Over the last decade, dating has become the Achilles’ heel for many Black women. With discouraging statistics and mounting family pressure, Black women are repeatedly told they will be the last to get married or never do it at all. To shift the conversation, director Catina Jones has produced and directed a documentary titled Where Is The Love? that focuses on the misleading quotes reported by media outlets, questions why Black women are getting married at older ages, and exposes how various industries profit off of Black women who are seeking help with their love lives. In our interview we asked Jones about those angles and also her vision of the Black family’s future and what Black women should do to combat these negative reports.
MadameNoire (MN): What is your documentary, Where Is The Love, about?
Catina Jones (CJ): Where Is The Love was inspired by a statistic that was released by the United States Census Bureau a few years. That statistic was reported that 70 percent of Black women are single. So my initial goal as a single woman who was watching all of her friends and beautiful Black women who were single was to explore and figure out why there were so many single Black women.
Since starting on this journey I’ve had a few epiphanies and revelations once the statistic came into question. I had a great interview with The New York Times writer and in her extensive research she drilled it all down and made it make sense for me. The 70 percent statistic that was released only applied to Black women between the ages of 24-29. At that stage, you have to question that statistic and how it was released and why, then, there are so many other questions that we sought out to answer and why would you release a statistic and not release all of the information? That lead us down another rabbit hole of, “hey, you know, there is a marketing ploy. There’s self-help, that’s attached to this number. There is a whole market that is open now and Black women are filling that void. They are buying all of the self-help books and they’re questioning themselves. And there are, you know during that time, other news reports. Well there were two or three statistics that were released that were just ridiculous. None of them were in favor of Black women. So Where’s The Love? became and is us taking a look at that statistic; demystifying the statistic for the public and looking at women who are not embracing it, because there is so much negativity out there. We don’t see us celebrating Black women a lot.
MN: Where do you think the pressure to get married in the Black community stems from?
CJ: I think it began with that statistic. One of the clips we used from The Oprah Winfrey talk show, she opened up the show with, “Hold on to your seats everyone! Seventy percent of Black women are single.” Everyone embraced that statistic. For me, I was personally looking at my immediate circle and I saw girlfriends who were single and I was single myself. So, it was a question and once I saw that report on the Oprah show, it was confirmation. It was further confirmation that this is an epidemic and the way it was reported it felt like this was ,you know, a crisis that we are in right now. The truth of the matter is marriage rates are down across the board. Once capitalists saw that it was profitable to market to this certain group or Black women and say “hey, this is why you’re single.” Everyone felt the need to tell us about us and no one was talking to us they were talking at us. And telling us what we needed, you know? I think it just caught on like wildfire and I think that society was in a place at that time where we started to embrace other messages. Maybe coming out of our music or what we saw in entertainment. Maybe art imitates life to a certain extent. What we have to understand is our statistic is higher, it’s actually 43 percent of Black women across the board are single but by the time we are in our late thirties and early forties that number increases significantly. We are getting married, we are just getting married later.
MN: Why do you think other races or ethnicities aren’t targeted in these reports?
CJ: I can’t say that they aren’t. If you walk into any bookstore you’ll see “Why Men Love B*tches” or “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” you’ll see it across racial lines, you’ll see that there is a hard push and a sector that has grown significantly. You’ll see they’re targeting women as a whole but it got so much easier when they saw that number. It was so alarming. It just caused Black women to embrace it and then you have statistics about Black men in jail. Then when you’re in college, you’re looking around and you see the ratio there. There was so much information that made this number and help this number to live.
MN: Why do you think men are not offered the same advice?
CJ: The messages have been coming primarily from the men. For them, it’s natural to target women, you know? Not to say they are not being accountable but it gives them the freedom to be a hot commodity. They give themselves up as the one up to advise women on what to do and I think if it were the reverse and women were writing books for men to step it up and, you know, become the head of household and do this and do that, I just don’t think men would embrace it because it’s coming from a woman.
MN: Do you think marriage is a necessity for Black women to pursue?
CJ: I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone, but I see the benefit. I think we learned in our journey with this documentary that family and community is what is important — however that may exist for you as long as that strong foundation is there. Marriage is just legalizing that whole part of it, you know that whole union or what not. It’s definitely not necessary but there are so many benefits to marriage that you cannot deny that it is worth taking a look at it now. That’s why we wanted to examine it in Where Is The Love?.
MN: What was the most surprising thing you observed while filming the documentary?
CJ: In various cities, we would hear women say “I can’t find anyone on my level” and men cringed at that. One guy in Minneapolis stood up at this forum a radio station put together for us to film and this one guy just exploded, like he lost it. He went in on this one chick and he was all emotional and upset and basically his question to her was: “What is your level? Why do you think or separate yourself or put yourself on a pedestal to the point you consider yourself a different level from someone? It was a real exchange that happened between two of them, that was a hot button for him. But in her defense, she was simply saying, “Hey I did what I was suppose to do. I was told to go to school and get my education. Become a successful woman and I’m just saying “Where’s my Black Knight in shining armor and someone who is my equal or what not?” That calls in the question, “Do you have to date someone on your equal level?”
MN: Do you think the constant media coverage about Black women’s relationships is another way to attack the Black family unit?
CJ: There is a systematic approach and I think that if we go back to even looking at the welfare system, when we look at our historical breakdowns of the Black family, that’s a huge element. Men had to be absent from the household in general for the family to receive benefits. When you couple that with the high incarceration rates of the 1980s and 1990s, and when you look at the messages that started to come out in the media, throughout the years women were becoming stronger and stronger and independent and independent. Then the men were in a downward spiral and those who were not became again, hot commodities. So I think that to answer the question I think that there are some systematic elements to these numbers being released and why center statistics are embraced and others aren’t. It’s tough to figure out exactly where this comes from and it comes from various places.
To help fund Where Is The Love? to be produced in its entirety, visit Jones’ Indiegogo page to support.