According to reliable sources, Black Women are more likely to have abortions, more so than any other American women. Is there a reason why Black women are more likely to find themselves unwilling and ‘unable’ to have babies? If we want to understand the why, we will have to look deeply into our own assumptions about the right time and place and the right conditions for child-rearing. What conditions must exist for any pregnant woman to feel comfortable to bear a child? We have to ask why our society has made it so difficult for women to start a family, forcing them to choose between education and careers versus family. What is it about being a woman in our society that makes child-bearing a very risky decision with no guarantees of support?
Such high rates of abortion are telling. They tell us that Black women don’t feel able to raise successful families. They lack resources. They don’t have the support of their families and communities to have both careers and families of their own. So choosing a career for many young Black women has entailed ‘delaying’ motherhood, or no-motherhood at all and vice versa. Having children as young women has historically meant not having a career, and poverty.
why the mother of humankind does not feel safe to bear children
Income inequality based upon race and gender is key to making sense of this puzzle, ‘why the mother of humankind does not feel safe to bear children’. Without advanced education most Black women do not make enough money at jobs to support children, or jobs are too unstable to count upon for the long-term. The consequences of historical poverty are found first in the abortion clinics and later in the fertility clinics. As young mothers find themselves at the mercy of un-caring society unwilling to provide support for all children; and the 40-somethings (and some younger), find themselves infertile when they finally become financially able to support families on their own, or simply out of time.
In the play, I’M STILL A WOMAN the elephant in the room is not just the stigma attached to in-fertility but that stigma attached to fertility without wealth (stable income, marriage, and supportive community). In her play, Holly Charles writes about the tragedy of women who have delayed too long, perhaps because they could not be sure that their jobs, relationships, homes, were stable enough, or strong enough.
The play addresses the dilemma of the many young Black women who strive for greater things. Like most women, Black woman want children and families. The careers they strive for are sought largely as the means to support families, and to provide work that is interesting and stimulating. Lack of money means family life is chaotic, poverty-stricken, and often means dependency upon those who want control over us, resent us or both, as well as inability to escape abusive relationships. So without specifically saying so, I’M STILL A WOMAN is an homage to the ever-maligned “unwed mother”, who bares her children in the midst of societal erosion, and then is tasked with ‘making a way out of no-way’. Those brave souls, relying only upon their faith for support, are the unsung heroes, creators and maintainers of our communities, they said ‘damn the thorns and barriers ahead’. Their choice to bear children should therefore be honored and valorized. It takes “ovaries” to stand up for life and bring it forward, in these unstable times.
Women are the visionaries and architects of our future as a people. Women have the emotional capacity and strength to make rational decisions about whether conditions are right for child-bearing. Women also are able to understand when conditions are just not right. Therefore when women delay their birth-right, waiting in hope for a more perfect time when the stars will line up, they truly tell us what time it is.
I’M STILL A WOMAN
Credits: Written & Directed by Holly Charles; Stage Manager, Minerva Rodriguez; Lighting Designer, Hudson Davis; A/V & Sound Designer, Tamara Poole; Dramaturg, Doris Clinton
Cast: Lauryn Garza, An’Gelle Sylvester, Alicia Amie, Niesha Bentley, Medina Perine, Rita Hughes, Callina Anderson, Daniella Flanagan
Opened: August 25, 2018
Closed: August 25, 2018
The Matchbox Theater 3400 S Main St, Houston, TX 77002