Congrats on launching the second year of the No Wedding No Womb Campaign. Launching online campaigns are not easy. I know. I also know how it is to birth an idea and get it going and be excited about it and see other people get excited about it, too. And don’t let all my ‘objective, straight-arrow science’ talk fool you, girl. I’m as sensitive as they come. I know how it feels to be defensive and protective over something you created and care about so much.
I realize that when I ended our Twitter conversation last night saying I was confused #NWNW=esoteric you might have thought I was conceding the argument to you. No, I really am confused. Your passion is strong; don’t lose it. I get that; but your arguments are all over the place .
Let me be clear: my criticism was never of you or the validation of your position. It was all about vetting the arguments of the No Wedding No Womb Campaign. Yeah, I did go hard in the paint.*deep breath, looking up to the left, touching my chin, pondering my actions, scowling, exhale* Yeah, I still mean it. That is my way. As Ms. Shug would say “Oh Ms. Celie, that was just the salt and sugar.”
I AM a critic. I don't deny it. As I read your twitter feed it hit me maybe you don’t understand what critics do.
Here’s the thing. Criticism is about finding oversights, flaws, and other hang-ups in ideas/products so that they can become better. I still believe No Wedding No Womb lacks clarity, breadth and depth. Here is my constructive criticism of the campaign.
1. What I mean by clarity.
Out the gate, your message clearly identifies what it sees as a problem, the current out of wedlock birth rate among African-Americans.
Problem: 70+% of black babies born outside of marriage is a problem.
The website says: No Wedding No Womb is a primary call directed to the black community to take action against the rampant births of children who are born without physical, financial and emotional protection.
The title of your campaign makes it abundantly clear to anyone that having children within the bounds of Marriage is your proposed course of action.
Actually, it’s the sweetest, most direct clear piece of branding in words and logo (nice new logo), ever! You’re a marriage proponent. That’s great. I have no qualms there. But then you get fuzzy about the marriage thing - let homosexual couples, single adoptive parents, and other folks know that NWNW is inclusive and point to the campaign's interests of encouraging all adults to be mindful and consider key what children need, e.g., education, love, support, etc., whether they are born to married parents or not. The second part supports the idea of the first part AND answers the call of the Black community to take action without necessitating MARRIAGE.
What is the marketing priority, because your campaign branding and your explanations of the campaign identify two different mission priorities to stem one problem?
a) Encourage more marriage among black parents
b) Promoting healthy families environments for the benefit of both parents and children
2. What I mean by depth.
My first (and foundational) criticism is that I don’t buy your resolution that the high out of wedlock (OOW) birthrate is necessarily a problem. It’s a Critique (I just ran a straight CEDA Kritik on you, in case you didn’t know. Pi Kappa Delta all day, baby!)
You said that NWNW is all about bringing all types of players to the table to wrap our heads around the issue(s). Frankly, I think the place to start is at the beginning and challenge the very assumptions and notions of this – what you call a problem (Point 1 from previous post). Yes, the OOW birthrate is high, but why is that a problem? Scandinavian countries have very high OOW birthrates (66% in Iceland, 55% in Sweden) and those places are regarded as some of the best places to live in the world – based on economics, access to education and healthcare, and life expectancy. Clearly, here is a population that has an alarming out-of-wedlock birthrate but the children seem to be getting the requisite physical, financial and emotional security they need to prosper.
The second and third points I was making in the critique (#2 & 3 from the previous post) were that marriage itself wouldn’t and hasn’t necessarily addressed the problems you bring up and assume – whether rightly or not – are correlated with single-parenting. Neither does/would lack of marriage mean that children/parents will NOT do swimmingly well. I offered myself as an example of a child from multi-generational single parent upbringing. To which you responded:
Debateable, huh? Well according to the 2003 report by The Center for Law Social Policy Are Married Parents Really Better for Children? What Research Says About the Effects of Family Structure on Child Well-Being it results are really that dramatic:
Most researchers now agree that together these studies support the notion that, on average, children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents who have low-conflict relationships. However, findings from the research are often oversimplified, leading to exaggeration by proponents of marriage initiatives and to skepticism from critics. While the increased risks faced by children raised without both parents are certainly reason for concern, the majority of children in single-parent families grow up without serious problems.
Proponents of an idea ought to be ready to fully and systematically defend that idea. In fact, my critique is a gift. By challenging critical evaluation and analysis of the idea you have the opportunity to make it strong and sturdy against any other attacks. I expected some push back on my counter-points, but instead, you just got catty.
And you essentially shut down discussion, which I thought that was the point of this campaign? Right, to initiate a dialogue, encourage action? Debate - your words, not mine?
On the real, no hate, all love...to make this campaign stronger you have got to beef up those tabs: Youtube clips from Divorce Court and an Op-Ed piece about Jennifer Aniston having a baby as links of support for Media Related to the OOW Problem. I know I’m being punchy, but I mean it. You need to link to research papers or at least commentaries from researchers, policy makers, and social service organizations who study/ work on issues related to OOW, Child Welfare, Family & Economics.
3. What I mean by breadth.
The website says that NWNW doesn’t advocate marriage as the panacea for social ills with the black community. But…like I said before the strength of the campaign’s brand and the bulk of the messaging is heavy on marriage as the solution to ills - for example The High Cost of Single Parenting: Anyone Surprised? by you.
I just don’t see the campaign really addressing the whole range of the issues, at least clearly. What are the expressed objectives? What are the plans or ideas on the table to bring those ideas into fruition? You/the website don’t really put all possible solutions on the table and treat them equally or prioritize or vet them in any way.
If one of the main objectives is to reduce percentage, number, incidence of out-of-wedlock birthrates among African-American couples, then where does does NWNW stand on and address the pros and cons of each potential strategy to bring OOW birthrates down. For example:
Marriage. Whether by convincing/encouraging folks to delay parenting until marriage – which fits with the NWNW philosophy or by shot-gun – like our granddaddies use to do. Marry up folks who are in the family way. This will get that rate down. The first plan is optimal – not without its detractors, but a good plan. It might take some time and patience to see results. I think we both can agree that the second plan is not the way to promote healthy happy families; but it is efficient and effective in changing those numbers. And as I and some other other critics have said before, we're concerned that just promoting marriage is a feel-good solution. Marriage becomes just a glossy cover and doesn't get at the actions needed to actually help people become the kind of adults ready for marriage and/or parenting -- some depth, please. That's all.
Stem sexual activity of non-married individuals, especially those who are not financially and emotionally self-sufficient. Encourage abstinence, lock your daughters up, invest in chastity belts or straight run interference like old folks use to do. Nice ideas, but not terribly effective for lots of reasons. I like how Jennifer Vaughn put it, The Price of seeking affection is too high.
Invest and promote contraception like crazy. Educate everybody about sex, the body, sexually transmitted diseases, cost of child care. Anything that will put a barrier between boy and girl, sperm and egg, and/or the individual's urge to have sex. Birth control – education and use has its place. Why isn’t this placed more prominently on the table? I acknowledge you don’t shoot it down, but you don’t really come with it either.
Abortion. It is the farthest from the most ideal solution to bringing the OOW birthrate down as any of them are, but it is the ONE proposal that would get those numbers down fast. But here again, you mix messages.
When you say, “No Wedding No Womb!” are you advocating that women get abortions? No. We are advocating for women to think more of their bodies and their future children BEFORE sperm meets egg. I’m advocating for men to STOP spraying their seeds all over The Creation. ~ NWNW Website
However, you come out in full support of Tracey Renee Jones who is clearly saying that reproductive choice is essential to this notion of creating more healthy families.
I can certainly understand why NWNW wouldn’t want to touch it (right now). That’s perfectly reasonable, but at least don’t fizzle on this one. Because this one is so monumental! If this one is taken off of the table, legally, then I bet that number you’re trying so hard to bring down will become too scary to think about.
You're essentially hosting a blog carnival of independent ideas which may or may not include some solutions. You - the leader of the campaign don''t really bring it all together in one cohesive proposal or outline -- that's what makes a movement: solidifying the next step, the vision, identifying how different stakeholders can get on board. Or if you do/did, then I missed it. Which is a point, too: if you have all of this outlined, then why is it so hard to find, define. It should be clear, up front, unambiguous.
Last word. Being rude isn’t cute. Sadly, I think your cattiness diminishes your strength as a leader and an online citizen. I get that you scratched at me out of defensiveness, but you still end up sounding like the mean girl from high school. For real, that comment about BOSSIP.com when they were eagerly and happily supporting your campaign. Just. Not. Cool.
These behaviors polarize you and as much as it may attract lots of supporters – some of whom may be sycophants, it also drives away some potential supporters (my point #4 of previous post) – who would offer you the objectivity any leader/movement needs to grow strong and sure.
Good luck with NWNW (Seriously. Best of luck with it)