After attending Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne concert I remarked on Facebook that I enjoyed the show -- the feminist in me notwithstanding. Between the two of them there are plenty of lyrics that would make any self-respecting feminist cringe, but there is one song that some feminists may expect me to find offensive, yet I don't: the Kanye West hit "Gold Digger."
Let me clarify. It's not that I don't find the song offensive. It's just that I'm not nearly as offended by the lyrics as I am by the women that inspired them. Before my fellow feminists in cyberspace grab their pitchforks, let me start by saying I know not every woman is a gold digger. I just wish so many women out there would stop perpetuating the stereotype that most of us are. I was reminded of this when the media became obsessed with the latest celebrity babymama drama, this time starring teen heartthrob Justin Bieber. (Click here to see a list of the most high profile celebrity paternity cases.)
For starters, as I'm sure has already been stated by others, part of what's troubling about the case is that if the gender roles were reversed and a nineteen-year-old man had impregnated a sixteen-year-old girl I don't think everyone would have initially treated the matter as a boys-will-be-boys like joke.
But the equally disturbing issue is that Bieber's accuser follows a long line of women who not only use their sexuality to get ahead, but their wombs. The act of becoming pregnant on purpose with the goal of landing financial security has become viewed as such a common practice that it is regularly joked about whenever stories like this become public. Bloggers, commenters and commentators use language like "just became pregnant with eighteen years of security" or "she just hit the lotto" to describe women announced to be carrying the children of rich men, particularly men they were not in serious relationships with but will now be linked to, both personally and financially, for life. From Mick Jagger, to Hugh Grant and countless professional athletes, the notion these women (and the men involved), help perpetuate is that there is another option besides appearing on a reality show for those who don't want to work for a living. (And yes I consider parenting, at least being a good parent, the hardest job in the world, but you get my meaning.)
What's disconcerting is the message that the high profile stories of Bieber and other celebrities, combined with the success of programs like Basketball Wives, (which features few wives, but many women whose lives of luxury are bankrolled by the wealthy athletes they've had multiple children out of wedlock with) sends to girls everywhere: Why bother spending money on a college degree, when if you play your cards right and don't use a condom -- or poke holes in one -- you can be financially set for life. (Yes you read that right. As recounted to me by multiple aides, staffers and ex-girlfriends of professional athletes there are women who go to elaborate lengths to become pregnant by them. Poking holes in condoms is just the tip of the iceberg, no pun intended.)
As I made clear on The Dylan Ratigan Show, I'm not letting the men off the hook when it comes to their responsibility in situations like these. If a man truly doesn't want to be a father, he should take the precautions necessary not to become one. If he doesn't, then he's a fool. Any man who creates a baby has a responsibility to that child.
But a woman will always have more responsibility -- at least in the beginning. Why? Because ultimately it will always be our choice, as women (at least here in America) whether or not a baby ends up in this world. Any woman who disagrees with that statement is in essence disagreeing with the very premise of a woman's right to choose. After all, we fought long and hard to defend the mantra, "My body, my choice," something I will believe in and defend until the day I die. But if we are going to demand that men respect the mantra "My body, my choice," and if it is ultimately our choice and we want to protect the legal right to keep it ours and ours alone, then we can't turn around and blame someone else for the irresponsible choices we make with our bodies. We also can't get mad when someone calls us out for such choices. We simply can't have it both ways ladies.
I do believe feminism is about a woman's right to choose, but I also believe feminism is about taking responsibility for the choices that we make. Having unprotected sex with a wealthy stranger whom you then conveniently sue for a lot of money afterwards is not a brand of feminism in my book. Furthermore, women who make the choice to use their bodies to create children primarily for the purpose of financial gain, not only go against everything feminism stands for, but they go against the very idea of responsible parenting. Kids should not be created to be anyone's retirement package, whether your last name is Lohan, Jackson or Yeater (of Bieber fame.)
And as long as women are afraid to confront and challenge other women who embody the negative gender stereotypes we battle every day, they will continue to prevent the rest of us from achieving the progress and equality we desire and deserve.
So the next time you hear the song "Gold Digger," ladies try to reserve your outrage for the individual who actually deserves it. Not Kanye West, but whatever woman, or women, that inspired the song.
Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
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