I’ve had this post on my mind for quite a while now. It’s not often when dancehall music, a genre that I adore and love to dance to out of any other in the entire world (I’m not even exaggerating!), addresses some really personal and intense issues around reproductive health.
One of my favorite aspects of Dancehall are the slack lyrics, and when Lady Saw came on the scene, I was immediately in love! She discussed topics that, at that time, were considered “crude” for a woman to discuss (i.e. gender differences, sexuality, use of condoms). Yet this is exactly what fueled my love for her as a female Jamaican deejay (which is a term synonymous with what we in the US would call “female MCs”).
In Lady Saw’s last album, Walk Out, which was released in 2007, two of her top songs in the US and Caribbean included “No Less Than A Woman (Infertility)” and “Chat To Mi Back.” Her song “No Less Than A Woman (Infertility)” is an amazing discussion of gender expectations, motherhood, reproductive health, adoption, worth, value, and how that intersects with class and women living in the Caribbean. Check out her video for the song below.
As a woman of color and a Caribbean woman who has made a conscious decision not to have children, this song speaks to me on numerous levels. I did grow up with the fantasy of wanting to be a parent when I was a child, however, today, as I know what this responsibility means--to mold someone else’s life, and knowing how I want to live my life-- not having a child is a priority for me. When I share this with people, the response and reaction are immediately assuming that I’m infertile or have some kind of reproductive health issue that results in difficulty becoming pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. This may stem from the fact that these people know I'm still sexually active.
Often I try to shift these conversations to my birth control choices over other options available to me, but now I'm thinking otherwise. As if being a Latina and a Caribbean woman who does not want children is such a taboo! Add to that a Caribbean woman who often partners with men, and I instantly become some complex puzzle people feel the need/desire to solve.
The conversation that is lacking in our communities: how women who choose not to have children have actually thought about it, and sometimes even more so, than some women who desire to be parents; yet we are believed to be “wrong.” As Lady Saw sings, there are multiple ways for us to give love, there are numerous children who we also care for and love, but that does not, in any way take away our femininity.
I really appreciate how Lady Saw talks about gossip, attempts to debunk people’s reputations, and challenges people face when they do not have children, yet other people think they should have them already.
If I could sit here and tell you all the times my parents asked me when they were getting grandbabies I’d be out of breath and have cotton mouth! The best thing is that I’m not the only person this song resonates with. Some of the responses to the song have included the following (some responses are in patois, and I am not going to alter or edit them, as it is a valid form of expression for people in our community):
I stay[e]d a virgin til I was married. Me and my husband have been dating since the 9th grade. After our wedding, we tried to have a child for more than a year and a half. I was afraid of the possibility of me being infertile. I finally went to a doctor and found out I can not have children. I was hurt, of course, but instead of giving up, I decided I would have a child. I have a s[o]n named Darius and a daughter named Layla today. They may be adopted, but they are min[e] regardless.
dis song speaks to my soul in a soothing way..Thanx Lady Saw...i hate the look people gimme coz i dont hev, and i hate the feeling of worthlessness thats constantly riding me..hev got to the point where i dont want my husband close to me coz im always thinking, wots the point...wonder why God chose me..i am really that bad that people who dont want get, yet i cry myself to sleep everyday coz my arms feel empty get....I'm jus made me very bitter..
lord ave mercy, tear just roll down my face.... got the all clear from breast cancer 2 months ago, to which I thank jah for mi 2nd chance, but with the smooth come the rough, cos a mi treatment, children are no longer possible naturally fi mi, so to hear this has really bought it home..... jah bless to everyone x
me and my man been tryin for more then 5yrs & yet nothin, but i say to myself only god no why, but this song gives me hope to never give up, they are more ways to share your love and become a mother to a child that needs a home; blessings to all the mothers out there.
Some people want careers and have things they want to accomplish before they have kids. And some people have fertility problems and cannot have children, and, as lady saw says, it does not make them any less of a woman, nor does that make them wrong or strange or different.
I admire her openess and constructive response to a very taboo subject within the global community but especially in the Black communities, RESPECT Lady Saw. X
What are your thoughts regarding this form of media? Are there other forms of such media that address this topic? When will we, as my homegirl and doula mentor Sparkle says, “stop plotting on folks' reproductive capabilities, abilities, and desires”?