Three years ago, a photo of Ciara with the mothers of two of her then-fiancé Future’s children went viral. Reportedly, the women met at Future’s show in Atlanta and were all smiles for an impromptu photo shoot. Blog after blog commended the ladies, Ciara especially, for being mature enough to respect each other, as they all held some place in the rapper’s life. The man at the center of the harem even called Ciara a “real woman” for showing his children and their mothers “hospitality.”

Apparently, that celebration of Ciara’s womanhood was reserved only for her embrace of Future’s multiple children and their mothers, because just two short years later, after the couple’s messy public split, Future was anything but impressed with Ciara having then-boyfriend, Russell Wilson, around “his” son. The Atlanta rapper told The Breakfast Club, “You never do that in our community. You don’t even bring a man around your son. You only know this dude for a few months and you’re bringing him around your kid? Who does that? Nobody does that.” Ciara pointed out the obvious double standard, noting that she was around Future’s other three children very early in their relationship.

Despite the fact that Ciara reportedly called off her wedding to Future because of his infidelity and the fact that she went on to marry Russell Wilson, Ciara was criticized by celebrities (notably T.I., who ironically lives in the same house with his wife’s daughter by another man) and common folk alike who were outraged that she would dare have the love of her life involved with her son. Oh, and they even accused her of being bitter. The misogynist criticisms reached its zenith this week, though, when the 31-year-old singer announced she and her husband are expecting a child. Several users took to Twitter to call Ciara a “hoe” for being pregnant just months after her wedding.

Yes, you read that right.

A woman with one child, who found the strength to leave a relationship, which was clearly unhealthy for her, is a hoe for marrying a man and conceiving a child with him. Or rather, a Black woman with one child, who found the strength to leave a relationship, which was clearly unhealthy for her, is a hoe for marrying a man and conceiving a child with him.

Apparently, the fact that Ciara and Russell Wilson seem blissfully happy together, the fact that Baby Future seems to adore his stepfather and the fact that having children with your spouse is an expectation of marriage do not matter.

To some, Black women are not afforded the luxury of finding a better relationship. Black women are not worthy of magical love stories. Successful love stories for Black women are marked solely by our ability to endure suffering and continue to stand with partners who demean, abuse and cheat on us with grace. Some feel Ciara should have stayed with Future, who despite having at least four children with as many women and being a staple on the blogs for his many flings with various women—none of whom are the mothers of any of his children (just last week US Weekly reported the rapper had slept with retired NBA player Scottie Pippen’s wife)—is not called a hoe.

Women are constantly pushed to find a good man, one who’s a provider and treats them like a queen. Ciara heeded that advice, finding a man who has the financial means to provide everything she wants and needs and a man who eagerly professes his love for her. Still, that is not enough and too much all at once. Ciara can’t win because the game is misogynoir.

When Black women take a chance on men like Future, we’re settling for less. We’re choosing bad boys who will inevitably break our hearts. We’re told we must demand more. Then when we do just that, we’re labeled hoes. Those who pull out the biased “70 percent of Black children are born to single mothers” statistic, disregarding that those children must also be born to single fathers, in any discussion of the state of the Black community, rushed to lambaste Ciara for providing her son with a stable father figure. They’d be much happier to see this Black woman–like the ones they complain are solely responsible for the amount of children raised by single mothers–stay single so they can continue to bolster the narrative that Black women are tainted once we have a failed relationship that produces children.

Love and happiness are not experiences society is prepared to watch Black women have. Ciara was never supposed to find her fairytale. Russell Wilson was never supposed to see value, love, appreciate and exalt a Black woman, one like Ciara who loved herself too much to stay in a relationship that wasn’t giving her what she needed. Black women are supposed to exist only for carnal consumption and discard.

Some believe we should be content with struggle love, eager to prove we’re “ride or die” for men who won’t return the loyalty. And if we dare veer off the course charted for us, refusing to accept that we are unworthy of devotion, affection and indulgence, we’re hoes. Black women have no obligation to live life hoping to prove or disprove theories about our inherent ability to maintain relationships. The truth is that we’ll be vilified whether we’re happily single, unhappily involved or blissfully married. So we might as well live our lives on our own terms, in our own way, just like Ciara.

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