Does the Single Woman Meme Divide Women?

by Javacia Harris Bowser

For years now America has appeared to be obsessed with the love lives of African American women. In any given month you won’t be hard pressed to find a news article spinning the tale of the single black female who is destined to die an old maid. The reasons for this perpetual loneliness run the gamut from the lack of eligible black men to the notion that black chicks have too much “attitude.”

Right now the hot topic is black women dating outside their race. The Wall Street Journal has broached the issue and in his book Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, author Ralph Richard Banks argues that sisters need to stop holding out for the brothers if they want a shot at a healthy and happy marriage.

While I, personally, do think that race should be removed from the equation when looking for Mr. Goodbar, assuming that “white is right” when it comes to relationships is quite problematic.

But when it comes to the tired (and often insulting) lonely black woman meme, what concerns me most has little to do with romantic relationships. I fear this narrative is harming our friendships with other women.

I am a believer in sisterhood. For some reason I’ve never been able to explain, I feel this kinship or, as my pastor calls it, a supernatural love for every woman and girl on this planet. Seriously. And so I find myself overprotective of the idea of sisterhood as if this concept is a person I can reach out and touch.

Therefore when I come across something that I believe threatens sisterhood, I get pissed. All the stories and theories about why so many black women have never been married not only foster ridiculous stereotypes (such as of the angry black woman who’s eager to emasculate her man) but also have the potential to divide women of all colors. Let me explain.

This spring Uptown Magazine caused quite a stir with Andrea Michelle’s article Love: Why White Women Are Winning. The article was not a roast of black women as I expected from the title, but it did suggest black women were too focused on education and careers and didn’t start husband hunting soon enough (unlike their white counterparts) and it set white women’s relationship behavior as the standard, thus suggesting that we’re, of course, doing it all wrong.

But one of the things that bothered me most about the article was the word choice, as the language set up an “us against them” paradigm. To say white women are winning and African American women are losing implies we’re in competition and white women become the enemy. And unfortunately, some women are buying into this.

Shortly after this story went live, a friend of mine posted a link and short summary of it on her Facebook page. Soon her wall was full of comments from women complaining about “white women stealing all our men.” One woman was outraged that a Caucasian woman at a party she’d recently attended dared to flirt with a black man at the soiree when there were plenty of available white men present.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t dare assume that these women speak for the majority of black women but the influence of the sad and lonely sister story on at least a small group of women is obvious. How long will it take for this attitude of white woman as enemy  to morph into all women are the enemy? Or is it beginning to do so already?

Think about how this topic seems to open the flood gates of criticism of black women from other black women.  LaShaun Williams, in her response to the Uptown magazine piece, tells black women that we need to learn when to “shut up,” that we should be more submissive, and we need and learn to give our men center stage.  (Side eye.)

Furthermore implying that marriage is or should be every woman’s goal creates a further divide and by suggesting that the women who have jumped the broom are somehow better than those who have not.

Be honest, have you, when griping about a single woman with whom you’re having a conflict, ever quipped “That’s why she can’t find a man,” as if relationship status determines character?

I’ve been a happily married woman for several years now and I know marriage takes work. People with successful marriages should be applauded, but we should not be viewed as some sort of elite class nor do we have the right to disparage women who are single.

For the sake of sisterhood let’s celebrate and support one another instead of condemning one another or seeing other women as competition. Then, we’ll all be winning.

  • Kim

    I think anyone with an even slightly diverse group of friends knows that White women are not “winning”. Dating and relationships in 2011 is a different ball game and it tends to suck for all kinds of people. Marriage rates are declining across the board, men that are jerks come in every color, and women of all races have their individual “issues”. The grass isn’t always greener. I also know quite a few recently married Black couples as well as those of other races. Its not always Black and White..

    Also, the belief that we’re all “competing” for men elevates men and lowers the status of all women. I think some men enjoy pitting women against each other because it makes them feel more important than they really are…. no human being is worth competing for.

  • Bisous

    I dont think anyone should compromise something as crucial as an education for love. Today especially a good education can mean your livelihood. I do think men will come do you need to actively seek them out? I don’t think you should all the time. I don’t think you should have and insurmountable checklist which you compare all men to either. That doesn’t mean no standards, but a six pack and a convertable or even race don’t seem like dealbreakers. This argument is stale though.

  • Bisous

    Couldn’t agree more. Also I think people just have more options in general and settling down isn’t their first priority. White women are not to blame though.

  • whyaskquestions

    thanx kim. its hard out for everyone. not just black women. and also, not everybody is looking for the same storybook ending. not everyone is looking for monogamy, or marriage. so simply being single shouldnt automatically out you in the ‘searching’ category. not everybody is searching. some of us are just living. if the right one comes along-Great! if not-Great!

  • beautyishername

    “Winning” in what? In divorce rates? In affairs? In unhappiness? I am unimpressed.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    the system of white supremacy is “winning” as it oppresses all black people.
    the mistake made is that we somehow feel that one gender is favored over another.
    that is “divide and conquer” and it only works when you lose sight of the big picture.
    all black people are oppressed by the system of white supremacy.
    self knowledge leading to self love is an antidote. if there weren’t so many black men in prison sisters would not have to struggle so much. look at the big picture.

  • Timcampi

    I agree with all of you above!

  • sunshyne84

    Husband hunting? I thought they were supposed to chase us. No wonder I’m losing.

  • African Mami

    Are there articles about being single and happy?????!

    Or that is a non-mutual exclusive factor?!

  • NOno

    and why is ir dating always about black and white?.
    there are a lot of single asian men out there.

  • Jamila

    The article was not a roast of black women as I expected from the title, but it did suggest black women were too focused on education and careers and didn’t start husband hunting soon enough (unlike their white counterparts)

    Black women are husband hunting at the same time as every other group of women. However, many black men are not the type an educated black women would want to marry and another large portion of black men don’t want to get married or, if they do want to get married, they want to do so at a later age than most non-black men.

  • Marissa Dawson

    girl that’s what I was thinking . . ..

  • http://[email protected] ross

    when are the two women in the picture going to kiss already… dammit i have my vaseline at hand

  • AJ

    YAWWWWNNNNN…The American media really needs a life. Why are they so worried about Black women anyway? They need to get over it and move on. Only losers continue to focus so heavily on other peoples lives. Find a new topic. Get a hobby. Get out of Black women’s business, and get some of your own.

    If they need to keep insulting Black women to feel better about themselves, then they’re more pathetic than anyone ever thought. It’s the same ol same ol as 2009. Don’t you people get it? Quit falling f the old oke-doke and TURN OFF YOUR TV (or at least ABC). THEY. HATE. BLACK. WOMEN. PERIOD. So they’ll harass us with as much junk as possible. The propaganda never ends.

    Get lives people and move onto another topic. ClutcH, really why did you even address this issue? You’re just helping ABC and the other spin artists to down Black women.

  • AJ

    Also always remember that only cowards attack women – which is what all of this is. Continual attacks on Black women. Lives people, move on.

  • AJ

    Final comment: And by the way…did anyone happen to notice that only a day or two after Nightline did its “single BW” number, they then did a show about Maraih Carey and Nick Cannon – how much sense does that make? I wondered to myself, If they want to go on and on about BW not marrying, why show Carey and Cannon? She’s Black and married, and to a younger man no less.

    Then I realized…more of divide and conquer…pit dark skinned and light skinned Black women against each other…the idea is dark skinned women not married, light skinned are. Plus for all these new immigrants and foreigners in the U.S. they’ll think Mariah is white, and thus believe the BM all with white/light only.

    ABC and racists are truly pathetic.

  • chanela

    thank you!!! i thought i wrote that on here but…. idk

    im so sick of IR= white men. latino men love the sistas!!!!

  • Desiree

    I think you bring up some valid points- especially about not creating an environment where there is such rivalry and fierce competition. I too believe in the power of sisterhood and it doesn’t have to be an “us” vs. “them”.


  • Timcampi

    @African Mami

    You know it’s more important to the media to exaggerate facts than to show how fulfilling life can be as a single woman. Allegedly if we don’t marry young and in our prime or settle, we’re destined to die as lonely spinsters with like six cats and hair that smells like moth balls. It’s kind of creepy how fauxconcerned they are about the fact that I’m not spitting out kids yet.

  • Timcampi


    Word, I’m in a really loving relationship with a Hispanic man. I always warn him I might leave him for an Asian cutie-pie though, haha =)

  • Simone

    Exactly….. :0)

  • javacia

    So glad you feel me. I’m looking forward to checking out your website.

  • javacia

    Amen. Why is the world so obsessed with our love lives?!

  • javacia

    As I said in the article, I think race should be taken out of the equation when looking for a partner. So whether he’s black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, or whatever, if it’s love go for it!

  • javacia

    Kim you are exactly right! Not only does the “love competition” divide women but it also degrades us.

  • Wendy Whitehead

    I think the part of the article that says we wait to long to start is true for EVERYONE, women and men of all races. Out society’s rules and expectations are the problem. We’re taught success 1st-marriage 2nd which means most professionals don’t start looking until their 30s. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody should get into marriage and family with little or no means of support.

    The problem comes when higher education is factored in. The ability to support oneself becomes narrowed to, usually, one field of employment. Those fields typically require more years of study to get the required degree and take longer to rise through the ranks once you get a job. Even the bar measuring success is higher. You can’t just be a lawyer, you have to make partner.

    At 30, that leaves successful women with 10 years to meet, marry and make babies before their fertility runs out. It leaves 30 year old men with no relationship practice and resistant to changes in the bachelor lifestyle they’ve had for over 10 years. Is it any wonder why we’re ALL having such a hard time getting together?

  • whilome

    Anyone who let’s themselves be defined by what’s written by a person working for cents/per sentence has a bigger problem than finding a man.

  • Nomadic1

    Most of these women are not educated professionals. They are the average everyday sista who got pregnant by some guy who was not there husband and now are single with child wondering why they cant get the best of men. Then you have the ones who over appraised themselves, and were extra picky, as they start getting older they lose the little appeal they had even though they dont realise it and cant figure out why no one wants to wife up her old tired out of shape now tired self.

  • thinkpink

    Ahhh James you are speaking my heart right now. Why more of “us” don’t understand the power behind the words you spoke is confusing to me. The entire system of white supremacy is why black people are statistically shown as always “losing” when compared to whites. For my sanity and self esteem educating myself on this matter has been the key to self love in my life as well.

  • javacia

    In case it isn’t clear, I’m not agreeing with either of the articles I mentioned in this post. For example, I don’t think black women (or any women) should start “husband hunting” sooner because frankly, I don’t think women should be husband hunting at all. I don’t knock women who do, but I just don’t think love works that way.

    The point I’m trying to make in this post is that all the stories about black women being doomed for eternal loneliness is not only degrading but can also be divisive if we buy into it. My message here is don’t believe the hype.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    dr neely fuller say if you do not understand white supremacy everything else you see will confuse you. i also reference dr francis welsing and my main man ra un nefer amen.

  • D. Noble

    interesting article! i agree that people with marriages “should not be viewed as some sort of elite class,” but marriage has always been a class issue. it has been a constant organizing principle defining bourgeois white heteronormativity while simultaneously alienating and maligning women of color, specifically African American women. for decades now, certain narratives about black women and marriage and domesticity have underscored some of the most vicious stereotypes and public policies impacting the black family… i appreciate this post, but i believe our conversations need to be centered around the real work these narratives CONTINUE to do and less about how they ruffle our identity politics

  • jamesfrmphilly

    any black woman who has self knowledge and self love will not be open to other than a black man

  • Kaptan Solo

    It’s not about them “hating” BW…sheesh.
    The purpose of media propaganda is to reach a “result”. If the intended goal is to divide and conquer, then that is the purpose of focused media attention on any group.

    When people are at war, they will employ whatever tactics are available to win. Unfortunately, many of “us” seem to think that warfare or something as simple as a street fight has some body of rules that are honored among those who are fighting. There are none. Understand the objective and you understand the tactics much more clearly…
    The purpose is to destroy a group of people that are on the chopping block due to a lack of need of their services because they(black people) are being replaced with a lower paid workforce. The idea of “how much the HATE us” is pointless rhetoric and I wish we would stop focusing on it. Sounds a lot like Bush when he was making his claims that Muslims disliked Americans because of our “freedom”….DUMB!!!

    Whether the target is black men or black women, the objective is the same but the motive is NOT what many of us think.
    The problem that we have is we(BM and BW) do have some long standing problems with each other as our ideas about what black culture and behavior is and is not have changed due to the circumstances that this system plays on us.
    We have found ourselves involved in “class” issues that now divide along that line.
    We have gender issues pertaining to relationship roles that are dividing us along that line.
    I could go on…my point is simple…we DO have the issues…no doubt, but, we are not being left alone to work those problems out…and why would we? In a war, you can’t ask God to turn off the rain so that you can have a good and even fight against the enemy. You have to fight in the rain as well.
    So…though these issues are real, they are being exploited by those who wish to bring down the group that they no longer want here because they have no use for us….it’s that simple.

  • Timcampi


    And you feel you have the right to lecture us because…?
    Other races are inferior?
    Other races are evil?
    Humans don’t deserve to be quantified by anything but their race?

    Negro, please. I can’t believe you’re actually spewing this BS. In order to be completely happy with myself I must be close-minded to all but that is black? Really?Just… go somewhere… far away… with that fail logic…Enslavement of the mind is so last century.

  • African Mami

    @ Timcampi,

    Lol….you might want to chill coz ma boy j-philly is all about his nuts, grains,fruits and veggies…and black love movement.

  • lalalalala

    @African Mami

    can’t believe you supporting that shizzle!!!!!!!

  • African Mami

    @ lalalala,

    he is my e-boo! Goes with territory. Mrs.Clinton still stood by her man right?! So even I have to stand in my boos foolishness.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    when a black man addresses you about self knowledge you sisters turn hostile.
    perhaps we are seeing why you cannot find a good black man? as a black man i have no interest in a female who would open herself to “whatever”. a word to the wise?

  • Timcampi

    @African Mami
    Lmao, I understand and Imma let you finish but….


    So lemme get this straight, whenever a black woman questions your authority she’s hostile? Alrighty then. I shall say this with no spared alacrity: I’m not looking for a good black man. I’m not looking for a man. My life does not center around getting married and having kids with a dude who does not share my views. My life does not center around getting married and having kids. Succinctly, I don’t give two sh*ts? You seem to think you are the authority and all black men are concomitant to your mindset.

    I laugh. Hard.

    You even tried the “you’re too bitter for us anyway” route. That was pretty cute. Too bad I’m eighteen… so no I’m not interested in ephebophiles.

    I’ve dated cute white dude. I’ve been the paramour of a wonderful black guy, shockingly good black men haven’t been hard to find (they are especially plentiful in my majors of Engineering and CompSci). And now I’m with my beau, a Hispanic man. Race is no biggie. It never will be to me, so good luck trying to tell me I’m not connected to my roots or some crap. My ethnicity is 100% Yoruba. I know my language. I know where I come from. Which is more than your arse can probably say. It’s really funny how you think YOU can determine my self-knowledge and self-love when you are an akata.

    Wow. Talk about insults.

    Anyway, I’m done with you old man. Your ramblings and misconceptions will hopefully end with your generation. In the meantime, why don’t you focus on finding that close-minded black woman of yours? I know you’ve been meaning to give her that broom in your closet. =/

    Boa Noite~!

  • Alexandra


    I always enjoy reading your posts. Eu concordo ;-)

  • Alexandra

    In some ways it does divide women and creates misconceptions about the other. I’ve met two Black women in the recent years who choose not to make friends with women who are not Black, because they see them as competition for Black men. It upset me a lot.
    That Uptown article in particular seems to be doing exactly that; dividing women. How many Black women now view White women as competitors after reading that? I don’t share the same mindset a lot of women have. I place marriage and children in the same boat & both are far from my mind, especially children. I was single for two years (in the midst of all these stories) before meeting my guy. It never bugged me, because their objective is so clear. It’s just unhealthy to focus on something so trivial. No one person can tell you what your life will become. During all stories/debates, were there no Black women that got married (between 2010-2011)?

  • Satin

    Veeery interesting article. I personally dont like the idea of the white woman being the enemy when it comes to black women’s dating life. If there is one thing I want sisters (for the ones this applies to) to do is let go of this jealousy of the nonblack woman and quit giving attention to brothers who date out and the nonblack women who take those brothers in. they are no longer a factor. however I do believe in sisters taking personal accountability on why they are single. true there are women who really like being single and prefer to be single and there is nothing wrong with that. this does not apply to them. however to the women who do not want to be single, AND IS VOCAL ABOUT IT, yet cant seem to find the man that they want, I still believe that those sisters need to take accountability for their own situation.

    I will admit that I have thought to myself when I come across an associate, friend, or family member who is a black woman and I see a certain behavior or they say something that make me think “this is why they are single”. and no I didnt single out a sister who was single and loving it. these are women who are vocal about being single yet do not want to be anymore. these are women who talk about wanting a partner. so of course if I see ways that I think a man would be turned off…the thought will come to my mind. not because I think the wives club is somehow more elite than the single club. but its because the woman in the singles club wants to be in the wives club but never seems to look at why she is in the single club. I mean lets be honest. if many of these black women were not vocal about the state of their marriage prospects nobody wouldnt say anything. however these are women who do not want to be single. so they are going to get criticized. it is what it is. the black women we hear about who are single are the ones being vocal about their own singleness themselves. its not like they are picking women who tell the world that they are single and loving it and dont want change it lol. the media pick women who are saying to the world that they want someone….so of course they are going to be criticized on if they are mate material or not. I mean if the topic of discussion is a woman who says “I want a man” well the audience is immediately going to ask the question “why she is single” and that is what she is going to be critiqued on.

    So for the black women who are single and NOT loving it yet dont want their dating lives to be put on blast, then stop talking about it, look within yourself, take personal accountability wherever you can to fix your situation (since you are the one who think its undesirable then only you can change it). Again the women who are single and loving it? This doesnt apply to those women. They dont care about the state of black womens relationships because they are okay with being single, and nobody is hating on those women. The only women who are getting criticized are the ones who are vocal about being single and dont want to be anymore.

  • Buttons

    Unfortunately, the current culture that we live in promotes singleness. Today’s social environment perpetuates dysfunctional relationsips. Songs and media images are about sex and “friends with benefits” (a la “I just want a quickie”) and sadly, many people have adopted this way of thinking. There seems to be no exclusiveness; everybody sees multiple people at a time; relationships are not clearly definded; it’s not highly favored to openly express that you want a relationship or marriage for fear of putting off the other person. It’s like marriage has lost its value over the years and although many people still desire to be married, because of the difficulty finding a suitable mate now a days, particularly for black women, marriage is no longer a necessity, but a choice.

    Also, I can’t agree with “Jamesfrmphilly” on black women strictly dating black men. Black women have always loved and sought black men, but sometimes black men dont always love us. We have always been loyal, but when the loyalty isn’t reciprocated you have to move on. When someone doesn’t place the same value on you, that you place on them-you have no obligation to that person.

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