-girlfriend Sherry, and their daughter, Alexis.

“Wait, so you’re meeting up with him, the baby, and his girlfriend?”

“They’re not dating anymore.”

“Oh, so she’s his baby mama.”

”She’s his daughter’s mother.”

I paused, wondering if I was unnecessarily asserting a passive manifesto that the use of a popular colloquialism needed re-evaluation. Maybe it wasn’t that deep, but I didn’t want to say “Yes.” Sherry isn’t befitting of the prevailing baby mama stereotype: a nagging, obnoxious ex who blows the child support check at Forever 21 before paying for daycare. Michael and Sherry had a relationship. Michael and Sherry had a baby. The relationship didn’t work out, but they are both in Alexis’ life as co-parents. I would hardly call Michael a baby daddy in the stereotypical sense. He is far from being the deadbeat absentee, every bit the proverbial rolling stone. He’s a responsible father who, along with Sherry, provides Alexis with emotional and financial needs while keeping the peace with Sherry for their daughter’s sake.

Baby Daddy, much?

I wondered if Perry–a man who has struggled with the effects of abuse at the hands of his own father—would fulfill the baby daddy stereotype himself. Baby Daddy connotes not only a financial absenteeism, but an emotional one as well. Mind you, telling or not, the Ebony article boasts of Perry’s $350 million net worth. Is it fair to peg him as a “I’ll just send you a check. I’ll love you through my currency alone” kind of dad?

I wonder if we need to reassess our lexicon for parenthood. Is there a space for responsible Black mothers and fathers (married or single) to be respectfully addressed as such? Does marriage define “real” parenthood? Do we lose the mother/father label if there is no ring and no relationship? Or has the baby daddy/baby mama dialect permeated our culture so much that it’s turned the corner from a derogatory dismissal to a term of endearment? What is it that makes me feel some kind of way?

  • @SugarKovalczyk

    I was just as shocked about the ‘she’ too! I had no idea he was straight. Hmph.

    Anyway I think we need to rethink our entire lexicon, not just that regarding parenthood. I hate the way we speak of and to one another. We need to safeguard our minds and find more respect for ourselves and each other. Part of doing that is watching our mouth.

    Every new slang word or colloquialism that comes out is based in derision and self loathing. Nothing but new ways to insult each other; stan, smash, baby daddy, etc.

    It’s a mentality that does nothing but oppress.

  • Clnmike

    Let’s see, no marriage, one of the parents is not living with the child and 9 times out of 10 the kid came along as a result of both parties were irresponsible. Baby mama/daddy is a fitting term. The real problem is when people try to normalise dysfunction.

  • fuchsia

    The term baby mama/baby daddy is very dismissive, and for good reason when you’re still single and looking. I feel like the term found it’s home in the context of dating. Outside of those conversations it sounds disrespectful because people generally can agree that it’s hard to raise a child especially on your own. You gotta put in a lot of work to be called mother or father. And the people who know you more than likely know how to address you. But I’m sure no one wants to feel like their failed relationship is going to stop them from moving forward in life. So if the child(ren) are alright then yes, that’s just her baby daddy.

  • Chica

    well considering that a great deal of marriages end in divorce, I wouldn’t consider a child born to a married couple free from dysfunction.

  • Mae

    Me and you both!

    Maybe, it was with a surrogate? But then, he would be expecting the baby, right?

    I find it hard to believe he is straight. Maybe he is bi.

  • GA

    The “she” he is referring to is Gelila Bekele. She is an Ethopian model. (Don’t ask why I know that; but google it; there are pics of them together.)

    Idk, I would not over-analyze Perry’s use of the term. I myself do not frequently use it, but I do not stereotype those who do because I know not all baby daddys/mommys come in one form.

  • Merci

    Thank you. I was more concerned with the ‘she’.

  • http://www.nakiahansen.com KiaJD

    I’m with the author on this one. Though I could care less about what Perry has going on in his personal life, I have long been over the terms “baby mama” and “baby daddy.” First of all, it sounds stupid coming out of anyone’s mouth. Second, while I hate to say this is a factor, white people are saying it and have even named a movie “Baby Mama,” starring popular white comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Finally, I take up the author’s point that those terms carry negative connotations and conjure up a particular image of the deadbeat dad or shrew mom which may not always be an appropriate caricature. I myself never use the terms, even in casual conversation. Really, it just sounds stupid.

  • http://twitter.com/Shiva_Amina Shiva Threatts

    @ Chica – excellent statement

    @Clnmike – And what do you have to say about those of us who do not want to be married? Do we not deserve to be respected with a proper title of mother/father simply because we chose not to conform to a societal standard of being married? I believe that we do and there’s a lot of ignorance in your statement and your reasons for backing it.

  • boho.barbie

    I agree. The terms sounds childish and diminishes the power and importance of parenthood.

  • edub

    And, we are seeing a lot of that these days–normalizing dysfunction, that is.

  • maleka

    I think what everybody’s missing is the fact that this guy made his fortune off religious people with his gospel plays and morality filled movies and he’s out there having unprotected (or maybe the condom broke) premarital sex. Hypocrite, much?

  • African Mami

    Tyler Tyler Tyler…………………………………

  • Alexandra

    Never heard of any stereotypes mentioned above about the terms baby mama/daddy. Where I live, it simply means unmarried parent, especially among the young adults and teens. Black people are also attached to this word too, since they a lot adopt the term and have more babies than they get married.

    The word is not negative to me. It’s just a lazy way of saying baby’s mother/father.

  • GA

    At least the guy is being honest. I know a lot of Christians who go around stating they believe in premarital sex and practice otherwise. And in his movies he does not specifically advocate such (yes, I watch his movies. Let the hate begin, I don’t mind, lol). I think it’s better for a man to remain single (read:unmarried), than to be a Christian married man having affairs all over the place. And not all Christians advocate celibacy before marriage. Christians are not this homogeneous bunch that believe in the same things.

  • http://twitter.com/Bearfruithair Bear Fruit Hair

    It’s true that Mr. Perry made his money targeting the religious, though it’s his own form of religion/Christianity that he sells, or at the least, his own level of maturity in his Christianity. I’ll use the word ‘mature’ here, so as not to sound as though I’m judging – I think more mature Christians eventually see through Mr. Perry’s form of Christianity, however, there are many more religious people out there willing to go see his movies than there are mature Christians. (‘Christian’ means following the example, words and faith of Christ, not picking what you like about Christianity, then calling yourself a Christian because you like more of Christ’s thoughts, than, say, Buddha’s).

    Baby daddy is quite often used by, well, the baby’s daddy themselves, an indication of their level of desire for being involved in their children’s lives, and as well, by the children’s mothers, hinting at their own perceptions of the father’s involvement in their children’s lives. While the term certainly has a place as a descriptor of the level of relationship between father and child, people that are more intent on respecting people regardless of their positions in life will tend to use the term ‘father’ across the board. Regardless of term used, internally we all have our perceptions on the matter that’ll persist despite whatever words used.

    While my vocab doesn’t verbally use the term ‘baby daddy/momma’, I myself have ascribed different levels of caretaking to the two terms, which should be just as okay as a parent choosing different levels of care that they’ll provide for their children. That’s why dad’s get to earn the title of ‘#1 Father’ on coffee cup mugs – cuz they deserve the title.

    Normalizing dysfunction is both a very good, and a very bad thing. I’ll let you guys comment and debate on why that’s so.

  • Clnmike

    @Shiva Threatts

    Sorry not giving a pass on this just because someone planned to be a single parent. You can have a kid but you can’t insure there is a full time partner to help raise the kid? That is the height of selfishness, never mind the kid who now has it tougher, the real fallout is society that now has to deal with single parents and share the burden of raising those kids and there siblings from other mothers or fathers (cause the chances are high to have multiple baby daddies/mothers ir your not married) or risk having a delinquent running loose in the neighbourhood. A kid who in turn sees no value in a two parent home because they didn’t have one, were not surrounded by any so they think this is how it is supposed to be. Well its not normal, it retards their growth as a human being and perpetuates a cycle. Now you don’t like the term? Well that’s a tough titty to suck on but pucker up because that’s exactly what they are. Ignorance is turning a blind eye to it or worst trying to convince everyone else that it is normal.

  • chelly-c

    Co-sign 100%

  • Clnmike

    People are missing the point of Perry’s hypocrisy because the behaviour has become normalized.

  • http://www.cocoababies.com Nia

    The term annoys me to no end. The sad part is that is how alot of people self identify.

  • Sara

    First, the commenters spouting mess about dysfunction are tripping. When black people take on Eurocentric definitions of functional to label relationships I shake my head. Marriage began as a financial arrangement. It’s need is outdated and has no bearing on love or children. You don’t take care of your children more if you’re married, point blank.

    About Tyler Perry and the term “baby daddy”, its just a low class, ghetto term. You usually don’t use it if you consider yourself non-ghetto. I have my ghetto days, on those days, I use it.

  • Laurie

    Well…plenty of gay men have fathered children so….that doesn’t prove he’s straight..just saying ;)

  • au napptural

    Such a rarity, but I’m with you when you’re right, Clnmike. We as a people spend more time getting our hair straight than family planning. Then we try to backdoor it and make our poor decisions look thoughtful. …I’m sorry but no. The fact is some do fit the description of the article (responsible ppl taking care of their offspring) but 9 times out of 10 OOW children are the result of no planning and carelessness. We shouldn’t discriminate against the ones that exist, but we need to stop trying to PR this lifestyle into acceptability, and instead acknowledge the real and try to prevent this in the future.

  • uh no

    whoa wait
    he’s straight?

  • Pseudonym

    How is marriage “Eurocentric?”

  • C in Cleveland

    I think he brought this “matter” to light to lend credence to his claims of heterosexuality. This admission seems staged. For him, it may be more worthwhile to be perceived as a fornicator than a homosexual. Church folk caint tolerate the latter.

  • @SugarKovalczyk

    Even if society disproves who does it benefit to belittle either parent. If you care anything for the children involved you’d keep in mind that your insults do not help.

  • @SugarKovalczyk

    Thank you Sara

  • @SugarKovalczyk

    “Immature” Christians do pick and choose. But there are some mature Christians who do it as well. Like a lot of them completely ignore the part about letting he who is without sin cast the first stone. Mr. Perry should probably just give up and leave religion to the perfect or mature Christians.

  • Clnmike

    Baby daddy/mama is not an insult it is an accurate term to describe people who have brought children into this world with out any forethought of the results their action has on them, the child or the community at large. Many of these “parents” exercise no obligation in taking care of the child sufficiently financially let alone actively participate in raising the kid. This attitude has become epidemic in the community and destructive to the over all health of society. But funny enough the real problem is the enabling attitude people display in either justifying this behaviour, finding every angle they can to weasel there way out of responsibility or shift focus from the source of the problem as displayed by this article and some of the commentators. The real insult here is to the intelligence of people who recognise a destructive behaviour when they see it and speak out on it just to have the ignorant try to brow beat them into silence by playing the victim, (slut shaming), or by claiming people should mind their business, despite the fact that your “business” leaks all over everybody else’s business. That is an insult.

  • edub

    Okay, so let’s go with your argument. Let’s move away from “euro-centric” definitions of marriage (whatever that means). What do we move towards, then? Towards what we are practicing now? Has that been successful? How so?

    What benefits does the baby daddy culture carry with it?

    Convince us because what many of us are seeing is a whole bunch of baby daddy’s and baby momma’s trying to convince us that a cost/benefit analysis of their lifestyle is on par with that of marriage. That, i ain’t buying.

  • isolde

    “Convince us because what many of us are seeing is a whole bunch of baby daddy’s and baby momma’s trying to convince us that a cost/benefit analysis of their lifestyle is on par with that of marriage. That, i ain’t buying.”

    @edub

    Yes, I too am waiting for some evidence to suggest that the majority of single people are better at building wealth and stability for children than married couples. I won’t hold my breath though, and while she’s at it, maybe Sara can enlighten us as to how the current OOW birth rate among blacks continues to benefit the community.

  • isolde

    @Clnmike

    I disagree with you about planned single motherhood. It depends upon the socioeconomic status of the mother, assuming that we’re talking about single mothers. If a woman is able to provide a stable, middle class lifestyle for a child on her own, then I don’t see a problem with that woman rearing a child.

  • cup

    LOL! That was my first thought too!

  • http://msbabyplan.blogspot.com toi

    In this society some terms are used to show one coolness without thinking about how dismissive these terms can be.

  • Nneoma

    I know, Maleka, right?

    I’d hate to point out the speck of wood in his eye whilst there remains a plank in mine, but I would have given him much props if he admitted in this interview that pre-marital sex was a mistake and I repent from it. I would not demand of this from just anyone, but this man made his fortune off of a religious message. Again, I have not read the interview in its entirety – but I hope there was either a message of abstinence or some kind of “if pre-marital sex is wrong, I don’t wanna be right – so wrap it up kids!” I don’t want to judge, but I think the problem with the black church (of which I am a proud member of), is that we preach abstinence, but a good percentage of our pews are filled with so-called baby mamas. It’s time to be real folks – abstinence is a beautiful ideal to aspire to, but if we see many falling short, it’s time we put the message out there to break their fall.

    I, too, have watched his movies, and while he hasn’t exactly had Madea walking in on an unmarried couple fornicating and threatening to shoot the place up, it doesn’t take rocket science to realize that the pro-abstinence message is very much in his movies.

    In films in which women fall in love with a God-sent man after a failed relationship, there is this scene in which the man spends the night only to cuddle and NOT have sex. The unmarried couple who is within centimeters of each other without so much an exchange of the same respiratory secretions, not to talk of sex, is extolled. Tyler Perry fashions his unmarried male heros (the man who rescues a damaged black woman) as incredibly sexually desirous men who simply want to go to church, cook, and cuddle with their women MINUS sex.

    There is also a point in Why Did I Get Married, in which Jill Scott’s character or character’s husband, laments that their failed relationship started with pre-marital sex – and the hint is, “Warning, do not try this (pre-marital sex) at home or any place else for that matter.”

    I know Perry’s not an expert at being subtle, but he makes clear an unwritten code of conduct between unmarried couples.

  • JaeBee

    ITA

  • http://globetracer.wordpress.com Tracita Linda

    I think they simply chose ´baby daddy´because it sounds controversial, and because he´s not married.

  • snickerz

    Call me ignorant, but I thought “baby daddy” and “baby mama” were considered badges of honor! People say it proudly when referring to the person they share kids with out of wedlock. That said, remember that the terms “mother” and “father” are genealogical terms that identify a blood relationship (like son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, etc.). If you have produced genetic offspring, you are a mother or father, whether you are deadbeat, irresponsible, unaware of it, or anything else. Accidentally having a baby does not exclude you from the club. So whoever said you have to earn the title mother or father through your actions after having children is wrong. Just saying…

  • B

    @ Sara: Thank you. I co-sign all of what you said.

    And for those on here wondering what is “Eurocentric” about the institution of marriage. Uh, duh. Open a history book. The institution of marriage is European in origin, entirely. It started as a financial arrangement for men to essentially be able to transfer their property to the other men: i.e. a man transferred his property and worth to the man who “married” his daughter. A woman was not entitled to inherit property, for the most part; it had to eventually go to another man. Come on, people. This is one of those things that makes me ashamed to be American: I mean, obviously we don’t read history in this country, if people on this site really have to ask how marriage is Eurocentric.

    If you know anything about the traditions of indigenous cultures outside Europe, you’ll know that there was no such thing as an institution like marriage. In most indigenous non-European cultures, two people chose to be together, but that choice did not come with a contract, legal proceedings, etc. Romantic/love unions happened as an agreement between two people, not as an agreement among two people and the government. And there’s nothing wrong with that approach, then or now. Two people who are together and decide to have a child are just as worthy of being parents as two other people who happen to have went to a courthouse and signed some damn papers. Seriously. (Although, yes, those papers might make things simpler if the relationship dissolves and one of the parents decides to act funny about supporting the children. And therein lies the reason why think it’s wisest to be married if you choose to have kids. In the end, then, marriage has some practicality, but it should not be used a badge of morality to wield over others who choose not to get married.)

  • Nneoma

    “If you know anything about the traditions of indigenous cultures outside Europe, you’ll know that there was no such thing as an institution like marriage. In most indigenous non-European cultures, two people chose to be together, but that choice did not come with a contract, legal proceedings, etc. Romantic/love unions happened as an agreement between two people, not as an agreement among two people and the government.”

    Umm, speak for your own indigenous culture. You can’t take the findings of one of your random forays into non-European culture and extrapolate it to ALL non-European cultures pre-colonially. Shocker: before colonialism, some of us had functioning governments who cemented relationships, made linheritance laws, and bartered contracts between individuals and nations.

    So let’s can the nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” and face facts on ground. Children born to single parent homes tend to be worse off in just about every statistic out there. The solution is either to somehow encourage marriage (which has failed) or put structures in place that place that prevent children of single parents from falling through the cracks and/or repeating the cycle of failure.

  • Nneoma

    “. You don’t take care of your children more if you’re married, point blank”
    Married couples are more likely to plan for their children than unmarried couples – hence more care. Again, there are exceptions and perhaps many of the lovely commentors here represent those exceptions. However, such are the facts. Also single motherhood is a risk factor for child abuse and delinquent school behavior.

  • Isis

    Yes!!!! @ Cinmike Only black folks try so hard to justify dysfunction and we wonder why are communities are the way they are. I say at least try to do the right thing. If it doesn’t work at least you tried. Lawd :( Its sooo embarrassing

  • ms_micia

    And let the church say…..Amen(d) LOL

  • TiredandFedUp

    I don’t know what it is with Black people and the way they refer to things and people.

    1. Thirsty
    2. Basic B*tch
    3. Smashing/Hitting/Beating it up
    4. Females/B*tches/Shorty/Ma (Remind me again why grown men refer to other women as their Mother?)
    5. CO-SIGN<—— THIS DOES NOT MEAN TO AGREE WITH ANOTHER'S OPINION

  • Lo

    People say baby mama/baby daddy because that’s the most accurate way to describe the relationship with their child’s other parent. He’s not a husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend. And saying ex-boyfriend isn’t entirely appropiate either because he’s more than that. Ir you’re uncomfortable with being called a baby momma, you probably shouldn’t have kids without a marriage.

  • TR

    I knew someone would play the “Eurocentric” card. I don’t see African immigrants shunning marriage. In fact, the main groups of people shunning marriage in America are native born blacks and increasingly native born whites. Immigrant groups of all persuasions generally have a higher regard for marriage and family.

    But you keep on thinking marriage is the “white mans” creation.

  • KC

    Get ‘em, Clnmike! I agree all the way and wish we had more thinkers like you.

  • Von

    Silly me…I thought marriage was instituted by God in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve…what was I thinking. Then you’ll tell me the bible that I’m getting this from was made from the Caucasian persuasion…that’s just assuming you even believe in the bible…trust I’ve heard the financial hoopla before -_-

  • Robbie

    @ Cimike Co-sign on all your comments.

    Baby mama/baby daddy is the right term to describe having a child outside of marriage. People should accept it. Why do people get offended when they tell them the truth? Marriage is a beautiful thing and kids deserve to have both parents living under the same roof just like God intended it. After he married Adam &Eve, he blessed them with the opportunity to be fruitful and have many kids.

    The correct order is marriage, then children. Even though many choose to go the other way around, it does not change the fact that it is how it is supposed to be. God never gets it wrong.

    If many marriages end in divorce that ain’t got nothing to do with the institution of marriage but with the two people marrying. If you are not prepared for it how do you expect to make it work?

    These baby mamas and babby daddys would do anything to make people think that what they are doing is ok

  • Mona Morris

    She’s not stupid. Tyler perry, I hope you know what you’re getting into.

  • Pingback: Rumor Has It: Tyler Perry Getting Ready to Jump the Broom?

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