“She poured all her time and resources into not finding a good man, joined arms with the bra-burners, stuffed her face with Twinkies, and then found out that getting a man takes time and work and art.” Jeremy Egerer
Somebody told her, years ago, that the only person she could control was herself, and beyond this that if she didn’t smoke crack, or get knocked up, or shoot her neighbors, or steal sneakers, or blow her money on gold chains and spinning rims, and made good choices in general, she would “make it.” She did make the right choices — to become a professor. Now she has tenure and can say stupid things, and nobody can fire her. What she deeply regrets is not having children.
Who’s to blame for all this? Her wild success implies that it’s she. Whom does she blame? White neoliberals and their “perverse form of a social gospel.”
Where is the man she needs in this? No mention is made of what he needs from a woman, and that she either doesn’t have it or has purposely avoided being it. She says black women die more in childbirth anyway, but no mention is made that all women, on approaching 40, are more likely to die from complications or have sick children. No mention is made that by the time you hit 30, most of the best men have picked most of the best women, and the pool of marriageable partners has become more like a swamp. She poured all her time and resources into not finding a good man, joined arms with the bra-burners, stuffed her face with Twinkies, and then found out that getting a man takes time and work and art. I advise her to get some cats. It’s going to be a long haul, and she’s going to need some company.
This isn’t all. She says, again sincerely, that she’s in a process of “recovery” — from the struggle for tenure at college. She says black women “age prematurely” due to this kind of stress and that “the very choices and accomplishments that I worked so hard to achieve might be the very things preventing me from having the kinds of personal and lifestyle choices that I wanted.” She doesn’t blame feminism for her decision. She ignores that there are lots of ideas to choose from and that living rightly means picking the best ideas. She has no idea, as a well paid professor with tenure, teaching children about life, that a choice for something means you abandon something else.
She says neoliberal thinking is a lie because it can “make you feel like you’re in charge of your own destiny.” She picked her own destiny and was disappointed in the results. She says white supremacy and patriarchy and capitalism shattered the “invictus-fueled fantasy most of us are taught to believe. We are not masters of our own fate.” What fate is she complaining about? Her childless professorship. Who picked this fate? She did.
In fairness to the old maid, she’s lived with the assumption many American women do, and that’s that they have a moral obligation to raise children when “ready.” This readiness takes a lifetime, and by the time you feel as if you’ve got things under control, you lose control of your reproductive system. What we’ve forgotten is that two hundred years ago, by our standards, every woman was dirt poor, the chances of the mother dying were fair, and the chances of a child dying were sky-high. And yet they still had us.
The difference between now and then was classical liberalism — the idea that people were in charge of themselves and that if they were left free they would figure things out on their own. They did. They built hospitals and colleges and big labs and new tools, and the accumulated treasure and know-how resulting therefrom has given us the new world — where children are more likely to bury their parents instead of parents burying their children; where the black infant mortality rate used to be 340 per thousand and now, according to the New York Times, is 11; where an ugly racial disparity, in infant mortality, is still a stupendous leap forward; where a black woman, who centuries ago here was chattel, could be her own property; and where she could dispense of her youth, if she chose, pursuing things that in the long run either don’t matter or are downright ridiculous. But she has the choice, and Brittney Cooper exercised it.
The question is why she blames neoliberalism. The alternative to this God-given theory, that man’s choices are responsible for his destiny, is that they aren’t. Once accepted, this leads to the idea that somebody else must be — that someone out there can make our lives better, not by making us better people, but by giving us what we want. And as this lord giveth, this lord also taketh away — from white people, or men in general, or the successful. Thus, the enemy is “white supremacy,” and “patriarchy,” and “capitalism.” The unhappy leftist always has a bogeyman, and the bogeyman is always someone who’s got his life together. In a free society, the last refuge of the moron is tyranny.
What does this all make Brittney Cooper? Less brave, considering improvements across the board in medicine, than her own grandma. A successful failure. A woman who abandoned her womanhood and is suffering the consequences. An irresponsible non-thinker who got what she wanted, found out it wasn’t worth it, and is laying the blame on white people. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the associate professor of women’s and gender and Africana studies at Rutgers University — teacher of your children. Tenured.
Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Image: TED via YouTube.