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Parlour on B+GM: So if I Don’t Want Kids, Now I’m Selfish?

We feature the best of Parlour Magazine’s need-to-read info in this space twice a month. Enjoy!


By Nakia D. Hansen

A recent op-ed in the Canadian paper, the National Post, literally  made me LOL and say ‘Ooh, somebody’s salty’ aloud to no one in particular in my office. You can read it for yourself, but to summarize, writer Joe O’Connor asserts that couples who choose not to have children are “just plain selfish” because they’d rather spend their lives taking vacations, buying white furniture and plugging things in without first having to remove a safety cap from the socket or whatever. O’Connor pines for the good ol’ days when, he writes:

Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration — along with finding love everlasting — a biological impulse to go forth and multiply and, later, once your babies reached a certain age, to cajole them about the merits and benefits of doing their bit to join the ranks of parenthood while giving Mom and Dad some grandkids.

Judging from all the pregnancy bump photos on Facebook and adorable pics of baby feet on Instagram, many people in my network still feel that way. For the majority of Americans, growing up means getting married and starting a family. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone that path — I’m excited for the couples I know with buns in, or freshly out, of the oven — but O’Connor doesn’t seem as judicious when looking upon those who forego parenthood by choice. After listing some of the things these childless couples do with all of their time not spent organizing play dates or attending parent-teacher conferences, O’Connor considers what might make someone opt-out of child-rearing:

Career demands. Timing. Not having a partner, or not having the right partner. Flaky fears about overburdening our already overburdened planet, personal choice and a bunch of other hooey that serve to hide the fact that happy couples that choose not to have kids are, at root, well, let’s see: selfish.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a hater. While I’m sure O’Connor loves his family and has zero regrets about choosing to parent, it’s painfully obvious that he envies the lives of couples who are free from the tedium and burdens that inevitably go along with the joys of raising kids. In the very beginning of his piece he frames the childless life as one available only in a parent’s dream. The lives he tries to slander, in my opinion, sound absolutely wonderful. One of the worst barbs he can throw at non-parents is that they look rested and youthful. I had to ask myself, ‘Is this Canada’s version of The Onion?’

Having children or not is a personal choice every couple has the right to make. The reasons not to have children so easily dismissed by O’Connor are indeed real, for example the cost to raise just one child is estimated at $300,000 (US), not including costs for their college education. Concerns about the environment may seem “flaky” to some but the earth’s population is one R. Kelly song away from 7.1 Billion human beings. It’s no longer necessary that we procreate to ensure the survival of our species so who cares if some people would rather spend their old age cruising the Mediterranean than bouncing cherubic grandchildren on their knees?

I’ll see O’Connor’s accusation of selfishness and raise him one; I say that choosing to have children is the selfish act! When your kids are born, you will likely spend the rest of your life giving all of yourself over to their health and happiness but before sperm and egg meet to form a zygote, you’re mostly in it for yourself. If probed, most people’s desire to have children will center on what they want for themselves and their own lives. Who says they’re having a kid for the sake of this yet-to-exist person being happy and healthy? What’s that matter? People have kids because they want to experience a family or the “joy of parenting,” continue their legacy, name and blood-line, see their own image in another, have someone to take care of them later in life, have someone who loves them unconditionally, help make the world a better place (granted, pretty selfless) by adding a person made good and wonderful through their nurturing and lessons (the selfish part). You see where I’m going.

Have kids. Go forth and procreate! I love seeing their little diapered butts waddle across the room. But don’t kid yourself; a lot of why some couples choose to have children is for their selfish reasons. Ultimately, it’s a good kind of selfish which is reflected in a proud parent’s eyes or the laughter of a child. The same goes for those who choose not to become parents. Call them selfish but recognize that it’s a different but just as good kind of way to put one’s own desires and happiness first. 

Parlour on B+GM: Melissa Harris-Perry on Obamacare and the “Year of the Vagina”

Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC)

We feature the best of Parlour Magazine’s need to read info in this space twice a month. Enjoy!

By Hillary Crosley
If you’re a Parlourista, you know that we’re big Melissa Harris-Perry fans. I watch the two-hour program, which debuted in February, most weekends and when I can’t get to my television, I hit record. For me, Harris-Perry, the first MSNBC black female host with her own show, is like Oprah for housewives, sans all of that sometimes dangerous self-help. I eat up the Tulane professor’s smart segments on political issues like race, gender, class and America’s upcoming presidential election. I dreamt of profiling her on Parlour, because she, as a smart black woman who thinks critically, embodies so much of what we strive to represent here on the site. Well, guess what?

During Essence Music Festival earlier this month, I chatted with Mrs. Harris-Perry backstage about the ‘Year of the Vagina,’ Obama as a possible one-term president and being MSNBC’s new black woman role model.

Parlour: You talked about your book Sister Citizen during Essence Music Festival, what’s it about?
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Sister Citizen is about the way stereotypes continue to influence how African American women feel about themselves. The idea of the jezebel, mammy, angry black woman and strong black woman as constraints on our sense of self is a core theme but when we try to address that, we take individual psychological routes to feel better about ourselves. I’m really interested in citizenship, the fight against those stereotypes and our making claims about our rights to be full citizens and engaging politically.

How are black women are fighting for citizenship?
The book was released long before I knew 2012 would be the ‘Year of the Vagina’ and we would continue talking about things I thought were settled. In the context of the book, I was talking specifically about how citizens feel no shame making demands on the state. Rich white men say ‘Give me a tax break, I’m a job creator.’ But our needs, for example, reasonable affordable childcare, sufficient food subsidies or decent affordable housing and healthcare, somehow it’s shameful for us to demand those things. It’s both an issue of our citizenship within the American landscape as Americans, but also our citizenship within blackness. For black women, I see it as two-prong, meaning we’re not meant to ask for anything from the black political agenda so we’re told to make our issues secondary to that of the endangered black man. We’ll talk about, for example, the ‘No Snitching’ policy, but we’ll only talk about how that impacts a 20-year-old urban man who’s caught up in prison. But we don’t talk about how the silence impacts girls who are ‘ride or die’ and end up in prison for doing nothing.

On your show, you’ve said that American imperialism is the burden and pleasure of African Americans, what do you mean?
It’s really easy as a Black American to forget that we are actively benefiting from the continued oppression of working people around the world. As poor as poorest black Americans are, we are still wearing goods and participating in services that come from children who are basically in slavery in other parts of the world. Because we have our own history of oppression, a lot of times we think that frees us from our own social responsibility but it doesn’t. We shouldn’t all feel shamed, but as Americans we’re part of that [history and present]. We both have all the dis-privileges of our blackness but we also have all of the privileges of our Americaness, especially middle class black folks. We have to be very careful about recognition of how our own economic, social and political privileges are still built on those who have less in this country and certainly always internationally.

With the new Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, passed by the Supreme Court, many are saying Barack Obama may be a one-term president, but at least he set us on the path towards free healthcare. Any truth to those statements?
A little bit, which is to say President Obama and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi are not in the position that President Lyndon B. Johnson was with massive Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. They are not in the position that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in, three terms of presidency and massive majorities and a friendly Supreme Court. Obama and Pelosi understood very clearly they had a 5-4 court, a filibustered Senate and to still push the Affordable Care Act through was a courageous, non-political decision. I don’t know if we’re moving toward universal healthcare because the European nations who have it are themselves [are in troubled times]. The austerity measures in Europe have demonstrated how fragile the notion of a social safety net is especially when those societies become more diverse. The European Union is freaking out because there’s all of these non-Western European countries that are a part of it now so it has to manage a much broader notion of what it means to be European. Former imperial nations like Great Britain and France are coping with North African and Asian immigrants, the colonies coming to the home. But I do think that we are within five years of full coverage for American citizens. Now the problem is, America also has millions of people who are not citizens and we’ve passed such a restrictive healthcare mandate that we have not addressed the reality that we must also provide healthcare for non-citizens.

Switching gears, I heard your husband took you to South Africa for a date?
James and I went to Capetown for our fourth date, we [didn’t live in the same city and] had just started dating. The most surprising experience was a conversation with a waiter and his wife while out one night. They lived in a township and were talking about their lives. He was feeling the post-apartheid reality of Capetown which is not as a free spirited as Johannesburg. But when he found out I was from New Orleans, this man who lives in post-apartheid South Africa in a township says to us, ‘I’m sorry your government hates you’ and I was like, ‘Oh shit.’

What are your favorite travel spots?

Barcelona, it is the only place that’s ever made me think I could live outside of New Orleans. I fell in love with Paris, even though we went in the winter and it was extremely cold but the food was ridiculous! InItaly, we spent most of our time in Venice and only spent two days in Rome. I regret that. [When we got to the city] I thought, ‘Why didn’t I know about Rome?’

What are your favorite songs right now?
Anything by Beyoncé, I have a Beyoncé problem. Even if she wasn’t nice, I sort of wish she was a horrible, awful bitch because she would still be fabulous! My 10-year-old kid loves Rihanna to a problematic extent and likes singing her songs. We went to an MSNBC staff bonding karaoke night and my daughter sang a Rihanna song and my staff was like, ‘Is this okay?’ My husband plays Jill Scott’s “Blessed” a lot and I loveFrankie Beverly and Maze’s “Southern Girl.”

Do you ever say ‘Wow, I’m the first black woman with an MSNBC show about smart black people things and they pay me for it’?

No! But I was attacked by [Fox News pundit] Bill O’Reilly the other day, and thought, ‘Bill O’Reilly’s pissed, that’s hot!’ The rest of it feels like work. I don’t watch the show, I can’t stand the sound of my voice, but the idea that Bill O’Reilly was pissed felt great! 


Parlour on B+GM: In Defense of the Straight-Haired Natural Girl

We feature the best of Parlour Magazine's need to read info in this space twice a month. Enjoy!

By Shannon Washington

Caesar? Three times. Locs? Six years. Lion-like curly fro? I’m a pro. Cornrowed bouffant? I swear I was the first in Brooklyn. When it comes to natural hair- I’ve pretty much done it all since I decided to stop relaxing my hair during my senior year of high school, close to 14 years ago. It was 1997 and after growing out my Halle Berry-esque cut out into a shoulder length bob – I started going longer and longer between touch-ups. Aside from being busy with graduation and a near-expulsion experience (suburban thuggin!) I became pretty lazy with my upkeep and got a kick out of the volume that my hair had when new growth mixed with the relaxed part. My hair was thick, shiny and wavy. It felt alive and I liked it.

After figuring out a transitional technique that worked for me (did you know that I INVENTED the ‘twist out’?) I stopped relaxing all together. By the time I graduated high school and enter Howard University I had a lion’s mane of thick, curly, shiny hair. It was on that campus that I started what has/will be a lifelong evolution on my political, personal and beauty preferences and naturally my outward appearance followed suit. When I accepted my degree, I threw up a peace sign in Cramton Auditorium with a shoulder-length bundle of dreadlocks that I carried on into my early twenties. After cutting my locs off in a heatwave-induced rage, I’ve continued to rock a plethora of natural styles that compliment my mood of the moment. I’ve never saw a ‘loctician’ or visited a natural hair salon—aside from cornrowed-styles, I twisted my own locs and have always maintained my curly hair myself. If it’s natural, I just let it do it’s natural thing, with as little guidance as possible. And don’t ask me what “type” of natural hair I have (B2, Prop 8, ??) or when I made the “big chop” because I honestly have no true idea of what you are speaking of. I’d consider myself to be a casual natural woman, meaning…it’s just my hair. No huge event, grandstanding,  personal politics, message boards, technique devotion involved.

Which brings me to this. About a year or so ago, I started to get regular blow-outs. After going to my local salon to get a trim I noticed that my ends had fell victim to endless twisting, brushing…just being messed with in the name of natural “styles.” So about three weeks later—I went back…and it’s become a regular thing for me to have long straight hair for long periods of time. Frankly, my hair grows faster, and it’s extremely easier to maintain for my lifestyle. I keep it conditioned, and after leaving the salon, I don’t put any heat in it. I don’t even use oil-sheen (except when its a #struggle day) and rotate between a variety easy/maleable styles and ponytails. And yes, I work out, I sweat and let it be great. The less I do to it, the better it looks and there is nothing like having variety on a hot day that involves a body of water. I will gladly jump in the pool and emerge with a ‘fro full of curls.

But somehow during this time, I think I lost my ‘natural’ card to some. After trading hair horror stories with an old colleague last month, I described myself as “natural” while standing there with chest-length straight hair. The look on her face said everything. She jokingly referred to me as ‘faux natural.’ [Sidenote: I hate the term ‘natural’ when describing a group of women, ie “What’s up with the naturals?” Are we one big singing group?] And while I understand where she was coming from, I replied by affirming that if having natural hair means hair that is free of processing/chemicals, etc—then I rightfully fit in the category. The important thing is that it grows amazingly fast, it moves, it shines and it is strong. So what if it is straight? Am I any less “down” than I was with locs? Can the straight-haired natural girls get some love too? Is it even that serious to you?

Before writing this, I mentioned the idea to a few girlfriends who are curly and straight hair wearers and they all lamented at the growing number of what Solange rightfully labeled the “Natural Hair Police.” Basically, the women who live by a totalarian code of what natural hair is. Sounds to me like the same folks who administered the ‘brown paper-bag’ test to sistas back in the day and enforced the light-skinned, long hair code of beauty that still haunts many Black women today. If this entire movement to embrace our natural textures is to be honest and true, we also need to embrace the variety that it holds—to include the option of straightening it with heat and actually liking it. Besides, why would I want to use a “natural” product to give me a different, “desired” curl pattern other than my own? Basically, if I my hair texture is that of say…Viola Davis, then why are you cramming products in my face so that my hair can look like Cree Summer?  That doesn’t sound natural to me. Or over twisting/brushing/fiddling/braiding your hair until it breaks off and it looks dry and horrible? But anyway, that’s another post.

My straight hair isn’t about me attempting to look at all European or ‘acceptable” to some. I’ve maintained a pretty amazing career with curly and straight hair. It’s me maximizing the versatility and options that I have with it. With all that said, there a plenty of women like myself with a ponytail swinging that are just as natural with their hair as the next chick with a twist-out. Who still walks slow in the rain and don’t mind being sweat-drenched after a night of dancing. If natural hair is to be truly accepted as a norm with Black women, then we need to accept the natural desire to experiment and change.

Where here, we’re queer straight, and it’s great!
In addition to this snazzy website, Shannon is also the founding director of another image-challenging online movement, Feminist Enough

Parlour on B+GM: Men, In My Vagina, And In My News

Today we’re introducing a cross-publication series with the lovely and amazing Parlour Magazine. I used to write a column for them on sociopolitical issues called Politrix, and refuse to give up my family status. We’ll feature the best of their need to read info in this space twice a month. Enjoy!

By Shannon Washington

Peace, this is mecca the ladybug and I’m sayin though! what is really what if I can’t even get comfortable because the supreme court is, like, all in my uterus?! —ladybug mecca

Lately, men have been pretty vocal about my/yours/our lady-business. From hot-button issues like abortion to superficial topics such as what we wear (ps. Fuck you if you don’t like my wedges or maxi-dress), undoubtedly the loudest person in the room when it comes to a woman’s issue always seems to be a man. Not that there is anything wrong with a man’s input—but there are some topics that testicle-carriers need to fall back on. Namely, topics revolving around what I can do with and put in my vagina. After all, I think I’m the best person to make a judgement call on, well, myself. And if I need a second medical or political opinion, I’m a little more inclined to respond to a woman’s point of view. Too bad mainstream media thinks the opposite.

A recent study shows that among 35 national publications (such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal), men are quoted around five time more then women in stories involving issues such as birth control, Planned Parenthood and abortion. The Daily Beast reports:

“…men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent and organizations had 7 percent. 
In stories about birth control, men scored 75 percent of the quotes, with women getting 19 percent and organizations getting 6 percent. Stories about Planned Parenthood had a similar ratio, with men getting 67 percent, women getting 26 percent, and organizations getting 7 percent.” 

Funny enough, while men are dominating the political/social debate surrounding women’s bodies, they are also dominating the media conversations (albeit at a lower rate) concerning women’s rights:

“Women fared a bit better in stories about women’s rights, getting 31 percent of the quotes compared with 52 percent for men and 17 percent for organizations.”

Sadly, I’m not surprised that men are generally quoted more in news stories overall, however there seems to be a connection between the hysteria and inexplainable political actions (word to Rep. Lisa Brown) associated with women’s issues and how women are represented in media focusing on women’s issues. This in itself, presents a danger in how women and women’s issues are perceived and considered by the general public. Because of the role of ‘media-as-fact’ in the United States, this leads to a behavior of men being seen as the ‘experts’ on women’s issues, which then leads to mis-recognition, misleading statements and potentially harmful legislature for all of us. This isn’t to say that men can’t speak intelligently about women, but that the role and voice of women should be equal to men, and in some cases elevated, when it comes to women’s issues in the media to maintain accuracy, honesty, legitimacy most importantly—objectivity for the benefit of the reading public. So while I’m a bit flattered that my sexual behavior and health is such a concern to all, I’ll leave it to the ladies to reference in determining the best way to proceed. Love you still fellas.

Photo: clockwise from top left: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Dan Skerbitz, director of Personhood Oklahoma, Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., spoke at 2012 news conferences on issues related to women’s health including birth control, Planned Parenthood, and abortion. 

Streets Is Watching

Black + Green Mama is now officially being syndicated on the ALWAYS amazing Parlour Magazine. Check us out biweekly! And don’t miss Parlour on B+GM Thursdays, starting this week. 

It’s no secret that I was laid off back in November. It’s also no secret that I’m a bit of an optimist, viewing every skinned knee as a chance to get a cheery, smiley-face Band-Aid. So it’s no surprise that I would embrace unemployment as the nudge I needed to stop planning my career and create it.
The surprising thing is, I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually want a career, at least not in the traditional sense. Im not saying I want to sit on my couch in ratty sweats (I dont even own a pair of sweats!) and eat bonbons (refined sugar is a no-no, except for gummy worms, yum), but Im tired of taking the crowded road to the top, doing what Im “supposed” to do. I finally realized that perhaps the thing I had been chasing—a spot atop the masthead of a magazine of my own creation—might actually suck once I caught it… Read more on

Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time, full of new beginnings, and prep fpr poopy diapers, and late-night feedings (okay, so maybe it’s an exhausting time). But its a dangerous proposition for a growing number of women in the United States. The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story about the increasing maternal death rate—two women die every single day of problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The maternal mortality rate—that’s the number of women who die within 42 days of delivery—is higher than that of 40 other industrialized nations, despite the fact that we spend more per birth than any other country in the world, and for every woman who dies, another 50 are extremely ill following delivery (think: hemorrhaging and kidney failure).

Experts aren’t exactly sure why these numbers are trending upward, but they suspect it’s at least in part because preexisting conditions (like cardiovascular disease and diabetes precipitated by obesity) aren’t being diagnosed or considered during prenatal treatment. It’s also a gender, race, and economic issue. A study conducted by the CDC, state health departments across the country, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discovered that Black women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.Read more on

I’m Kenrya Rankin Naasel, a lifestyle + parenting expert who—after much prodding from her friends—decided to share her hippie-dippie Black chick mama life.