Where Does Babymama Come From: The Origins of a Mysteriously Controversial Word
Baby Mama, the movie, is a narrative with two central characters, Kate and Angie. Kate is a single woman by choice, who wants a baby. She is the vice president of a big, to-do, organic company and has the means to not only have a baby, but to hire a nanny after her baby is born.
Angie has a cheating boyfriend, likes pop music, and comes from a lower-class. She is portrayed as uneducated, uses ‘hood’ language, and consumes unhealthy foods. She is hired to carry Angie’s eggs, because Angie cannot have children on her own.
What I found irritating about the movie is that it did not portray the world of where the term originates from. A movie about two white women, who live together in affluence, because of a surrogacy agreement, didn't fit the setting of where babymama comes from—the hood.
Has anyone else notice the trend of how the media has co-opted the phrase referring to married celebrities as baby mamas? Or how folks were offended when Fox referred to Michelle Obama as a Baby Mama. And then the writer of the show was fired and moved to another network EVEN THOUGH Michelle Obama referred to Barack as her baby daddy.
Although the media has co-opted the word, being a babymama isn’t a novelty. It isn’t something fresh or new. According to some preliminary research online, there are different theories about its origins. Slate published that the earliest time the words were found in print was in Jamaica in 1966.
The Root reads that black slaves learned it from British indentured servants. Indentured servants were typically from the lower-class and came to the ‘Americas’ through a loan, which they had to pay off by working on plantations. So, naturally Africans learned English from the indentured servants as they worked side by side. These British field workers, spoke without using the possessive, so instead of saying, that’s the baby’s mother, they might say that’s the baby mama.
In present time, babymama has traveled throughout the world because of its traces in reggae and hip hop music. According to Urban Dictionary, there are a lot of extremely negative connotations associated with the term, which I turned into a compound word.
Above all, what I find interesting is the shifts that it makes when it moves from classes that have more money and more power into those that don't and within the class the word originates from. On one hand, it elicits reactions where people feel threatened, and on the other hand, some people feel empowered and even entitled to babymama.
Although, I was initially offended by the movie's title, I noticed that my offense was futile. The movie did not represent anything that was babymama-like. It was about a rich, white woman, who couldn't have a baby. It had nothing to do with the realities that real mothers out here go through.
There is a larger lesson in that, in thinking that the entertainment we consume actually represents a type of people. Babymama has nothing to do with your perceptions of what you THINK a babymama is.
To me, a babymama is a mother from the hood.
It entails motherhood and debt and poor education and poor food quality.
Whether you are with your babyfather or babymama means nothing to me.
We all struggle here.
The journey of parenting is challenging enough, but to navigate through parenthood in a society that has been historically anti-black, anti-woman, anti-poor, and are all of the things my family has generationally gone through, are layers that I am throughly aware of. Layers that affects me and my babygirl directly and indirectly. Layers that I have to dress and disrobe every single day.
So, please don't sweat me because of your elitist notions on good English or good motherhood. At the end of the day it is just semantics. It's theory and bullshit.
This life is real.
It's a choice.
And babymama fits and feels so nicely. You don't have to get it, because I (we) do.
It's a hood thing and I love it.
I am reclaiming the narrative. Watch out for the details.