In 2009, the public witnessed an upsurge in media discussions about the lower marriage rates of professional black women. In the Unmarriageable Professional Black Woman discourse, the alleged pathological behavior of black men or black women causes marriage disparities, despite the fact that demographic data that can largely account for differences in marriage rates. This paper explores articulations of a heterosexual, and somewhat heteronormative, black female romantic imagination in the twenty-first century, and unpacks how the ideals and pathologies that subjects with various agendas attach to this imagination reveal the complex interplay of western romantic love narratives, black feminism, legacies of the Moynihan Report, and liberal individualism. Through discussions of three prominent examples representing the romantic desires of ambitious and successful black women in popular discourse, I explore how the heterosexual African American woman’s romantic imagination has been idealized and derided, with the idealization reflecting the ways in which feminism has done significant work in updating the romantic fantasy even as patriarchy’s presence is transparent, and the derision illustrating the disciplinary work of patriarchy and a broader national ideology that suggests that individuals are always responsible for not attaining their heart’s desires.
African American Women; Marriage; Michelle Obama, The Princess and the Frog; Black Pathology
Copyright © 2011 Rebecca Wanzo