For the most part, I consider myself a fairly even-tempered person. Unless it involves my family, very few people and very few things can genuinely bother me. That is why it surprises those around me how genuinely upset I get when I hear the bitter and self-serving ramblings of Michael Baisden while flipping through the radio channels during my evening commute.
For those of you unfamiliar with him, Michael Baisden is a nationally syndicated radio show host who broadcasts a daily talk show about issues relevant to the African American community. While the topics range, he typically focuses on issues of love, marriage and fidelity. Now, I know what you may be thinking, Why do you listen? Fair enough. Initially, I was a listener. In fact, I admired the expansive national audience and opportunity it offered people to discuss issues relevant to the black community. I thought, what a rewarding position to be in? Baisden had the opportunity to be a neutral arbiter to a nationwide town hall meeting every afternoon. This admiration soon dissipated after I began to realize that the vehicle was more of a venue to push his own beliefs and agenda on an unwitting audience. While I give him credit for powerful topics like issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and his new mentoring initiative, his past topics have also included, “Why do black women have such a hard time finding a man?” and most recently, “Are married women secretly jealous of their single, childless friends?” The latter is what greeted me on a recent evening commute.
“Are married woman secretly jealous of their single, childless friends?”
Now, in the legal world, we call this sort of question a leading question. It is when the question is suggestive of the answer. If a lawyer were to ask such a question, she wants the jury to think, “married women ARE secretly jealous of their single, childless friends” and she wants her witness to say “Why, yes” even if the thought had never entered the witnesses’ mind. That is why leading questionings are not allowed on direct examination (when the lawyer questions her own witness). It would be entirely too easy for a lawyer to get her witness to say exactly what she wanted her to say by simply asking suggestive questions. Well, after the topic was announced, short sound bites of listeners’ phone calls were played. In short, they were all variations of single childless women berating the decision to become committed and/or have children… something about freedom and independence. Thereafter, Michael Baisden fueled the fire by pitting those who are married with children against those who are neither.
“Married women with kids are trapped and unhappy,” one side yelled. “Single women are bitter and lonely,” yelled the other.
It all culminated in him promoting open marriages and spewing his concept of a marriage expiration date, which allows people to “opt out” of the marriage on a given date if they are no longer happy. I should note, Michael Baisden is divorced and has acknowledged that fidelity was an issue in his relationship.
Objection. Michael Baisden is leading, your honor.
Overruled, Counselor. Turn the channel.
Is this healthy debate or just good old fashion divisiveness? Most likely fueling the Michael Baisden audience are the recent raging statistics about black women and marriage. Brian Alexander, MSNBC contributor, wrote an article in April 2009, discussing how Michelle Obama may be an archetypal African American female success story because she has a successful career, strong marriage and happy children. According to the article, 38% of highly-educated black women between the ages of 20-45 have never been married. The statistics are less daunting for black men because they are more likely to marry outside of their race. A similar CNN article titled, “Black and single: Is marriage really for white people?” found that 45% of all black women have never been married compared with 23% of white women. Likewise, I had lunch a few weeks ago with some co-workers and one of them mentioned a statistic that women lose 90% of their eggs by the age of 30. This statistic comes from a study from Edinburgh University in Scotland that found women do in fact lose 90% of their eggs by the time they are 30 years old and only have about 3% remaining by the time they turn 40 years old. The childless, unmarried women at the table looked mortified and I, 28 years old and five months pregnant, felt very uncomfortable with nothing to say but some nonsensical talk about feeling fat. All of these scare statistics have just widened the divide.
Now, I am no card-carrying, club-organizing, spinster-picketing, proponent of marriage and babies. I met my spouse in law school where I was looking for an education not love. It all happened organically and our marriage and the children that followed were choices that made sense for us. I have one fabulous friend that has spent her entire late twenties exploring the continent of Africa and pursuing advanced degrees in International Studies. She is clear that marriage and/or children are not for her until she is at least in her forties. She is gorgeous and happy and it is clear to me that she will have no problem having either one if and when she decides it is time. I just do not understand why the issue has pitted one side against the other. I do not understand why married people with children must be miserable for single, childless people to be happy and why single people must be lonely and unhappy for married people to find joy. Life is incredibly personal. There is no collective happiness. Either you are happy or you are not and only you know which components you need to change in order to find your “happy”. In the slightly altered words of one of my favorite, single rockers, I have one question for you, Mr. Baisden, “if it makes you happy, why the hell are you so mad?”