Black Women Need Not Apply

I found an OK Cupid forum post asking for honest answers to the question of attraction to black women. Look, no rational person goes in search of nuanced discourse on a dating site forum, so save that critique for someone who gives a shit. However, it does shed light on the way in which the beauty ideal is framed. There is a huge chasm between white women who frame their experience in terms of feeling pressure to live up to a harsh set of standards versus women who live on the margins yet are still expected to adhere to the same standards that do not even recognize their existence. The former often focuses on specific traits such as blondness, thinness without much critical examination, with the expectation that intersectionality should have no bearing on the discourse.

I bought some of the, “Black women can be fat and still be desirable” snakeoil often peddled by white people, never seeing it as a form of subjugation. Not hearing, the rest of the sentence, “…for black women.” Not realizing my existence was still being framed as less than. And then there’s the Black Don’t Crack meme now utilized to sell botox and wrinkle creams to women of other races. Again from an unexamined perspective it feels like progress, but, of course, it’s not. It’s using the cult of youth to force women into obedience.

The dating world is often where the unchecked assumptions and the unvarnished truths are revealed. Want to know how your pursuit to oppress women is going, spend a few moments perusing the profiles and forums of dating sites. Places where men feel entitled to select mates as though they were flipping through a catalog and where women are instructed – by men – just how to be attractive and successful at dating. Irrespective of the kind of things that sociologists suggest are useful tools for mate selection – commonality of interests, life goals and values – the dating world is still steeped in enforcement of beauty standards, which precious few can meet and within that very few who can, most of them ain’t Black.

What’s great about how our beauty oppression opperates is white women can still feel like feminists when they engage in hand wringing about their looks being picked apart by men without once having to examine their race privilege or acknowledge the way in which their status as highly valued hurts and oppresses marginalized women. They can fixated on their breast size, their hair color, the shapes of their thighs and find support for their anger at those who possess the very traits they covet while at the same time never having their unchecked feelings of desirability entitlement or their feminist cred questioned.

But make no mistake, if you are a white cisgendered able bodied female in Western society your beauty is privileged above other women. Ab dab dab dab *holds up hand* – It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or your boobs aren’t big or if your hair isn’t blond. Look around you. Who do you see the most represented as “beautiful” in society. Remember, rattling off a couple of very, very, very famous WOC who are often visibly of mixed race and whose features and hair often adhere very closely to white standards of beauty doesn’t count.

Soak in that for a moment and then read the following pull quotes from men responding to a black woman’s inquiry as to why she can’t get something going on a particular wildly popular dating site.

FULL DISCLOSURE: While I know one doesn’t make for a revolution, I should note I met my partner (who is White) on the very same dating site. And I should also note there are many things about my appearance that closely adhere to white standards of beauty, namely my nose, lips (which are full but not, “too big”), my skin tone, an extremely youthful appearance that still gets me carded for rated R movies despite being 37, the shape of my eyes, which often mark me as multiracial and of course my hair which when straighten is long and swings like silk curtains in Savannah. Though it’s a tight coil of righteous afro puffs 99% of the time. That said, at the end of the day, even with all of that, if my sisters – all women, even women with more privilege than me – aren’t free, then I ain’t either.

I have opted not to provide commentary because I want folks to read the comments displayed here without benefit of a healing salve, the way I often have to and other women on the margins have to. This is not the time or place to commiserate about “dates from hell” but rather to really unpack what we mean when we suggest we aim to resist the cultural instruction around beauty standards.

From moneymitch88

i like classy girls, no matter what race they are. i think that a lot of black girls get rejected becuase of a “ghetto” stereotype, i could understand this. who wants to date a girl that’s always cussing, fighting, and being rude? i dont need that in a girlfriend, thats what my guy friends are for.

From TSNM:

I mostly think it’s because of the physical attraction…

I for instance, having grown in a different country, didn’t really know about all the racist acts here in the US before 50s. Therefore I never thought about discriminating and that was not because I was raised by instructions about how not to be racist based on color, but it was because I wasn’t even aware of something like that… But still, I’m just not physically attracted almost any black women. I don’t even check out the profile because I just don’t get that “Wow” thing when browsing through the little profile pictures in the “matches” section… Sorry but you asked to be honest…

I need to know the percentage of the ethnicities of the members, and if they are physically attracted to x race (May that be caucasian, black, middle eastern, asian, latino etc.)… So if the guy, even at a sophisticated wine bar never has that thought about approaching that race-x lady because he’s just not attracted to that race, that guy will not even look at the profile…

That’s what I think…

Good luck

TSNM

From foolishsucka:

I’m white and I generally prefer darker exotic women – latina, black, crazy island mixes. Most latinas seem to be Jesus freaks though. The only race I’m really biased against are asian women. I’m just not into them for some reason – maybe they are too submisive or pure for me or something. The one exception is girls from Singapore, but you rarely see them off the island.

FWIW most of my friends are latino and asian.

From Stevian

I will admit, I have ventured outside of my race. My ex fiance was of Costa Rican origin (latin), but even now I still know nothing of what Costa Rican’s are. It does tend to come down to the individual. This is an interesting thread. Before reading this thread, I didn’t know desi’s existed. It’s really interesting to fathom, to say the least.

Onto the question at hand, yes. Race does affect me as far as interests go. You are attractive elle, make no doubt, but it seems every time I meet someone of your descent [BLACK WOMEN], they go out of their way to be mean to me, or at extremes, be rather violent with me. I am not foolish enough to believe you would do so, not at all. But I honestly just wouldn’t feel safe. I imagine I am not the only one that thinks so.

You may be the sweetest girl in the world, but unless your entire family and your family friends are nice people, I don’t think I would be happy.

From silent_male, who oddly enough talks a lot of smack and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “silent”. perhaps it’s meant to be ironic:

I tend to go for women who are not very short (not below 5’0″ or so – I am 6’2″), speak English well (Indian/Aussie/American accents in addition to standard British English are ok, but no hood type talk “yno watimsayin”), have a fairer complexion than I am (women aren’t called the fair sex for nothing), are professionally / educationally driven, have a spiritual side, a certain depth of character, come from a family that is hard working / education oriented, aren’t smokers / serious drinkers / drug users, are family minded, are not single moms, not Muslims (or hardcore Christians/Catholics), and do not have any serious personality related issues.

I recently got out of a short but intense (long distance) relationship.

My history is now: 1 Indian and the rest white. That one (painful) experience with an Indian girl (and observations of other Indian girls who were with friends) were enough to put me off Indian women for life (I think). Most Indian girls do not like (actually actively despise) Indian guys in the first place (too many reasons to list or matter).

I have never dated any Asian, AA, middle eastern, or Hispanic women. In my line of work, the workplace is either Indian, Asian, white or even some middle easterner (- and overwhelmingly male, hard sciences / engineering are like this for whatever reasons). Hardly any Hispanic / AAs (we have one Hispanic guy and 2 AA guys in my immediate circle of 200-300 colleagues). I am culturally aware enough to know that there is a certain angry AA woman stereotype. Regarding Hispanic women, though many of them look somewhat similar to Indians from more southern parts of India (I am originally from northwestern India and hence have a slightly fairer complexion than most of my countrymen), there are significant enough religious differences (my religion and serious Catholicism definitely do not mix) to preclude any such possibility. So, is Jennifer Lopez good looking – you bet. Would I date her ? Not a chance.

So are my preferences a little racial (given the personal history) ? Possibly. Are they racist (“I do not care how good she is inside, I will not date her because of her racial affiliation”) ? I think not. Are they tinged with considerations of certain expectations of what would work long term and what might not ? Definitely.

From zhillsdude, a white person who thinks his lack of race consciousness is noteworthy and amazing:

I barely even think about race. Sometimes I’m surprised when I hear someone talking about race because it doesn’t mean anything to me but to others that’s all they can think about.As I recently said in another thread, racism and homophobia are stupid.

A version of this was originally posted on Snarky’s Machine

329 thoughts on “Black Women Need Not Apply

  1. Wow. I wish I could say those responses were unexpected, but really that’s exactly what I thought people might be saying/thinking the other week when I saw the race/response statistics the woman on the forum is referring to.
    I’m really glad you made this post, because I was generally flailing and having trouble expressing to someone what exactly the problem was. Good post!

  2. As I recently said in another thread, racism and homophobia are stupid.

    Well, heavens to Betsy, thank god Straight White Dudes are on the case! Thanks, Straight White Dudes — racism and homophobia *are* stupid! I’m floored!

  3. And they wonder why Black women are angry… maybe it’s because we can sense their douchebaggery from a mile away. (By they, I mean the people who hold the beliefs listed in that forum discussion.

  4. Wow, reading those responses makes me nauseous.

    On a side note, I have recently tried to cut back on how much I read the magazines, such as Glamour, etc. where they tell you what “real” guys want and how to fix yourself so that those guys will find you pleasing to look at. Whenever I read those types of articles or see guys’ responses like the ones above, it hits the internal panic button in me. My heart starts beating faster and unfortunately, my first reaction is usually thinking of how I need to fix myself because clearly I’m not good enough for these guys. But with the help of blogs like this and a lot of therapy I’ve gotten a lot better at talking back to those thoughts and then calming myself down and repeating to myself that I love myself just the way I am and I am in no way “obligated” to change myself so that society will see me as more acceptable.

  5. I think it’s very hard for white cis currently-ablebodied women who are fat (like me!) not to acknowledge our white privilege, our cis privilege, and our ability privilege when it comes to “meeting the kyriarchy’s standards of how we ‘should’ look.”

    As though there were not fat women of color, fat trans women, and fat women with disabilities (and indeed fat trans women of color with disabilities) in the world.

    But many of us (including me!) get so caught up in our anger about being expected to look like Barbie that we often forget that we already do “look like Barbie” in ways that our fellow fat women who are also fat women of color and/or fat trans women and/or fat women with disabilities never will.

  6. On the other hand, this guy:

    Regarding Hispanic women, though many of them look somewhat similar to Indians from more southern parts of India (I am originally from northwestern India and hence have a slightly fairer complexion than most of my countrymen), there are significant enough religious differences (my religion and serious Catholicism definitely do not mix) to preclude any such possibility

    seems to have a real Hindutva thing going on, which is a very very specific brand of prejudice, in addition to his veneer of US prejudices.

    Clearly he only wants to date blonde women who will convert to Hinduism, because his fellow Indian women–even his fellow Hindus–aren’t “good enough.” What a toxic blend of hatreds this man has swirling in his brain. He hates Muslims and Christians and other Indians, but he loves Hinduism and has absorbed the colorism of both his native and adopted countries so much that he brags about his own paleness (something I have never before seen a man do outside of an Indian matrimonial ad)…ewwww.

  7. Madeline, while I appreciate your response, again let me be clear about the intentions of this post. This is about internal housekeeping in regards to the beauty standards.

    Please reflect on the following:

    There is a huge chasm between white women who frame their experience in terms of feeling pressure to live up to a harsh set of standards versus women who live on the margins yet are still expected to adhere to the same standards that do not even recognize their existence. The former often focuses on specific traits such as blondness, thinness without much critical examination, with the expectation that intersectionality should have no bearing on the discourse.

    .

  8. Note: I don’t think there’s anything toxic about loving Hinduism or any other religion. It’s the “I love my religion but I hate everyone else who practices it so I need a partner from a different tradition, but she will have to convert because I hate all the other traditions” that is toxic.

  9. This is a terrific post… not just because of the raw evidence of ingrained racism, but also because of how it calls out less-obvious biases — the privilege of white cisgendered able-bodied women to be found attractive regardless of details, and the tooth-gnashingly irritating “black women can be fat and still considered hot” fallacy.

    Off-topic, because honestly you don’t need me to add anything here: Is it me, or is multiple iterations of the “Question? Answer. Question? Answer.” format (“So, is Jennifer Lopez good looking – you bet. Would I date her ? Not a chance.” and the rest of that letter) a style unique to Men Who Explain Things? It instantly makes my skin crawl, but I don’t know if it’s because it’s a technique of MWETs or only of the one particular MWET who makes my skin crawl the most.

  10. Thank you so much for this piece.

    “There is a huge chasm between white women who frame their experience in terms of feeling pressure to live up to a harsh set of standards versus women who live on the margins yet are still expected to adhere to the same standards that do not even recognize their existence. ”

    I’m a Filo-Anglo hybrid. I have often experienced a feeling that I’m not sufficently skinny enough because, “all Asians are thinner than white people.” People/society have whacked me over the head with that notion as if it were a black pudding. More times than I can count. Never mind that I’m built just like a taller version of my titas and mother, who are all on the sturdy side, and whose parents were sturdy too.

    The idea that Asian women are all the same – delicately built and diminuitive – is pervasive and toxic here in Australia. I have been flat-out told that the reason I’m not “built like an Asian should be” is because I was raised on “western food,” and that I should “return to [my] natural diet.”

    I’m not sure if I’ve added something to the discussion about racism, dating and “attractiveness,” or if I’ve just vented about the shitastic casual racism I’ve encountered, but I hope I did add something.

  11. Once I got commented at thusly: “You might be fat, but at least you’re not black!”

    I’d love to say I had some pithy comeback, or that I schooled the moron, or that I punched him in the face repeatedly, but sadly I was just speechless and appalled. I bet he’s the kind of guy commenting on this question, though.

  12. I don’t know if you guys have seen this, but a very awesome woman named Kia just performed what she called ‘an extremely flawed social experiment’ wherein she posted two identical profiles on OkCupid, one with her picture (she describes herself as ‘cute like a cabbage-patch kid, black’) and one with a picture of her white, conventionally attractive friend Erin. The goal was not to see if the responses were different – that was taken as a given – but how they differed. I really recommend reading her findings: The Set-Up (with links to all four parts of the experiment).

    On a (not really) related note, I was in Koreatown here in Los Angeles last night, strolling with a friend of mine, and a guy outside a Hispanic bar asked me if we were FBI. I asked him why, and he said, ‘no offense, but you’re, you know, Caucasian.’ Which is true. This was after we had had a nice chat about the Leno/Conan debacle, so I was definitely surprised. I really really really don’t look like a Fed, I think, but it was a very striking moment.

  13. “they go out of their way to be mean to me, or at extremes, be rather violent with me. I am not foolish enough to believe you would do so, not at all. But I honestly just wouldn’t feel safe.”

    POC as animals.

    “(women aren’t called the fair sex for nothing)”

    Apparently claiming that WOC aren’t actually women.

    “but even now I still know nothing of what Costa Rican’s are.”

    WOC as not worthy of learning about.

    “You may be the sweetest girl in the world, but unless your entire family and your family friends are nice people, I don’t think I would be happy.”

    Expecting WOC to go above and beyond what white women would have to do in order to be worthy.

    “I barely even think about race. Sometimes I’m surprised when I hear someone talking about race because it doesn’t mean anything to me but to others that’s all they can think about.As I recently said in another thread, racism and homophobia are stupid.”

    “I don’t see race, I see PEOPLE.”

    BINGO! What, we weren’t playing racist bingo?

    There’s so much bad mixed in here it’s terrifying. We think of feminism and Body Acceptance has come a way (obviously not enough, but we are making progress) but it’s really only for white women. WOC end up regarded in the same way white women would have been regarded no sooner than like 30 years ago, probably even further back than that. So we’ve got fuck all, you’re right Snarky; “That said, at the end of the day, even with all of that, if my sisters – all women, even women with more privilege than me – aren’t free, then I ain’t either.”

    It’s not going to do much of anything to stop me from feeling like crap because I’m fat and brunette and my hair is curly as fuck and that’s not what the TV says is pretty on those days when I’m so inclined as to turn it on. However, the blinders are off, and it’s something I’ll be considering the next time the TV is on, or if I hear something about ghetto-booty or what have you. I’m just starting to see this racism and how it mixes so disgustingly with sexism, this post is great, as are several essays in “Yes means yes,” and a great essay on the expectations of black women as far as size-ism goes in “Lessons from the Blog-o-sphere.”

    Beautifully written.

  14. There is something truly hilarious about Random Internet Dude proclaiming that he wouldn’t date Jennifer Lopez. Yeah, man, I’m sure she could have totally been your girlfriend if you were interested.

    What strikes me most about this is how open and unabashed these men are about proclaiming their prejudices. I mean OK it’s the internet, but it’s not really anonymous if it’s on OKCupid – those comments can be linked back to their profiles. Apparently they’re assuming that the women they do want to date won’t care about their racism? This seems to be a common dude thing, assuming that if they insult group of women X then group of women Y won’t care or hold it against them since group Y aren’t being insulted themselves.

    Also this matches up with my (very limited) experience. I’m a white woman who’s occasionally read as Hispanic or Middle Eastern, and there’s a distinct difference in the way men approach me when they’re reading me as non-white compared to when they’re reading me as white. Pushier, less polite, apparently under the impression that racial slurs such at “hot tamale” are actually excellent pick up lines. Also there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement that goes beyond the usual dudely entitlement, a sense that if they’re white they think they’re doing you a favor by being interested. OK, so I’m a test group of one, but I can see a sharp difference in how men approach me depending on whether they’re assuming I’m white or not, especially white men.

    I don’t think any of the “well it’s OK that you have physical characteristic X because you belong to racial group Y” comments are remotely complimentary. See also, Asian women and having small breasts, where the implication seems to be that it’s OK to have small breasts as long as you’re very tiny overall. No longer OK if you don’t conform perfectly to the stereotype the dude in question is drooling over.

  15. Thanks for that link, KC — yeah, blah blah unscientific, but anyone who doesn’t think it was extremely telling anyway is probably covering something up. Also, I sort of heart Kia now. And she lives in my area. TO OKCUPID!

    Those posts don’t have a link to the aftermath, which I found equally if not more interesting: http://blog.kiamatthews.com/post/346460784

  16. But make no mistake, if you are a white cisgendered able bodied female in Western society your beauty is privileged above other women. Ab dab dab dab *holds up hand* – It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or your boobs aren’t big or if your hair isn’t blond. Look around you.

    As all of the above, thanks, Snarky, for the black pudding to the head. And thanks, @Perla, for the amazing visual–a black pudding is a sausage, right? I would have probably said a dead fish to the head, but either way, a much needed one.

  17. @CassandraSays – I think sadly, they act that way in part because they can. I’ve met so many white women who have confessed to me that their husbands are racist against black people, but not to worry because, “I don’t see people that way.” I don’t know how safe they expect me to feel around them when I know this about their spouses. So maybe for a lot of women it’s just not a deal breaker?

  18. what i think i’m most surprised by is the way that racial stereotypes are extended here not just to appearance but also to behaviour.

    who wants to date a girl that’s always cussing, fighting, and being rude

    Most latinas seem to be Jesus freaks

    The only race I’m really biased against are asian women. I’m just not into them for some reason – maybe they are too submisive

    they go out of their way to be mean to me, or at extremes, be rather violent with me.

    because, of course, none of us white girls can ever be found being violent, loud, submissive, very religious, etc. i don’t think i’ve ever had it demonstrated to me so forcibly that white is the default. just, the comparisons here are about what the “other” races are or are not and it’s understood by everybody that what they’re being compared to is white women. women of colour are treated as homogenous when divided by cultural background, but white women are automatically at once unique beings and the united pinnacle of femininity?

    and this:

    You may be the sweetest girl in the world, but unless your entire family and your family friends are nice people, I don’t think I would be happy.

    i just… you don’t just have to prove that you’re a “safe” black woman, (like, a dog?) you have to also provide evidence that all your family and friends are “safe” black people too! prove to him you’re worthy of being touched by his precious and fragile whiteness! what the hell?

    “silent_male”‘s response has me wondering how he managed to find anyone to date. if the paragon of virtue who would satisfy him does, in fact, exist somewhere, i can’t imagine she’d actually want to date him.

    there was a study posted somewhere that showed black women made the most contact and got the least response on a particular online dating site. reading all this evidence of why makes that information a lot more disturbing.

  19. @hsofia – OK, that makes me stabby. When they express this to you how are they putting it? Like, sorry my husband/dog tends to verbally pee on the rug? I just can’t fathom how they wouldn’t think that their choice to be with that man would have an influence on how you look at them.

  20. Silent_Male should have just shut the fuck up. He dates one Indian woman, has a bad experience (although I’ll bet my mortgage that SHE found it a lot worse) and wants to write off all Indian women? Let Indian women the world over breathe a huge sigh of relief.

  21. As an Asian I get really offended by the idea held by some dudebros that Asian women are submissive or “pure” – I’m shy, but honey, if you expect me to do your dishes or stand by uncomfortably while you crack racist/sexist/homophobic jokes, we got a problem on our hands!

    I completely agree with you about how “white” our beauty ideals are, which I believe pertain almost as much to Westernizing countries like China (where large eyes, straight noses, fair skin and height and thinness are becoming increasingly coveted) as to the West. I’ve seen a study by OkCupid listing in a matrix square how many men of various races send messages to women of various races and the response rate by the women; black women generally got the fewest % messages from every single race of males, and black men got the lowest responses from women of all races. Perhaps economic status played a role in it, but it certainly can’t be everything (esp when you consider how many are just looking for a fling or hook-up, not marriage). I am not sure how it is for the non-heterosexual dating scene; I am bisexual, but have only ever met white lesbians.

    Just yesterday I was having a conversation with two Asian friends about the word “classy”, which they thought was the best kind of beauty since it conveys more than the most superficial looks (as opposed to say, “trashy” or “obvious/showy” beauty). I on the other hand think that classiness is problematic, since it is inseparable imo from deeply conservative, traditional ideals regarding women that are often classist and racist – maybe a woman does not have to of upper-class breeding to have class, but saying a woman is “classy” is like saying she is a “princess/queen on the inside”, which we strongly associate with European features and pale skin and slenderness and certain personality features that have little to do with character but much to do with how she displays herself (ie., performs her gender). I cannot imagine the term often applied to women with obviously sexual features – eg. a fiercely curvy body, large breasts and ass, sensuous lips and so on – that are stereotypically associated with Latinas or black women or Playboy models; indeed, in China “classy” can describe a peasant woman, but she is always very fair of skin, which is rare in the countryside and says nothing about her character. It does say quite a bit about her sexuality – being “pure” rather than promiscuous or simply sexually active and confident – to a degree that would not be demanded of men, who can be James Bonds yet considered classically handsome, highly marriageable, and dignified of character.

    In any case I am not fond of any beauty ideals, but I guess it is a reality that they affect the dating scene. Luckily the people who live by stereotypes are not the ones you would want to date anyways.

  22. @CassandraSays – Yeah, it’s kind of like he’s the embarrassing relative who doesn’t know how to behave in public. I realize it’s a fact of life that we all have relations we don’t see eye to eye with, but I wouldn’t have married a black guy who didn’t like white people.

  23. @hsofia – That’s the thing. Dumb uncle who says embarrassing things and hits on the bridesmaids at weddings? Not your fault, you didn’t choose to be related to him. Asshole husband? That calls your judgement and basic sense of ethics into question. I’d always be wondering it the wife secretely shared his views, and wouldn’t be able to trust her any more.

  24. PlusSizedFeminist – Very, very awesome link. I spend a lot of time in my head about this sort of intersectionality, but my reaction to that was deeply visceral and personal.

  25. @ Snarky:

    Indeed. When I read that, I found myself going “TELL IT GIRL!!!” I wanted to shout it from the mountaintops!!!

    I tried to start a discussion about it on Facebook, but I didn’t get much response at all from any of my white colleagues…

    And I also read a discussion about black women on “Stuff White People Do.” Talk about a clusterfuck.

    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/01/treat-black-women-like-theyre-made-of.html

    After 4 posts, trolls derailed the thread, and it went on and on. And what pissed me off is that the head of the site himself (Macon D is a white male) pretty much did nothing to stop the madness. Most of the black women on the thread threw their hands up and left after getting so damn tired of repeating themselves over and over and over again. One quote drove the point home:

    “Why should PoC allow racism to be comfortable for White people when its not comfortable for us? What makes matter worst is that PoC have to deal with this everyday of their lives.”

    And it’s true. When it comes to racism, white folks, you WILL NOT BE COMFORTABLE. And you shouldn’t. EVER. PoC have had whiteness shoved down their throats their entire lives. We have had to navigate in the Wonderful World of Whiteness all our lives. If we wanted to find something like us, we had to search far and wide for it. There was a LOT of white privilege on that thread, and it pretty much proved the point of the OP….

  26. AAAH!!! I literally couldn’t read all of the comments from the on-line dating DOODS, because they were just too horrifically ignorant.

    I’ve tried arguing with several white feminists that our standard of beauty is *incredibly* racists. They did not believe me.

    Fantastic post, Snarky! Keep ‘em coming. ^_^

    P.S. Not that anyone needs my validation of course, but I find black women really flipping’ gorgeous, and always have. So yeah. Can’t really understand the “black woman just aren’t attractive” meme. Seems like bullshit to me.

  27. you see, the first thing i look for in a girl is class. you know, she’s gotta look like a princess, like nice and thin with some curves, but i don’t think big butts are very ladylike. im looking for a girl, not a donkey, lol. so mayb thats why i dont like black girlz, i maen, they can be hott, i guss, but who wants a girl whos just gonna complain and curse at me all the time? lol mrite? asin girls are ok. i mean, there pretty pale and prety classy and ladylike like white girls. not that i hav yellow fever or anything, lol. as for latina girlz, waht can i say? i like me a mamacita or too. one cold even say i like my girls spicy, lol, as long as there not to dark.

    and im not racist, b4 u go sayin anything. its just my natural prefrence, and it has nothing to do with the way i was socially conditioned or anything stupid like that.

  28. @Simone Mersenne: Could the “X group aren’t attractive idea” be somewhat intertwined – in some cases – with some people’s inability and/or unwillingness to tell people from another racial group apart? I don’t know if that makes any sense at all!

  29. Word.

    I recently had the unpleasant experience of having my father turn to my blond, thin, former model stepmother and say “See? That’s why I never date Italian* women. Too angry and in your face. ”

    Well, gee, Dad. Glad to know we’re good enough to be your children, mother, aunts, and sister, but not good enough to even be in the running to be desirable/marrigable.

    *I know Italians are white now, and as a half-anglo Sicilian-American, I’m basically white myself. My father’s family *isn’t.*

  30. Full of ick. But thank you SO much for the reminder about my privelege. I feel so often that I am priveleged even by having some areas of (very moderate) less privilege – I get the best of both worlds, righteous anger, moral high ground… but it’s mostly pretty comfy and ignorable. And really, being fat just acts as a filtering mechanism for people with no social skills and hateful world views.

    Snarky, I am hesitant to bring it up, because of touchiness of subject, and my own privilege, etc, and I don’t want to sound like I’m criticising or complaining that your profile pic isn’t BLACK enough or anything – but is there anything notable in the fact that your righteous curls aren’t featured? I ask because I find the curly hair to be one of the first lines of appearence privilege – it’s ‘easily’ changeable, so it’s interesting to see, for example, how few of the WOC who make it into media have curly hair. It’s ‘tamed’. Someone pointed out that it’s Irish and Jewish people, too – my Irish cousin straightens her hair whenever she wants to ‘look good’ because curly hair isn’t ‘hot’. I personally think her hair is gorgeous, but I will admit that my social conditioning kicks in and I think she looks more ‘glamorous’ with it straight. Which makes me mad at myself. But then again, why shouldn’t she straighten her hair if she wants aaaargh tangle of privilege!

  31. I totally appreciate this post, it is amazingly written and articulated and the comments are just classic. I love the guy who ends his diatribe with “all my friends are asian and latin.” Classic, right? just classic!

    Anyway, with all of that said I just think a lot of this conversations get caught up in the abstract. Like we can talk about these ideas all day. But the reality of the fact is I’m a second year grad student in Santa Barbara, CA. Not only am I black, but I’m also fat, and natural (hence my religiously following this blog). And needless to say, dating in Santa Barbara for women like me is a little bit of a joke. I guess my question/comment is what are the steps, what concrete things can be done to change beauty standards and racial stereotypes that have been ingrained for so long. Are there steps to be taken?

  32. women aren’t called the fair sex for nothing

    Notwithstanding the whole problematic delicate flower thing, methinks someone doesn’t understand the idea of multiple meanings.

    Than you for writing this. Like a previous poster mentioned, I do sometimes forget some of the privileges I have.

  33. And really, being fat just acts as a filtering mechanism for people with no social skills and hateful world views.

    Well, and can get you paid less and it can lead to poorer medical care because of inbuilt stereotypes regarding non-compliance, ignorance, and laziness. There are real world prejudices against the fat, too – and those women who are of colour &/or have physical challenges &/or different sexualities may all experience those prejudices as an adjunct to other prejudices. But fat prejudice really does exist as something more than a minor annoyance. It almost killed my MIL, who is otherwise privileged.

  34. That article linked above, “What If Black Women Were White Women” made me cry. I had no idea how privileged I really am as a white woman. Most of these things completely escaped me and I thought I was living a pretty well examined life.

    Without derailing the thread too much, I can’t help but think of my youngest daughter who is biracial with thick, curly hair while me and her sister have straight hair and of the time when she was only about 5 years old crying over how she hated her hair because it wasn’t “pretty like mommy’s”. This beauty ideal shit starts really early.

    Thank you for the link to that article and for giving me lots to think about.

  35. @Kate – Sometimes I wear my hair straight, particularly when I’m in professional spaces where I am the only person of color. It makes things easier for me, because I don’t have to deal with intrusive hair questions.

    Fortunately that’s only 1% of my life. The rest of the time I am free to rage my kinky curls, bushy, big and proud.

    It’s just another aspect of double consciousness I have to deal with. Definitely in college – again I was pretty much the raisin in the oatmeal – I made choices about my appearance to lessen the drama I experienced.

    Hair is pretty loaded for many women of color – I’m no exception – but there are times when I want to straighten my hair and there are times when I want to wash and go. There’s privilege in that, which I am fully aware of.

    I am waiting for the day when my hair does not reflect or call into question my politics, in the meantime I just do what I wish and let the chips fall where they may.

    That said, since you asked, it is a pretty intrusive question. And tends to reflect privilege suggesting POC must explain their choices in order to gain white folks approval. It tends to be a derailing tactic to avoid examining privilege and serves no productive purpose in this discussion. How I choose to wear my hair is really nobody’s business but my own nor should it be used to judge the legitimacy of my social critiques.

  36. That link about what if black women were white women was very deep. I never know how to explain this cultural racism to my white friends, who all insist that I’m beautiful and have “amazing” (AA) hair. They are very supportive and loving of me, which makes it hard for me to talk about it. But I know one of the reasons I got braces as an adult was because it moved me one step further away from the negative stereotypes of the black “ghetto” woman. I’ve mentioned before here my chagrin over my “black booty” which again, is read as not classy or sophisticated, etc. Now I have a girl child who is quite beautiful (I’m her mom, of course I think so), and gets attention every time we go out for her charm and appearance, which is ethnically ambiguous, but definitely not white. And I’m trying to figure out how I can protect her from shadism and exoticism. I know she will get superior treatment. Hell, I know *I* get superior treatment when I’m with her! I don’t want these people who think “black, get back; brown, stick around” to embrace her – I don’t want her anywhere near those MFers, and guys who won’t talk to a black woman but will tolerate a “mixed” girl. Sometimes I wish people were more up front about their racism and color struck-ness so that I would know who the hell to avoid.

  37. That article linked above, “What If Black Women Were White Women” made me cry. I had no idea how privileged I really am as a white woman. Most of these things completely escaped me and I thought I was living a pretty well examined life.

    Unfortunately, that’s how privilege works. There’s always more to uncover.

  38. @KC – Kia’s experiment: Totally awful. I wonder what a dating website without photographs would be like.

    @PlusSizedFeminist – That link was intense. It’s times like this I think I don’t deserve the label WoC with which I self-identify because I know fair well that just about everybody reads me as white, and I may as well accept the burden that comes along with it. Nobody knows what’s on the inside, and, judging from the responses that Snarky’s Machine collected from the men above, plenty of people could care less. It was hard for my dad to cope with having a child of a lighter color, because on one hand, people never thought I was his child when I was growing up, but on the other, he was so happy that I could “pass.” When I married a WASP, he encouraged me to take his surname: “You’re one of the ones in charge now,” he said. “It’s better that way.” I never saw a face so mixed with happiness and sadness at once.

    Miserable. Sick with guilt. And, not to mention, missing my dad so, so, so much.

  39. I wonder what a dating website without photographs would be like.

    Would it still have form fields for race/ethnicity, age, height, weight, education level, amount of money you make.
    I can imagine even if it would work without pics, people would just toss profiles based on those other things as well.

  40. @Risha: There are no words to describe the man that says, “Do NOT Fall in Love with Me until I say so!”.

    I would also really like to know what country TSNM is from that there was no racism in, because I would like to move there.

  41. SNM, I can’t quote the whole post back to you, so I will fangirl you just for this

    “Ab dab dab dab *holds up hand*”

    @hsofia (and by extension, @Cassandra ):
    “So maybe for a lot of women it’s just not a deal breaker?”

    I’ve always thought it was a subsumed section of Husband-As-Survival syndrome.
    The wife/gf can’t admit to herself there’s anything unconscionably odious about the husband/boyfriend; he might leave her if he finds out she objects.
    Yes, women (still) do this.
    And that’s assuming she has a problem with it.

    (Yeah, I’m in that kind of mood today.)

  42. Thank you. To be honest. I’m a bit to squiffed to go thru all of the comments right now, due to my roof collapsing during the NFC championships and the proximity of me to wine when it did, but…. this…

    “and of course my hair which when straighten is long and swings like silk curtains in Savannah.”

    As a Southerner, yes. YES YES YES. I can imagine that perfectly, because I know of those curtains, and because I know of the hair type that is supposed to “achieve” it.

    To the other stuff…. I spent a large part of the post-ceiling collapse evening discussing with my SO why I’m awesome, and I pointed out to him that this site is a large part of why I feel that way, even though I don’t totally agree with all of the politics expressed herein. And while I totally acknowledge the White Privilege that I have (and I’m tall, so even though I’m “grossly obese” it’s not all “OMGS YOU’S THE DEATHFATZ!!!”..it’s more of the “OH NOES YOU DON’T WEIGH THAT MUCH!!!!!” brand of thinking), I often get the “You’re so attractive because you have the perfect Black body” statement, which, needless to say, pisses me off.

    I’ve had Black friends tell me that they’re envious of my body type, because it’s what they’re “supposed” to have according to the men that they’re attractive to (mostly white guys), and when I say “but I’m ugly by ‘my people’s’ standards” I get told that it doesn’t matter because at least I’m attractive to someone. WTF. I was actually told by a Black dude that I worked with that he would think I was hot if I wasn’t white. WTFWTFWTF.

    Actually, my SO and I have had conversations about why he was initially attracted to me 10 years ago, and it was because I have a larger bottom half, like “black women are supposed to.” And yeah, I got pissed about it. The thing that killed me, though, was when his biracial neice came to live with us, and at age 17 said “Auntie, I love you because you aren’t afraid to look like a non-white woman… you hold yourself like a sister, and that makes me happy.” Again, WTF.

    I’m so drunk and rambly right now. Yeah.

  43. Wow, reading this made me cry. I’m a Hispanic woman, and I’m dealing with all of this. I went from a life of privilege (being a young Cuban woman in Miami, where the majority of people are Cuban/Hispanic) to living in a primarily white world and the difference is startling. Whenever I go home, I get hit on quite often. Here, I not only rarely get any male attention but I feel enormous pressure to lose weight–pressure I never felt at home. I almost feel like if I am not a size 0 I will never make it in the white world. And I hate that feeling, which is why I come here. I’m not used to the self hatred and I want to get rid of it.

    I’m on OKC. I get messages every once in a while but rarely from anyone that I would want to date. And what do I get when I DO get a message from someone neat? “You’re not my usual type, but….” I know they mean it as a nice thing, like I’m attractive enough that they forget their usual type. But all I see is that first part. And on my best days I know that I can’t shrink my lips, make my hips more narrow, dye my hair without looking ridiculous, or put on color contacts. I am who I am and I’m happy. On bad days, like today, I feel like the world’s most hideous person simply because I’m not white. Ugh.

    Thanks, Snarky.

  44. You know, as many times as I hear/see people spewing blatant racism I just cannot wrap my head around it: do these dudes hear themselves? I mean, do they recognize the words that are coming out of their mouths (metaphorically speaking)? “If you’re black, in order for me to date you I have to like you and everyone you know“? Really? Really? Listen, douchebag, she doesn’t even like everyone she knows. Nobody does. And the implication that only a black woman would have friends and family he might not like, or that somehow whatever traits they have that make him not like them would be so much worse than white people’s friends and families, I just. Gah.

    “Black women are scary and angry and mean to me”. Gee, I WONDER WHY. No, you know what, no, you perceive them as being angry and scary and mean because that is the stereotype you hold in your head that you go into the situation expecting. This is one of those guys that if a white woman snaps at him, she’s in a bad mood, but if a black woman snaps at him, it’s because BLACK WOMEN ARE MEAN AND SCARY.

    I was just telling my husband this a week or so ago, Chris Rock was on Comedy Central and he was talking about how Flava Flav should just hide out and not exist in public until after the election so he didn’t hurt Obama’s campaign, and I said: “Sweetie, you know, nobody would ever say, for instance, Carrot Top should shut up and go away because a white dude is running for President, white people are seen as individuals and black people are seen as Representatives for All Black People Everywhere.” Or words to that effect. IT IS THE SAME DAMN THING. Gah. GAH.

  45. I became aware of my white privilege in the dating world specifically when my first boyfriend told me that his dad’s reaction to me had been, “Well, at least she’s white.” Just… wow.

  46. @ Snarky’s Machine – I had seen this data before (think it may have been linked to Sociological Images?) and am grossed out to read it again. I was slightly baffled by the tone of the OKCupid blogger: was it a neutral tone or was it sarcastic or was it critical? I am left upset and confused.

    @ Maya – Stupid anecdote time. How I met my husband: I posted a CL ad w/o a picture. I said I was a female, I was miserable, I was broke, but that I was loyal and looking for a best friend. I also said I never washed my hair, but much better teeth than one might expect. I got several hundred responses, the vast majority of which included pictures, and many of which were pornographic (dick shots! WTF!). I also got a proposal of marriage from a man who said he was from Egypt and respected my modesty. I only got one email that didn’t creep me out. It had no picture, by the way, but seemed to have come from a human being with a brain. Married him.

    Don’t know if this technique would work for anyone else, but who knows? Maybe it would?

  47. @ all – If you haven’t seen that OKCupid link SnarkysMachine points out, I’d take it in sections. Perhaps with some nice chilled vodka or other anaesthetic.

    @hsofia – I’m about to step out-of-bounds here as a current non-mom. However, perhaps, not as a (multiracial) daughter.

    Re: shielding your daughter from shadism, teflon and adamantium notwithstanding, I’m wondering —

    Do you really want to?

    Because you can’t be with her all the time. And then, isn’t she that much more defenseless when — not if, but when — it happens?

  48. “Okstupid trend thingie definitely left me with a bad case of the “ouchies”.”

    Lies, damned lies, and purported “statistics”.
    As the nerdsevolving article notes, a “scientific” case can be built on sh*tty logic for almost any damned thing.

    Still, I’m happy in the abstract way (I’m long-term SO’d, but also a cynical bitch) those OKC comments can be traced back to profiles. Helps to build one’s database of “Crap to Avoid”. Until implantable and scannable microchips are invented for the identified jerks, I’m thinking as interim measures things like that will have to do.

  49. @CS – It would have to be indelible Sharpie.

    (I am the clumsiest of clumsy with visual media. Does such a potentially useful tool currently exist?)

  50. Learning to understand my own privilege has been a mixed battle for me. I eased into it by learning about male privilege — as a female, that was easy for me to grasp. Then I tried to identify my own privilege, which was a lot harder for me.

    FWD/Forward has been a huge help here — because the privilege of being a temporarily abled person was so far from my mind in the past that slapping me upside the head with it was extremely enlightening.

    But I’m still having a hell of a time with my white privilege. Posts like this really help, in part because coming at it from the angle of beauty privilege bypasses a lot of the rot my parents taught me about being color-blind.

    So yeah, it doesn’t matter so much that I’m fat, that I don’t shave my legs or wear makeup or care what I’m wearing. My skin is pale, my hair is straight, my (fake) teeth and my features are nice and even. I don’t have any visible scars (except on my wrists) or visible disabilities. I am, in other words, default attractive.

    I’m not a bad person because of that, but it means that my experiences are different — sometimes vastly different — from other women who do not share these privileges. And if I were to ignore or dismiss your experiences … well, I wouldn’t be the person I want to be.

    (Thank you, by the way, for giving me something to think about tonight.)

  51. @ littlem: surely wanting to protect one’s loved ones from harm is a pretty universal desire? Regardless of whether that desire is practical, or indeed possible.

    @ hsofia: I’m mixed race to the point where I pass as white fairly often, and the most my mother could ever do for me was to be there for me, emotionally, if I wanted to tell her about my experiences, and to not shy away from discussing racism and ways of dealing with it. We first had that conversation when I was about nine.
    As for men who go for “exoticism” – I’ve met a few of them myself, and don’t worry, they do make it entirely fucking obvious that they’re nasty racist wankstains.

  52. @Rachel –

    “As for men who go for “exoticism” – I’ve met a few of them myself, and don’t worry, they do make it entirely fucking obvious that they’re nasty racist wankstains.”

    Sometimes.

    There are some fairly sophisticated permutations of it out there these days, and of course no one is denigrating the desire to protect loved ones.

    I do, however, believe the more observation and, unfortunately, experience, one has with the variants, the more prepared one is to be able to recognize and circumvent them.

    The good news is that if at least some of one’s “elders” are frank with one, the experience doesn’t all have to be empirical.

    Full disclosure: I was one of the “shielded”, with some rather unpleasant results in part as a result of my own (enforced) naïveté and resultant inability to deal. So I have the privilege of talking now with daughters of friends who grew up with me, because the friends have some idea of what happened to me, and would prefer their daughters have some idea of what to begin avoiding at twelve so the girls/young women don’t end up ass-out (physically, psychologically, emotionally, whatever) at, say, nineteen.

  53. @Rachel @littlem
    I don’t mean to raise my child clueless. Will try to raise her how my parents raised me – aware without being cynical. But her experiences will be different from mine and I don’t want her to believe the stuff she is already hearing/seeing about being better or more “right” than other people because of the way she looks.

  54. @ littlem: I think you’re right, in as much as having somebody to be frank about these issues really helps.

    I’m incredibly grateful that my mother was able to explain some of the causes and effects of racism, as it almost certainly made it easier for me to identify the nasty ones. It sounds like you may have had a harder time of it.

    But I think our own experiences have meant that we’ve read hsofia’s comment rather differently – I took it as more of a wish that her daughter won’t have to meet these people, rather than a belief that her daughter will actually be able to avoid them, or a belief that saying nothing about it would help.

  55. Whoops – crossposted!
    hsofia, for what it’s worth, my sister is *always* read as white, and she’s never, ever believed that shit. I doubt your daughter will either.
    Actually, I think it’s been harder for her in some ways, partly because people didn’t believe that she and my mother are related, and partly because she hears a lot more of the racism that occurs when white people think there aren’t any POC in the room.

  56. First off, I would like to express sorrow and condolences to any person who is lonely, disadvantaged and advantaged alike. However is it entirely necessary to instill guilt into white women over something like this? Im sure they are as equally complicit in the crimes of our race against your race as I am, but they are as helpless to control the way that they were made as you are.

    I really hate to be the one to do this, but I suppose I will support the less-fair sex, as thankless and undeserved as the task may be. Many of you point out that dating sites revel racism and prejudice. They do. Still more argue persuasively that the Barbie doll that society tries to shove all women into is unfair, demeaning, and ignorant. It is.

    I would feel worse about the Venus ideal of beauty if I could do anything about it. I have back hair, among other things, that would probably shelve any dreams of fitting into the superman action figure that women’s collective psyche has carelessly left lying around. Life isn’t fair. I mean that sincerely.

    It would be redundant to point out that men are ignorant pigs. However, I would like to address the topic of racism. It is all well and good to school your mind to not heuristically attribute slights and annoying behavior of members of different races, and, for that matter, sexes, to the group as a whole. But when the decidedly non-rational areas of your brain dedicated to romantic love diced to get together with your brains evolutionary subcommittee dealing with procreation, the result may ignore all of the stereotype scrubbing you, as a empathetic and intelligent person, have accomplished. What Im saying is that love is blind to reason, and there is huge amounts of evolutionary psychology which explains why your uninhibited mind is racist.

    Despite all this, I praise the ideal to which this post is devoted.

  57. The other thing I don’t think you can get away from here is the way in which ideas about women’s beauty and race are tied up with ideas about what it means to be “feminine”, and how important that is to patriarchy. A lot of these comments from dudes are implying that black women are insufficiently feminine, and we’ve all heard that before, the specific kind of racism that posits that certain groups of women are just more “feminine” than others and how they break that down along race and cultural lines. It happens with men and race/culture too. So it’s not just that black women are being labelled as “not pretty”, they’re also being labelled as “not feminine”, because in patriachy pretty=feminine=pretty. Whereas say Asian women are labelled as ultra-feminine, which is it’s own kind of box – people are often totally flummoxed when confronted by an Asian woman who’s butch.

    So yeah, we’re back to white people as standard, unremarkable, “normal”, and everyone else as deviating from the “norm”.

  58. First off, I would like to express sorrow and condolences to any person who is lonely, disadvantaged and advantaged alike. However is it entirely necessary to instill guilt into white women over something like this? Im sure they are as equally complicit in the crimes of our race against your race as I am, but they are as helpless to control the way that they were made as you are.

    and

    . But when the decidedly non-rational areas of your brain dedicated to romantic love diced to get together with your brains evolutionary subcommittee dealing with procreation, the result may ignore all of the stereotype scrubbing you, as a empathetic and intelligent person, have accomplished. What Im saying is that love is blind to reason, and there is huge amounts of evolutionary psychology which explains why your uninhibited mind is racist.

    You do realize you’ve stumbled onto a site written from a feminist and intersectional perspective right? If not, you need to consult Professor Google and give that mansplaining a goddamn rest. I let your comment through because it seems you thought you had something significant to say and I respect that. However, it turns out you don’t have anything productive to add to the conversation. Please take your “praise” and your mansplaining chow chow some place where they give a shit.

  59. But make no mistake, if you are a white cisgendered able bodied female in Western society your beauty is privileged above other women.

    Great post Snarkysmachine. The above quote does not make for comfortable reading, but it is most certainly necessary reading. Thanks for the post.

  60. @snarkysmachine – Like cockroaches and rats, clearly men who feel compelled to Mansplain will survive the apocalypse. Certainly there seems to be an infinite supply of them.

  61. I wonder if it hurts to go around with your hand stapled to your forehead, like Iago does.

    Great post, Snarkys. Thank you (and the commenters with links!) for writing something that MAKES me think and examine my privilege. Shying away isn’t an option if I want to remain honest to myself.

  62. Iago – I must say that I feel sorry for your back hair. To be sidelined by society in this way is horrendous. Maybe we should hold an “artists against back hair” concert or something.

  63. paintmonkey – feel free to chow chow chow.

    Also, I am always in awe of people such Iago who can convince themselves what the are about to post is somehow new to its recipient. Like I haven’t heard his exact comment or variations of it every time I’ve posted on topics related to race and desirability. We’re talking a lot of years, a lot of essays and lots of Iagos.

  64. Thanks for the permission Snarkysmachine. I’m all set now.

    I’ve been thinking about which song Artists For Back Hair could release for the charity single, and “Nobody know the Stubble I’ve seen” is probably the best contender. I’m guessing that Iago would sing that irony free.

  65. As someone with a lot of obvious privilege, I often feel like the best thing I can do in discussions like this is to shut the hell up for once.

    I’m not doing that because I wanted to tell you how great I think this post is. Thank you for writing it.

  66. @CassandraSays
    Nice. I like that.
    Also, we could try “Baby got Back (Hair)” ..”I like hairy backs and I cannot lie”
    Sir Wax-a-Lot could be a temporary name change.

  67. Freedom (from women’s unrealistic expectations – how dare they?) can round out the EP. Artist For Back Hair can copy the George Michael poster, but with a hairy back instead of an ass in jeans.

  68. Man, I was just waiting for someone to bust out evo psych. Come on assholes, just admit it for what it really is, your desire for eugenics.

  69. I’ve got this nifty little trick: Whenever some guy requests a certain kind of appearance from me, I just consider him:

    Is he a handsome? Is he fit? Is he a mouthwateringly hunky sex hunk of tight man-flesh? No? Then shut up, stupid boy.

    To get some pretty, you gotta give some pretty.

  70. Awesome post, Snarkys. Thanks. I’m almost scared to comment because the potential for overprivileged fuckuppitude is so great, but at least I didn’t say “I know JUST how you feel because I’m a straight white male with unsightly back hair!”

    Kia’s posts on her experiment are also amazing and eye-opening (and easily as well-researched as most evo-psych studies I’ve seen). I was particularly shocked that the men concerned didn’t bother writing as many words when writing to a woman they thought was black. They clearly didn’t think she was worth much time, effort or consideration even though they had made the decision to contact her and so were a self-selected sample of men who found her attractive.

    Iago, may I recommend this erudite summary of the current state of evolutionary psychology as a scientific discipline, as assessed by a real biologist?
    Also, regarding “It would be redundant to point out that men are ignorant pigs”, it’s funny how often the stereotypical hairy man-hater on a feminist blog is the male anti-feminist commenter. Fuck you for insulting all the amazing, clever, thoughtful men in my life. At least one of whom has a hairy back.

  71. I hung out in the OKCupid forums for a while, and it seems the most commonly used excuse for choosing race as a basis for dating is “I can’t help what I’m attracted to.” And these folks don’t see this screening out of entire classes of people to be pretty much the textbook definition of “prejudice.”

    I do take a little consolation in then knowledge that the guys hanging out in the forums on a Friday or Saturday night are the ones who’ve been pretty roundly rejected as dating material.

  72. I’m thinking of the escalating irritation I felt when doing online dating when I came across countless male profiles that concluded with “No baggage please.” It pissed me off to think that if this was someone I was going to start a relationship with, he was going to make it clear right from the beginning that I was to have history or emotion or unresolved conflict prior to meeting him.

    I hadn’t thought, though, about how that might read to a POC as an added layer of erasure–an additional command to “be this, but don’t exist.” Infuriating, and most likely an indicator that whatever baggage HE had, he would surely be unwilling to unpack it.

    (I’m guessing Iago’s online profile would end with some version of this ALL CAPS.)

  73. I’m a bit weirded out, because I’m ill, and last night I dreamed I had long, curly, pubic hair – long enough to plait or ponytail – growing across the small of my back. And had had for years and no-one had ever told me and I hadn’t mentioned it.

    I should find some paracetamol.

  74. Yeah, this is a great post. And an excellent, just because we’re not so privileged in some ways does not mean that our fat (or whatever) makes all our privileges instantly visible. Because of the marvelous nature of privilege, there’s this gorgeous facade on a lot of things that people with less privilege experience, and it can be hard to see that the facade isn’t the actual thing, much less that the facade can be harmful in itself. (Unlike actual facades. Hmm. I think I need a new analogy.)

    And the comments you’ve given totally creep me out.

  75. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was a little surprised by the comment that said “I am not racist — because of where I was raised, I didn’t even know one was supposed to notice race, I was never exposed to racism, and have no racist bone in my body. On a separate and unrelated note, I never even click on the profiles of black women, because they just don’t make me go WOW”

    My first thought was shock that people can be so stupid — so explicitly say the above, and not notice anything wrong with it.

    My second thought was: I have to be more aware of my own assumptions, words, and actions — maybe I will discover some equally stupid things… I need to work on that (I am a white woman, aware of a lot of privilege I have in many dimensions, but I know there is a lot I am not aware of). Thanks for your post.

  76. For the longest time, I wanted to convince myself that the men on dating sites were there because no-one would date them, and that’s why they came off as such racist sexist doucherabbits. But I finally had to admit that they say this crap because they feel that on the dating sites, the single man is king, and all women will want them as soon as they post their profile and ad. So much so, that they anticipate having to turn away droves of “unsuitable” women (meaning any woman that doesn’t fit the white beauty ideal). When they don’t get the anticipated response, they get pickier, oddly enough.

    The evo-psych crap about who they’re attracted to is not in the least influenced by societal attitudes is them pretending they’re not racist doucherabbits. If anyone points out their pretense as the racist sexist doucherabbitry that it is, they get mad and try to make excuses and derailments.

    The outrageous racism inherent in the western beauty ideal is used to justify racism across the board – a WOC doesn’t look like a Disney Princess? Well, her personality must be bad, too – see, how the cherry-picked examples prove the racist point!

    It’s confirmation bias, just like a poster above said – a pretty white woman yells at you, she’s just having a bad day, a black woman yells at you, she’s confirming what you suspected all along, that black women are “mean and angry”. He’s not racist, it’s natural that he’s attracted to beautiful white women.

    (Here’s where I start shaking, and lose my words.)

    I don’t know how to fix it, but certainly it can’t hurt if white women (me too) start thinking beyond their own beauty issues, and see what damage beauty “ideals” do to all women, and how much. I can’t ask that all women boycott media that promotes white beauty as the only “real” beauty, but I haven’t bought a fashion magazine for many years now, and I refuse to watch reality shows that stereotype WOC to make white people feel smug and superior as they watch the train wreck.

    A white woman with long curly hair is considered fine at the office, but a WOC I know was told her natural hair (that was in a very professional cut) was “intimidating”, and she had to change it. As long as white people feel perfectly justified in devaluing and questioning the grooming choices that people of colour make, and holding up a thin blond physique as the only true standard of beauty, we will continue to excuse and explain away racism as somehow different when it comes to love and attraction.

    Like this stuff happens in a damn vacuum.

    (Long comment is long, and I’m sure I’ve put my foot in my mouth more than once here, but I pledge to keep working on my unconscious racism. This was an awesome post, and I am humbled that snarkysmachine is willing to teach us.)

  77. AARGH! It’s often difficult for me to articulate, and for white women to understand, why being told I’m “exotic” and “unusual” looking isn’t really much of a compliment. All they see of it is that I’m being singled out for some kind of special attention and adulation they don’t get when they don’t see that, when living in really white-bread areas, THAT MAY BE ALL I GET. I don’t get the normal, everyday, hey-how-you-doin’ type stuff. I get the creepy, fetishistic stuff which manages to be aggressively sexual and totally dismissive at the same time.

    And I don’t even get this bullshittery that much, though oddly, the worst case of such racial dating-profiling I ever got was when I was involved with a black guy, who initially told me he didn’t like black women because he thought their junk was ugly. I thought this was bizarre, so I pressed him on it, and he admitted he didn’t like black women because they so frequently had this “ghetto” attitude. So I asked him if he would date a black woman who didn’t have this attitude.

    Quoth he: “Er, no.”

    Which just made me incredibly sad, and mad, because this was also the guy who really got off on it when I was feeling crummy and wimpy and insecure because then he got to feel like the great big strong manly man. Sexist, racist clusterfuck there, and it was one of the first times it really sank in how much shit black women have to deal with in this culture, from all sides. Including, all to frequently, the feminist sphere.

  78. @Pala:

    The comments well-meaning white people make (and I know, because I used to pull this unexamined crap myself) are inherently othering: “You don’t fit the beauty ideal, but it’s okay, because you’re interesting“. It’s nonsense, is what it is, and while it’s meant to be kind, it comes from a completely privileged place.

    It feels crummy, because it is crummy. :(

  79. Fantastic post. There’s one thing in this discussion that bothers me a bit–this notion that these men are just “losers” who can’t get a date or whatever and are bitter. I know we say this as a way to make ourselves feel better and/or diminish the serious pain cause by what they’re saying, but it’s not accurate. These attitudes are felt and frequently expressed by all sides of the dominant culture, not just a bunch of socially-awkward dudes who don’t know how to act. I have heard educated, attractive, desirable, successful married or paired-up men express without reservation that they’re “just not attracted to black women.” Even despite evidence to the contrary. What they really mean is that they won’t date black women. I guess these men feel comfortable saying these things to me because they don’t perceive me as a woman of color.

    I hear men say almost nothing about “attraction” to different ethnicities that isn’t racist. And these are “good” men, not “losers.” I (somewhat regretfully) count them among my boyfriends and friends and colleagues. Either they are fetishizing (“Latinas are sooooo hot!”) or they are making blanket statements of non-attractiveness. I had one white boyfriend who claimed that he was most attracted to black women (I was the first non he had dated) and his racism was just as bad as the rest of them. If not worse.

    The racism and misogyny of the dominant culture combine to create a really vicious bile of contempt when it comes to het men and dating/sex.

  80. @Iago – “It is all well and good to school your mind to not heuristically attribute slights and annoying behavior of members of different races, and, for that matter, sexes, to the group as a whole.”

    I don’t have a lot of faith that most of the people living today in our society can do this. In fact, it really annoys me when white people claim not to have a racist bone in their body or think racist thoughts when they grew up in this same culture that I did. Really, you’re immune to social conditioning? Please, tell me how you achieved this – especially in light of your claim that you never “think” about race? I’m married to a (non-white) guy who declares himself to be sexist and racist. (We’ve had the “can POC be racist” discussion several times and have different opinions about it.) This doesn’t bother me because he owns his prejudices. We all have them. He just hopes that by acknowledging that he *does* have these “gut” reactions to people that he can make sure not to act on those prejudices. I far prefer this to a person who insists they have been cleansed of their prejudices and therefore, there’s no need for self-examination.

    @rachel @littlem
    I feel like I’m not explaining myself well at all, but I appreciate your thoughts. My daughter will never be mistaken for white and neither her dad nor I are white … we don’t experience “is that your daughter?” disbelief (just me, once) and I don’t think people will confide in her or or treat her as a white person. I just often get the feeling that she gets approval because she is less black than I am, and I wonder how this will affect how she relates to other black people. I am really not that concerned about how she will relate to white people. In any case, thanks for your comments. It could be that I am worrying too much about it.

  81. I’ve been thinking about which song Artists For Back Hair could release for the charity single, and “Nobody know the Stubble I’ve seen” is probably the best contender.

    Oh hey, second paintmonkey quote to be made into an SP blogger’s gchat status.

  82. I primarily identify as white, but my mother is mixed race. I had an “aha” moment when I finally realized that all of the aspects of my appearance that I viewed as attractive (primarily my coloring) were from the white side of my family and all of the things that I thought were ugly were straight from my mom’s side of the family. I wanted to throw up when I realized that my self-hatred was more or less racially based. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t pretty enough–I was basically beating myself for not being white enough. I ended up discussing it with my mother years later, and she admitted to struggling with the same feelings.

    I don’t pretend for a minute that my experience of beauty standards is the same as that of a POC, but it has challenged me to try to think about the way that my ideas of beauty have been influenced by and, in turn, contribute to a white-based beauty standard. I struggle so much to explain this phenomenon to other white people, so thank you for writing this post.

  83. @ hsofia: you and me both, then!

    I think what I meant to say was that, at least for me and my sister, growing up mixed race has meant that we’ve become aware of our own relative privilege that much quicker, rather than believing that we’re somehow “better” than our mother, who is darker than us. And given that you’re putting so much thought into this, I’m sure your daughter will turn out just fine!

    Or, shorter me: what goes through my head when a certain subsection of white people are nice to me is “I bet you wouldn’t even say hello to my mum”.

    Those kinds of thoughts only serve to make me feel closer to my mother, and my Indian heritage, and further away from feeling white – which of course I never will be anyway!

    Anyway, I hope that makes sense. (your posts have always made sense, by the way, I think I just haven’t responded very coherently!)

  84. It is not easy trying to live up to the tired, white male patriarchal standard of beauty that has been in vogue for centuries. In order to be considered beautiful, a woman must be preferably white, young, tall, blond, blue-eyed, thin and large breasted, which cuts a large portion of women out of the picture.

  85. Sigh.

    Xenu01:
    ugh. So much racefail in this thread. I mean, I thought the creepy white guy who fetishizes “exotic asian beauties” thing was a part of the past.

    So here you are, asian fetish dudes, a def poetry jam session from a few years back by a dynamic duo called Yellow Rage. Watch and learn, please. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y22ty-VPpbA

    xhillzdude:
    ^ Somebody’s bitter. Musta got dumped for a hot asian chick recently.

    And, once again, the guy is creepy. Fucking bitches, can’t they come up with something else besides creepy? It’s getting pretty lame.

    Xenu01:

    Ha ha, no. I think that when my best friend and I were sighing over “Hot Korean Guys” all the time in high school, we were just as creepy and racist because, well, no one deserves to be a fetish. Last night I posted this comment and said, “Baby, someone is going to say, ‘You’re jealous of asian girls, you sad fattie.'” I knew this because women are always being pitted against each other in the long, crazy, imaginary battle for the sacred cock. Girlfight!

    My fiance did not agree, because he has more faith in people than I. Sadly, I was right.

    Why are menz on the internets always doing this? “Ha ha no, bitch, you are jealouz.”

  86. Thank you for this post! As a VERY white (as in pasty, but not blond) woman who used to be in the entertainment industry, it breaks my heart to see non-white women Barbie-fying themselves. J-lo went blond and whittled her famous bootie down, Beyonce did the same, and when you see non-white women in the media, they are usually light-skinned and have a “white”, i.e., skinny, WASP-y body.

    My husband is Phillipino, and fairly dark. When he DID get cast in films or in TV, it was often as a criminal, a bad guy, or just a “creepy” guy.

    On NPR the other day they were talking about the thin line African-Americans have to walk when looking for jobs (for example, not mentioning on a resume that they went to, say, Howard University, because they’re less likely to be called in for an interview) and how, in written evaluations, white managers will almost always say something about a non-white employee’s personality, which they almost never do for the white employees.

    It’s just heartbreaking.

  87. The OKCupid analysis was quite stark. I’m glad they went in and looked at those numbers. Kind of makes it hard to make claims like those quoted in the post, though as usual it won’t stop anyone.

    Thank you for the post, and to PlusSizedFeminist and KC for their links. Lots of food for thought. But then, of course I have the luxury of treating it as simple “food for thought” because I am white.

  88. Hi. This is an interesting post. Though I am not surprised by those comments at all. To me they sound like the musing of idiotic trashy uneducated people who I would never consort with. (yes I am very snobby and judgemental)

    on a sidenot I have a very embarrassing confession to make: sometimes I don’t understand what you write. Even though I am an intelligent person, and I have advanced academic degrees, they are in more scientific topics and I don’t alway understand terminology used here. I try to look things up but sometimes the spirit of a sentence or paragraph is a bit lost on me, maybe because I lack the context
    for it.
    Anyway none of that is your problem or your responsibility but I thought I’d mention it in case there are other dummies out there like me and in case you were interested in that fact at all. It’s totally understandable if you’re not, of course.

  89. idiotic trashy uneducated people

    Yeah, so if you know this is classist, you don’t just get a free pass because you acknowledge being “very snobby and judgemental.” You said a classist thing and we are not down with that here. (And that’s not even to start with “idiot.)” cggirl, you’ve been commenting here a long time and you should really fucking know better. To respond to a post filled with descriptions of people based on assumptions about their race and class with your own declaration of being better than them — well, you win the Missing the Point Award for the day. And it’s not about you being “intelligent” or having “advanced academic degrees”: it’s about you knowing you’re saying something objectionable and saying it anyway.

  90. JupiterPluvis’ comment really resonated for me, insofar as, until very recently, I would think to myself “Hey, I’m a good ally. I’m not (–)ist. The Man(TM) don’t love me, either.” and so forth. I’ve had to wade upstream through a lot of shit; it’s perfectly understandable if those experiences have made a deep impression on me. But it wasn’t until I encountered the idea that it’s not really privilege TO, it’s privilege FROM, that I’ve been able to start to GET how many layers of shit I DIDN’T/DON”T have to wade through as a white/cis/het presenting woman.

    So, this thread made me flashback on a comments I’ve gotten over the years. Proportionate to my size (and I’m short), my butt is big, and always has been. Every so often, I get asked some variation of “How’d you get a black girl’s butt?” or the inverse “howcome you don’t have a flat (Irish) ass?”. I’ve never really understood what to make of such comments, other than they 1. make me feel transiently self-conscious about my butt and 2. make me feel very uncomfortable for reasons I’ve never been able to articulate well. However, between this post and comments & the post PlusSizedFeminist linked to, I can start to pull it apart for the a toxic mess of fetishization & racism it is. I’ve only gotten a little way into unpacking it; mostly right now I’m aghast that I’ve never even challenged the racism of statements that so clearly play into tropes that belittle and objectify WOC to a greater extent than they do me specifically.

    And Iago, I think the guilt actually IS pretty necessary. Psychologists tell us guilt can be a useful motivator to change behavior in a positive direction (as opposed to shame, which tends to have negative effects on self image and behavior). It helps me remember that I am also part of the problem, so I can focus on becoming more effective (and earnest) at being part of the solution.

  91. I was up half the night thinking about this post. I wanted to reply, but I’m not sure I have anything to say of value. I’ve been trying to check my privilege for a long time now, but as a white woman, I hadn’t really thought about this aspect. I mean, I had in the general sense of knowing that beauty standards are based on white standards… But there was something in your post that smacked me, and I don’t even know exactly what it was, aside from the horrific comments you included.

    I guess the thing for me, and my own weird racisms, that I’ve been trying to work on, is the awareness that as a young girl, I didn’t feel white *enough*. And then, years later, rejecting mainstream culture for many reasons – and probably due to my own sense of alienation more so than a particular politics – aligning myself with marginalised people. I knew I was white, of course, but I had no love of it, and a lot of revulsion for it, actually. And, yeah, I totally bought into the ‘black women can be fat and still hot’ idea – even as I type this, I picture the black women I’ve known and the ones I see in my community who are heavier and look fantastic. But I realise that that’s *my* opinion, my perspective, and that these women are being judged against standards that I didn’t set up myself, but which I meet just that little bit more just because I am white. Even if I’m not quite white ‘enough’…

    And I can see it so clearly now, how insidious this is: I’ve been told over and over that I don’t have a white woman’s body, and while I always took it as a compliment (which is generally how it was offered), nevertheless I would stare at myself in the mirror and wish for smaller breasts and ass and thighs, and all those things that are supposed to be beautiful but are really just an idea about white women’s dainty, Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair girlishness. (Because, in this socio-sexual context, nothing kills a boner like a woman.) Now I imagine feeling all those conflicting emotions and not actually being white, how that might feel. Because, I could maybe have plastic surgery to girlify my woman parts, and then be that ideal woman. And that’s an option that’s not open to women of colour, who, regardless of how they might try to conform to the beauty ideal, will always be lacking that one key element: whiteness.

    It’s all nice and good to say that women shouldn’t conform, shouldn’t want to, shouldn’t try to please. But that’s the very thing: Some women, just by being born, will please and conform to the ideal more than others. And regardless of how we might feel about that as individuals, we ‘born that way’ women automatically get all the advantages that come with being born that way. I guess that’s what’s at the heart of all forms of privilege.

    There’s something I feel the need to remark – which may have appeared in the comments, which I haven’t read entirely yet – about the stereotype of the ‘loud black woman’. What it sounds like to me, when said by men and especially in the dating context, is that ‘black women aren’t as meek as white or Asian women, and that’s just darn unattractive.’

    Okay, for someone who had nothing to say, I said a lot. Sorry.

  92. First of all, thank you, Snarky’s, for posting this. Very thought-provoking.

    The single blanket statement from the entire set of comments that I would find even vaguely defensible is the (presumably Hindu) guy who doesn’t date devout monotheists. Mixed-faith relationships are hard if only one of the members is serious about their religion. I can’t imagine how a relationship with two participants who are devoted to very different faiths would work out.

    From way, way upthread (hsofia’s comments about white women telling her that their husbands are racists):

    A huge, resounding WTF!? here. I mean, I sometimes warn people that my stepfather is a racist and a virulent homophobe, and I used to warn people that my grandmother was a racist, but there’s a common thread here: family. I can’t imagine what would motivate someone to choose a presumably lifelong connection with someone whose beliefs they profess to find morally abhorrent. (When I was a teenager, I was forced to break a date with an African-American guy. My mom & stepfather didn’t want me to tell him why, because they didn’t want him to think they were racists. After all, it wasn’t that they had a problem with interracial dating, but other people did, and what if some day I met Mr. Right, only he wouldn’t go out with me because I had a history of dating black guys? Nothing I said could convince them that this supposed Mr. Right would actually be Mr. Incredibly Wrong. They told me I would grow out of it.)

    And the “oh, of course I’m not a racist, I don’t even think about race, that’s not how I was brought up” bullshit: No, apparently what you weren’t brought up to do is any kind of rigorous self-examination. What I would say, instead, is that I try not to be a racist. And sometimes I catch myself thinking something appalling, and I try to figure out why. (I knew all those years of cognitive-behavioral therapy would come in handy someday.)

    Also, about Iago, isn’t there a rule that the first person to bring up evolutionary psych loses, and is also a HUGE FUCKING JACKASS? Or, to quote Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, responding to the statement “it’s only human nature”: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

  93. “On a side note, I have recently tried to cut back on how much I read the magazines, such as Glamour, etc. where they tell you what “real” guys want and how to fix yourself so that those guys will find you pleasing to look at.”

    I haven’t bought one of those magazines in years. I think the world would be better off if every last one went out of business–they are filled with the worst kind of BS. Not reading those things is one of the most freeing things I ever did in my life. I encourage everyone to try it.

    I’m on okcupid at the instigation of a former roommate. Being a black woman, I unsurprisingly didn’t get that many responses. There were some ( all white, strangely) who were nice enough. I actually had a fun time with several of them, but nothing clicked. I had a picture on my profile, so they knew I was black beforehand.
    But then I started getting messages from guys I didn’t think I had much in common with, but wanted to be “nice.” When I arranged to meet them, I was hoping they wouldn’t show up–at that point, I thought “Why am I doing this?” and quit.
    Perhaps it’s just that I’ve hardened my heart, but reading that thread didn’t upset me–just confirmation of what I already knew to be true.
    Most women of color know that crap is out there. To those of you who are younger and just now being exposed to it, I’m sorry. I wish things were different.

  94. Great post. It’s so true.

    This post is illustrated extremely well by the horrific Sex in the City Movie. Now, there could be an entire blog dedicated to the fallacies of the show, but I was most disturbed by what I saw as blatant racism in the movie. Jennifer Hudson’s character is curvy, and she is Carrie’s personal assistant. They can patronize and appreciate her because she cannot be confused as one-of-them. She is subservient and lower class…isn’t she cute? Blatant classism and racism.

    There’s a scene in which a man, of course he’s not white, appreciates her curves, and she responds by putting him in his place. But then at the end of the movie, we are horrified that Samantha put on 15 lbs *gasp* (honestly, I couldn’t even see it). Clearly, the standards for the privileged Samantha are different than those for the lower class Louise.

    While watching, I was just completely appalled that the movie writers and producers clearly think that this is ok. The racism was not noticed by any media I heard. In fact, I heard the story that this is a step toward women empowerment because the show branched out to a curvy WoC. Give me a break. It not only followed every stereotype in the book, but it also made sure to keep Louise separate from all that is privileged (complete with her renting designer bags. What a beautiful scene when Carrie gives Louise a designer bag of her very own for being such a great assitant! *please note the sarcasm*)

  95. It is a bit upthread, now, but I will out myself as one of those women with racist husbands. He is also sexist and sizeist.

    In my case, it is that I married before I came into body acceptance, and from there to feminism, and from there to anti-racism. I do think that were I on the market now, his attitudes would be dealbreakers, but since they are something I shared when I said “I do,” (by which I mean, still share–my privilege is far from unpacked, I have a lot of it, and for all that I have changed about the way I think of sex and race and etc, it is very much a work in progress. I’m just not Oblivious Barbie anymore.) it doesn’t feel fair for me to use it as a dealbreaker now. I comfort myself (perhaps falsely) with the idea that his prejudices seem general, and that he doesn’t seem to consciously connect them to the less-privileged individuals he may be speaking to. His favorite form is “YOU aren’t this way, but aren’t [demographic x] people crazy?”

    I am ashamed of him when he says something I know is awful, but it’s not that much different than the shame I feel when I realize it’s my own foot I’m tasting. I try to contradict those things in the moment, so the comment doesn’t stand, and if it was him talking I try to discuss it with him later. Sometimes I make progress and sometimes we just end up arguing. I don’t generally try to explain his racism away, and I really, really hope I don’t come across like the wives some of you mention. If this comment sounds that way, I’d count it a great favor to know what I could change.

    Thank you for the illuminating post, and I’m looking forward to going through those links once work slows down enough to concentrate on them.

  96. OtherBecky, I might be with you on the Indian guy’s statement–if he hadn’t explicity said “No Muslims.” That kind of “preference” has gotten thousands of people killed on both sides in India to this day.

    Interfaith is tough, true, but it’s often a cover people use for other, more insidious racial or religious ideas.

    In other news, I really wish Evo Psych would go crawl into a hole somewhere and die. Which is frustrating, because I love science, and I like the IDEA of evo psych, but it’s way past the “three genocidal strikes and you’re out” rule.

  97. M. LeBlanc commented:

    There’s one thing in this discussion that bothers me a bit–this notion that these men are just “losers” who can’t get a date or whatever and are bitter. I know we say this as a way to make ourselves feel better and/or diminish the serious pain cause by what they’re saying, but it’s not accurate. These attitudes are felt and frequently expressed by all sides of the dominant culture, not just a bunch of socially-awkward dudes who don’t know how to act.

    This is true, and I’m sorry for not acknowledging it. If anything, the racists who can get dates and therefore aren’t as bitter and vocal in expressing their prejudices are a bigger problem.

  98. CGgirl, to elaborate on what SM said, you just did a similar kind of thoughtless waving of your inexamined assumptions as the comments quoted in the post did. Like… your implication that ‘uneducated’ people are automatically beneath your respect.

    I personally take especial umbrage at that, being what society considers ‘uneducated’, myself. College isn’t free, you know (and even in places where there isn’t tuition, it still isn’t free). Grants and scholarships aren’t exactly thick on the ground, and loans aren’t available to everyone, nor are they necessarily enough. There are lots of people (hi there!) who want/ed to go to college who couldn’t or who weren’t interested in college, who still manage to be thoughtful members of society.

    Not having an education doesn’t mean one is automatically stuffed full of prejudices they spout off about at every opportunity, just as being educated doesn’t mean one is free of those prejudices or the tendency of thoughtlessly blabbing them.

    Ahem.

  99. M. LeBlanc:

    Whatever, I’m sorry, when guys are hanging out on dating sites on Saturday night they are losers. And here’s why, scroll down to the next topic in the forum and you’ll find those same dudes ranting about how none of these “bitches” will write them back except the fat ones and the ones with kids. The later it gets the more entitled to the hottest females these losers feel they are and the more they feel the need to spout racist, sizeist, classist, transphobic and ableist shit at the females in the forums who are then told to “lighten in up” or “get off the computer and to the gym.”

    So, yeah, I’m not putting powder sugar on a log of shit.

  100. This is such an amazing post. As are the articles linked to.

    We white feminists really need to acknowlege that, as much as we don’t want to be regarded as “symbols of wholesomeness, motherly love and purity; don’t want to be regarded as innocent, submissive and vulnerable”, we would probably all chose that option over the alternatives. We would prefer it to being considered “animalistic, wild and unrapeable because they always want sex”.

    Yes, they are both stereotypes. And yes, all stereotypes are harmfull. But the stereotypical view of white women affords us a lot of privileges, a certain amount of protection. And it’s not just that this protection is not offered to others, the benefits that are given to us can only exist because of the way that other women are put down at the same time as we are put onto a pedestal. And I think if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that, even if we don’t like it on top of the pedestal, we would hate being the ones on whos backs it is built much more.

  101. Not having an education doesn’t mean one is automatically stuffed full of prejudices they spout off about at every opportunity, just as being educated doesn’t mean one is free of those prejudices or the tendency of thoughtlessly blabbing them.

    There were plenty of racists at my college graduation graduating with honors and getting degrees. Even at a loving hippie college where people were supposed to be so awesome and progressive.

  102. You’ll note that while society in general objectifies women far more than men, and the current cultural trend favors white women over women of other races, the dating sites shoot right for the bottom rung: everybody can be superficially selective.

    So look forward to the day when we’re all equal in the sense that everyone of all races, sexes, and body types gets bombarded with the same garbage.

  103. SweetMachine, Renatus, and Snarky –

    First, I do sincerely apologize. You are absolutely right that being college educated or what have you does NOT make someone better, smarter, or less bigoted, and I’m sorry to have implied that it did.

    Just to clarify something – when I say people are trashy, uneducated, or idiots – I do not mean college educated, or whether they have money. I mean that my DEFINITION of someone being “trashy” or “uneducated” is the very fact that they don’t seem to know any better than to speak the way those commenters did.

    After your reaction, I see that these words imply something very different and that I should not use them. When I said I am snobby and judgemental I meant it jokingly; in the same sense that you might joke about yourself and how you handle trolls, rather than try to “educate” them or whatnot… I actually would not purposely say something objectionable just to offend people!

    But again, what I’ve said here was just to clarify my mistake, NOT to argue that I was right to use those terms. If they offend people that I don’t want to offend, then duh, I am wrong to say them.

  104. @lauren: “And I think if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that, even if we don’t like it on top of the pedestal, we would hate being the ones on whos backs it is built much more.”

    Exactly. That’s a beautiful way of putting it.

    I needed this post, needed the swift slap upside my head, so thank you Snarky! If nothing else, it stopped my “boo hoo – my breasts are small” whining right in its tracks.

    One thing I really hate in dating discussions is the “I’m just not attracted to…” crap. As if sexual desires were hard-wired, unalterable, and unquestionable, rather than tied in all sorts of complicated ways to a person’s upbringing, social world, neuroses, character traits, etc. The “I’m just not attracted to African American women” thing is obviously caused by all sorts of stuff, but I suspect that for some people it’s caused by a combination of a stereotype of African American women as self-confident and non-submissive, and a feeling of being threatened by any woman who is not submissive. In other words, “I know you’re not going to put up with the usual crap I deal out to women, and that scares me, so I can’t find you attractive.” Maybe they can’t admit the reasoning going on here, because it’s so obviously racist and sexist, so they rely on the “my desires are fixed and beyond critique” move. Or maybe the reasoning is unconscious, and the end result just shows up as a feeling of not being turned on.

  105. Mike S. – I think one of the take home points here is that we ARE all bombarded with the same shit, but that it covers us each differently. The fecal matter that tells white/het/able/cis men that they are King Shits of Turd Mountain is the same excrement that tells a trans woman of color that zie is perfectly worthless.

    But in each case, it’s equally deserving of being scraped off, sent to a sewage treatment facility and processed until it’s safe for consumption.

  106. Oh, and as for “Missing the Point Award” – I think you’re right. I’m not saying this to be an asshole, I’m saying it to be honest about my own current limitations.
    I think on the topic of body image and size acceptance, I do understand a lot of what this blog is about, and it has helped me SO much in my life, you don’t even know, and I am forever grateful for that.
    But on a lot of other topics, I realize I really don’t understand a lot of the subtleties. So usually I don’t comment – which, given how I’ve offended people with my comment today – is probably a better idea and I will definitely zip it in the future because I don’t want to contribute to negative feelings on a blog I have loved so much.

    I think to some extent, I am not from the same culture as you guys and so I really genuinely don’t know certain things. I grew up in Israel, and don’t have the same cultural references or understanding of what is offensive, politically incorrect, etc. I also do think that the type of education you seem to have is different from mine, as evidenced by a lot of things you seem to know that I don’t. I could be wrong about that, just guessing.

    So, you know, maybe if I keep reading I will learn enough about it, maybe not… I know your blog doesn’t like to deal with “101 stuff” so of course you shouldn’t do so just for me. I just thought I’d share this because even though you are people on the interwebs who haven’t even met me, and it shouldn’t matter to me so much, I still hate to give a bad feeling to people who gave me such wonderful feelings in the past! So I did wish to at least explain somewhat where I think it comes from…

    Perhaps it seemed to you that I was being clearly objectionable but I was really truly unaware. (I also had NO CLUE that “idiot” was not an appropriate term so thanks for the link.)

    * goes to stand quietly in corner *

  107. Thanks, cggirl.

    I mean that my DEFINITION of someone being “trashy” or “uneducated” is the very fact that they don’t seem to know any better than to speak the way those commenters did.

    I encourage you to consider how many garden variety insults are actually based on oppressive ideas about what kind of people are better than others. There really is no way to say “trashy” or “uneducated” without invoking class status, just as there is no way to say “retarded” or “gay” without insulting living breathing people who are gay or who have disabilities.

  108. @Rachel – “at least for me and my sister, growing up mixed race has meant that we’ve become aware of our own relative privilege that much quicker …”

    Thanks, that’s what I really needed to hear!

  109. @cggirl – I feel your regret. Maybe instead of uneducated you might want to use a word like ignorant or uninformed. Or you could even get more specific than that.

    I only wish men who had these attitudes were so obvious. I’ve met some pretty cool “bumpkins” (like the filthy – as in his clothes and hands and face were covered in dirt – white guy with mullet who did the work on my yard, a self-described “redneck” with a massive gun collection who shot and ate “critters”) who treated me more like an equal than college degreed, “liberal” city guys. I feel like one of the points of Snarky’s post is to have us look inward instead of dismissing racist behavior as something that “those people” over there do.

  110. Hmmm… I think this conversation could do with a little less lumping-together of POC. This isn’t really a white women vs. everyone else issue, and all this pedestal talk is oversimplifying in ways that are actually likely to trample right over the experiences of many women of color. For instance, asian women frequently get smacked with the pedestal ideology even harder than “white” women, what with the whole china doll/submissive geisha stereotype and all, and while Latina women frequently get dragged into the animalistic/over-sexualized/over-aggressive corner, they can also get hauled into stereotypes of how soft and family-oriented and subservient and extra “feminine” they are.
    Witness the rise of all of these disgusting mail-order bride websites where misogynists drivel about how feminism has ruined white, United Statesian women.
    So really, a lot of this applies mostly to the dynamics of black vs. white femininity, and sometimes to other cases, but I think we ought to be more careful about generalizing here.

  111. Yes sweetmachine. I was just thinking about that myself. Like, “gay” as an insult is I think the only one that is accepted in my culture that I hate and constantly call people on. However, now I realize that there are probably a bunch of words that I use without thinking. Both “trashy” and “uneducated” were words I translated in my head from Hebrew btw… I think I meant “ignorant” instead of the latter but in any case, I figure there must be more inappropriate terms like that that I use without examining and I really
    should.

    I also tend to not think of myself as
    classist or racist because, I dunno, there’s a lot of different types of people among my
    friends and family. My husband is a different ethnicity, and didn’t go to college (and I consider him more educated than me because of how he reads and learns about things). So probably BECAUSE of that I don’t realize certain things or stop to think about certain things, what is behind certain words, etc. Which I should work on.
    Definitely food for thought for me, thank you!

  112. Thanks, CGgirl.

    I also do think that the type of education you seem to have is different from mine, as evidenced by a lot of things you seem to know that I don’t.

    I dunno. I went to school in a smallish, overwhelmingly white rural town. The education was pretty good, all things considered, but it wasn’t exactly socially progressive (or at least it wasn’t a decade and a half ago). Really, I’ve soaked up the bulk of what I understand about social justice issues in the past three or four years via blog reading and resisting the temptation to run away when what I read kicked me in my assumptions/privilege. :) Listening when people tell one that one has screwed up, as you have, is a part of learning.

  113. Yeah, I’m thirding the comments that education doesn’t mean squat as far as racism goes. Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of the posts on this blog (even this post) couldn’t have been written without a knowledge of theory and history that usually only gets taught in college.

    But my experience is that for the most part, if your mind isn’t open, all education does is teach you to cover your own bigotry with a layer of PC crap. My family is very “blue collar” and liable to say things that make the PC hairs on the back of my liberal white neck stand on end, but they’re more liable to give people a fair shake regardless or race, creed or color than my husband’s over-educated, super PC family.

    RE: men and dating. I (rarely) get read as bi-racial, more frequently as Latina, and I have to say, the times I’ve been hit on by men insistent on their assessment of my ethnicity have been WAY more skeevy than normal. They also have descended quickly into the “What? So you’re ashamed of your black heritage*??” BS rather fast.

    *I almost certainly have some, but it’s Moorish/Arab, not AA, and several hundred years old. And it sure as hell doesn’t entitle me to claim any sort of “bi-racial” ancestry. FWIW, my father also gets the “What, you’re ashamed of being Latino?” thing all the time.

  114. Hmmm… I think this conversation could do with a little less lumping-together of POC. This isn’t really a white women vs. everyone else issue, and all this pedestal talk is oversimplifying in ways that are actually likely to trample right over the experiences of many women of color.

    Actually, this is about how the white standard of beauty informs how women on the margins (did you miss that part?) are framed. This goes beyond merely race, but encompasses, gender identity, class, ability status and all intersections of those identities.

    For instance, asian women frequently get smacked with the pedestal ideology even harder than “white” women, what with the whole china doll/submissive geisha stereotype and all, and while Latina women frequently get dragged into the animalistic/over-sexualized/over-aggressive corner, they can also get hauled into stereotypes of how soft and family-oriented and subservient and extra “feminine” they are.
    Witness the rise of all of these disgusting mail-order bride websites where misogynists drivel about how feminism has ruined white, United Statesian women.

    Again, I’m not seeing how what I’ve written has erased these experiences, except by focusing on what I have experienced as a BLACK WOMAN. What is being discussed is how white standards of beauty shape how men on dating sites frame desirability.

    So really, a lot of this applies mostly to the dynamics of black vs. white femininity, and sometimes to other cases, but I think we ought to be more careful about generalizing here.

    Where is this being done? I guess we’re going to have to disagree here because it seems that there is some confusion as to what is being discussed. But I appreciate the points you have raised.

  115. Just a quick note to Iago: I am a white woman, and I do not think this post was put up to make me feel “guilty.”* Yes, it makes me imagine my privilege, but that is a good thing, an eye-opening thing. It makes you, and some others, uncomfortable, so your immediate position is defensiveness… “I didn’t make this happen,” you say. Life’s not fair, you say. It’s not your fault that life’s not fair, you say, so you can wash your hands of it, and then not think about it anymore. I see what you’re doing there, and it is the very definition of privilege.

    *because, naturally, there is no lens through which to view this post except as it affects the poor white woman’s emotional state. /sarcasm

    Also: I am dating a great guy, but he has said the “I’m just not attracted to black women” thing to me. I still don’t know how to respond to that, how to pull apart the threads of inherent privilege from inherent preference from incoming bullshit on all sides. It wasn’t a statement I chose to fight over at the time, because I am white, therefore privileged: I didn’t have to choose that battle. I’ve never heard or seen other racism from him, so if there is a good way to respond to this comment, (lovingly, because I do love him), I’d love to hear it.

  116. There’s something about dating sites that brings out the inner ugliness in many people. Men seem to have a check list of acceptable appearance and behaviour in their dates and seem to have no ability to get an objective view of just how petty, stupid, superficial and mean-spirited so many of their “requirements” are. It’s like they’re trying to order the perfect steak, or a truck with just the right options off a menu. Their view often comes across as very transactional (i.e. if you bring X, Y and Z to the table, I will pay for dinner.) There are an equal number of women who have a similar checklist about looks, education and finances which they justify with the conventional good looks they bring to the table (see? Also very transactional in nature.)

    Thank you, Snarky as well as many other folks who posted links in here, for underlining the overtly racist threads in that ugliness. While I have often been stung by some of the statements, as a fat, old, white lady. However, I was kind of blind to how much the white lady part gives me protection agains the nastier, race-related undertones to words like “slim” or “well-spoken” or “neat”.

    Oh, and I am also utterly gobsmacked that people are still using the “I have a black friend” thing in an unironic way and thinking that it’s a valid argument to defend racist b.s.

  117. Wrenae, I’m not exactly very good at tact so I’m not sure how good my advice is, but perhaps if you asked him to elaborate on why he’s not attracted to black women, in a spirit-of-curiosity sort of way, you could start getting him to explore and examine his prejudices based on his responses. If he asks why you asked why, that might be a good time to tell him that you find the statement potentially problematic.

    Tangent–is Wrenae as variant spelling of Renee? I ask because Renee is my legal first name, and Wrenae would be the first variant spelling of it I’ve seen that I thought was awesome and clever. Admittedly, I have a somewhat irrational dislike of other alternate spellings because of a grade 1 teacher who insisted my name was spelled Renae and I just didn’t know how to spell my own name. Harumph.

  118. Snarkys, good looking out. Those jive emus on OKC (which I’ll be avoiding like the plague for future reference) are something else…

    *WTF was Iago talking about, and where’s the back hair come in? *eyeroll* ahem, moving on…

    I saw those OKC numbers months ago, and the only reason I didn’t (and still don’t) get stabby was because I’m not dating now. If this is what I have to look forward to when the process begins, I want no parts of it.

    Did anyone else notice the infantilization of black women by a few of these guys (when they/i weren’t invisible altogether)? FFS, doods, I’m a grown ass woman and I am NOT made of Teflon and frickin’ adamantium! Sheesh.

    I’ll return when I have a halfway coherent comment.

  119. Wrenae – I would opt for the curiosity route as well. Also being mindful that just because you have not observed any other forms of racist behaviors does not mean he isn’t engaging in them. It’s not all separate but equal drinking fountains and people burnt up in churches. The statement that he doesn’t find black women attractive is plenty racist enough to stop me in my tracks and not seek out more evidence for racist ways. But of course, being of color it certainly takes a lot less for my hackles to go up and affords me the clarity NOT to date people who express problematic stuff, who aren’t also willing to unpack it. Because I’m pretty sure a “great guy” doesn’t express racism masked as preference. Though your fun to monkeys ratio may vary.

  120. @ SnarMa

    Oops! I was actually talking to lauren and amy mostly, and I think some people upthread, not about the original article. It’s possible I’m overreacting a bit to them, too, since all too frequently I see these discussions devolve into a kind of self-flagellating on the part of white women that doesn’t really take into account the variation of POC’s experiences and can end up being nearly as obnoxious as the more blatant stuff.

    Especially since I’m coming from a native american background, and white people seem to just LOVE making themselves punching bags for all the wrongs done without, y’know, actually seeing us as anything more nuanced than A TERRIBLY WRONGED PEOPLE.

    That’s why the “built on the backs of other women” comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way, since it seemed to me like that kind of overcompensation and oversimplification, but my apologies if I’ve misunderstood.

  121. Of all the stomach-turning things in those comments, and yea verily, there were so many it was a nausea smorgasbord, the worst for me to read were foolishsucka’s. Like SM’s hate for the American Apparel ad, I don’t see why these should be worse than any of the other comments, but to me they are.

    He has a preference for women who are “crazy island mixes.” i.e. WOC= intoxicating beach-themed bevereges.

    Women from Singapore are “rarely seen off the island.” i.e. WOC= provinical and interned in culture preserves.

    He sounds like he gets his entire line of discourse from the travel channel or victorian tourism literature. Neither of those are places to go for language aware of privilege and prejudice. Both of them *are* good places to go to find langauge that otherizes and exoticizes and therefore marginzalizes POCs. Just… bleargh.

    I’m with FJ about the blah blah unscientific blah comment. The OKC stats S. Machine posted, and the comments in the original post are the same message in different media. There is a sign anyone actually interested in the social science, as opposed to derailing/undermining with statistics-picking, should shut up and pay attention to what’s being written there.

    I met my *hug* on OKC, and while I was hanging out there frequently, I ran across a lot of men who express the attitude Miguel skewers so neatly. It was a real education, for sure. I know I felt relieved that I wasn’t the target of that kind of talk, since the fat-hate was bad enough. Of course, being *relieved* is the enjoyment of unexamined privilege at work. Bleargh, again.

    Thanks, S. Machine, for this post. And, the comments have been brilliant.

  122. I’m with FJ about the blah blah unscientific blah comment. The OKC stats S. Machine posted, and the comments in the original post are the same message in different media. There is a sign anyone actually interested in the social science, as opposed to derailing/undermining with statistics-picking, should shut up and pay attention to what’s being written there.

    I couldn’t agree more. If I implied that I was criticizing Kia in any way, then I suck at words – I was quoting her directly because, while writing the comment, I was totally worried that I would distort her experience by putting it in my own words.

  123. I’m black woman living in Australia, who is light enough to be read as bi-racial. I’ve even checked the box for white in addition to the box for black, because I was sick of getting messages along the lines of “You’re not that black!” like I should be flattered.

    I have a friend who has darker skin, who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, who has been told, “You’re pretty, for a black girl.” We don’t need these “compliments”.

    I’ve been online dating off and on for the past two years or so.

    I feel like as long as I am living in Sydney, I should probably get good and comfortable with being single, because I am so far removed from what is considered attractive here. I’m too brown, and too fat – to other people, mind you. I think I’m pretty awesome as is.

    What is disturbing more than the responses I don’t get, is the the quality of the responses I do get. I am nerdy and wordy. I’m into all sorts of music. The books and tv shows I list all skew to a certain type. Literary, geeky, funny. Chabon and Whedon feature very heavily.

    I don’t get responses from males with comparable profiles. That sucks. But what sucks even harder is getting responses from guys who are heavily into the hip hop/rap culture, txt-speak, Wassup style emails. If you were to do a side by side comparison of our profiles, you would find that we, quite literally, have nothing in common.

    Because they’ve seen the black skin, none of that matters. Am I just a token to legitimise their interest in a foreign culture?

    I feel privileged in that by being in a foreign country, I’ve escaped some stereotypes. But unfortunately, the ones that make it over here are the worst of the neck shaking “Oh no you didn’t” variety. And then there’s also the exoticism element, along the lines of “This exotic treat is fine as a sometimes food (one night stand/rumpy pumpy), but not as an all the time food (girlfriend/dating/being seen with in public).”

  124. Oh, KC, no! I got what you were intending to say. I am just thinking about the classic tactic (familiar to those who have played role-playing games with a Rules Lawyer) of employing the (often distorted)rule of law in order to minimize the (often very valid) spirit of the law.

    Kia’s social experiment might not make the cut if you’re evaluating it as a hypothesis-control-test-revise. But as an observation of people’s behavior in order to describe what one is seeing? IOW, as a kind of ethnographic exercise? It’s solid.

    But, I expect the statistical analysis geniuses that freaked out and then dismissed Starling’s Schrodinger’s Rapist post because her math wasn’t the math they love best, wouldn’t see it that way. Despite her own evaluation of the methods and discussion of its weaknesses.

  125. What is disturbing more than the responses I don’t get, is the the quality of the responses I do get. I am nerdy and wordy. I’m into all sorts of music. The books and tv shows I list all skew to a certain type. Literary, geeky, funny. Chabon and Whedon feature very heavily.

    I don’t get responses from males with comparable profiles. That sucks. But what sucks even harder is getting responses from guys who are heavily into the hip hop/rap culture, txt-speak, Wassup style emails. If you were to do a side by side comparison of our profiles, you would find that we, quite literally, have nothing in common.

    I have noticed this too. My profile was dripping with my kind of humor and definitely did not showcase a desire for someone who was interested in “slumming” as one suitor put it. There was a disconnect between what my profile stated I sought and what kinds of men responded to it.

    I believe it is because many men felt the blackness took away some of the barriers they felt would be present for a white woman with a similar profile. And Kia’s experiment seems to back this assertion.

    I called them “K-Feds” and I did not find their attention charming, flattering or at all useful. Relating to me as a fetish is not my idea of a meaningful, loving relationship built on mutual attraction, interests, values and life goals.

    I adore Chabon!!!

  126. AnthroK8–
    One of the funny things about the “it’s not mathy-math enough for me” crowd is that they don’t necessarily have the foggiest fucking idea what they’re talking about. I was entertained by the SR comments, particularly the ones saying, “But that’s not what the Schrödinger experiment meant!” because my personal reading committee included two PhD particle physicists and an MIT grad student. (Nice try, guys, but no, your physics doesn’t trump mine.) Unless you’re a peer review scientific journal, no, we don’t have to comply with your stringent research standards, we just have to make sure we acknowledge the strengths, weaknesses, inherent assumptions, and limits of our data.

    Just another Derailing for Dummies technique, and I have very little tolerance for it. The statistical analysis geniuses aren’t the ones splitting hairs.

  127. Starling:

    Thanks for that- yes. I was trying to be snarky about the mathy-math types being stats geniuses (har har), but that’s not how it came out at all.

    Since I don’t deal in stats unless very simple or very necessary, the Your Math is Wrong types don’t usually get on my case. But the The Only Acceptable Method is MY Acceptable Math Method people do.

    I suppose it’s a case of:

    Derailing anecdote is to Thoughtful ethnography/ use of narrative

    as

    Inaccurate stats nit-pickery is to Actual numbers used carefully.

  128. AnthroK8–
    Srsly, what pisses me off most is that it’s always phrased as, “Oooh, let me EXPLAIN MATH to you.” Because the commenter assuming that hir math/science/sociology/stats skills are inherently better than those of the woman/PoC/etc who wrote the damned post–well, it’s the very picture of privilege in action.

    (Confidential to Iago: “Ohh, let me explain Schrödinger’s experiment to you” is an example of the Mansplain, FYI. Because girlie little me obviously needs some stranger on the internet to explain quantum mechanics. *eye roll*)

  129. I’m still absolutely stunned that a man seriously thought his back hair was in any way comparable to what’s being discussed here.

    Although my personal favorite was “Baby Got Back (Hair)”.

  130. Wow this is a lot of interesting stuff. Now, I am wondering about the “I’m not
    attracted to people of ethnicity X” thing too, because I hear it a lot from people, tho I have never experiences it – I truly seem to find people of all different ethnicities attractive – but some friends and loved ones of mine have not.
    Until today, I never thought that much about it, I thought it was just a physical thing. None of my friends said anything about the character of people of a certain race, only that it was or wasn’t their physical type. So I thought ok, maybe that’s like preferring someone who is tall or brunette or fat or what have you.
    I am wondering if I am wrong to think that, if that’s not a reasonable possibility.
    I also have always thought that regardless
    of physical attraction, in terms of culture, someone who is a member if an ethnic minority might prefer to date others within that minority due to a shared cultural experience. But someone white choosing to date
    other white people feels simply racist. Which I think is just how life is – when it part of the privileged majority it’s different – but I have never been able to properly articulate it.
    I view a lot of this as an outsider because again, while we have different ethnicities in Israel too, it’s not the same. So I am interested in this whole topic and whether various things that I didn’t think were racist ARE in fact.

  131. @Patty, re the SATC movie, I was torn, because on the one hand I thought that it was racist to put the Jennifer Hudson character subordinate to the SJP character (and also, the whole show was always racist because WHERE were the POC throughout the series’ run), but then I thought that at least they get a few points for having her be so obviously sharp and in control of her life. Maybe not full points, because I definitely saw how the portrayal was still patronizing – a la the old “so articulate” cliche, but I would like to think that at least racism was acknowledged and sort-of dealt with. I missed the rental-bag detail though … hmmmm

    This thread has been fascinating, and thought-provoking. I am grimacing to remember the many boneheaded things I have thought and said over the years, as a ‘non-racist’ white person. I certainly mean well, but I have begun to realize in recent years that that’s not enough on its own. Thanks for continuing to bring this stuff up, Snarky. And thanks to the person who posted the “What if black women were white women” link. I have read it over several times already and plan to bookmark it for later study … wow.

    As for Samantha and her weight gain – c’mon, SJP DID say “you would be beautiful at any size.” Doesn’t that cover it? /sarcasm

  132. @ Jenniferal –

    “I am grimacing to remember the many boneheaded things I have thought and said over the years, as a ‘non-racist’ white person”

    – I know just what you mean!

    Sadly, I keep doing it. But fortunately, the people on this blog at least point it out to me rather than just dismissing me, which I really do appreciate because I wouldn’t blame them if they reacted differently.

    The whole “attraction” thing is just one example where I may have been woefully mistaken all along… But I’m sure there are lots more. Oh well, live and learn at least, right?

  133. @rainebeaux

    “Jive Emus?” How dare you associate our national bird with such ignorant tools on this, our national day!

    /Australian sarcasm. I do prefer jive turkey, but.

  134. I found this post (thanks Snarky!) and the subsequent comments to be absolutely thought-provoking and worthwhile to consider, particularly the link through to the Alienation post.

    It’s really made me think about a problem which I’m trying to unpick that’s related to the privilege of whiteness/femininity which I sometimes ‘enjoy’ and sometimes not. And I really don’t know how to pull it apart.

    I’m a mixed (Mizrahi/Ashkenazi) Jewish young woman in London, which is multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Physically, I don’t look at all like the mythical feminine ‘white’ woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, thin delicate body: I have very full lips, high cheekbones, very dark curly hair, round butt, strong thighs, big boobs, almond dark eyes and, mostly and oddly, very very pale skin.

    And so as a result of these entirely arbitrary genetic quirks, I inhabit the weird world of ambiguous ethnicity. I am no English rose. I am considered generically “foreign” or “exotic” looking and have been mistaken for everything from Cypriot, Lebanese, Armenian, Persian and etc. But the thing is, I am almost *exclusively* hit on by Men of Color: Asian (meaning Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani etc), Middle Eastern and Black. And the thing that they often mention? My pale white skin. I’ve had numerous men say that I look *like* their women, but better because I am paler. Or that they like some other of my features, that I have a black woman’s butt or full lips or dark hair, but it’s great because I’m white or white-r.

    We don’t have a black/white dichtomy in terms of race in the UK, it’s more complicated than that as my experience shows. But it does really feels like these guys are projecting their predjudices about whiteness and, at the very least, paleness onto my body.

    And I feel very very uncomfortable with this kind of attraction because of the whiteness/colorism issue. But I also rarely get any attention from white men (read: English/Celtic, Scandinavian, Northern European and Eastern European), unless it’s purely sexual, because I look too “foreign”. This happens to me both online dating and in day to day life.

    So I’m left in a strange place. In the Venn diagram of white privilege, in the UK, I am an intersection. And I really don’t know how to navigate this.

    How can I say to those men of colour, I am really uncomfortable with the fact that you are privileging my (arbitrarily) pale skin over the fantastic women from your own community who are beautiful *exactly* the way they are? Is it my right? On the flip side, I can’t persuade white men to think that I’m attractive to them, when it’s not the case!

    I think what Snarky’s post shows is that it’s a very strange world where predjudices lurk in so many people’s minds. It’s a world where something that is ostensibly flattering (I find you attractive) is actually underpinned by lots of murky thoughts (I find you attractive because you have the traits I associate with my ethic/racial community but have very white skin as well) and so is not flattering at all and is, in fact, very worrying.

    I just wonder how I can navigate this with personal grace and fairness and in a more general sense help, even in a tiny way, overturn the tyranny of racial predjudice expressed in this particular manner without coming across as a pompous, up herself arse…?

  135. The internet, unfortunately, has a tendency to give cowardly people a medium through which to say inflammatory things without fear of repercussion… and once you get one asinine comment, other asses see it as a “GO” sign and then threads devolve into stupidity. Then, rational people are scared off by the quality of the debate, and you end up with threads like the one linked to here. It’s funny when the topic is something inane, but instances like this are just depressing.

    I do have a question for you guys, though– do you feel that there is no biological element at work here at all? Obviously white woman have a lot of privilege, I promise I’m not trying to contest that. Logic says there is some psychological remnant from many a millenia ago of “people who look most like me are most likely to be my friends so I should stay by them.” Just because someone isn’t attracted to dark women, does it make them violently racist? If someone isn’t attracted to short men, do they wish all short people would die? Of course, particularly on a mass-media scale, white women and Caucasian features are the “ideal.” But what does it mean in the everyman’s personal life? I, personally, am not particularly attracted to blond men. I can say with all kinds of conviction I don’t hate them. Do you see that as something that changes if the “unattractive” characteristic is one that can indicate race? (Again, in many instances, yes, is it an indication of racism… my question is more: do you think this is always the case, even if the person somehow doesn’t know it?)

    Just curious as to everyone’s thoughts on the matter. Hope that was clear.

  136. My first reaction on reading those comments is to feel so embarrassed on behalf of the people who made them that it makes it hard to read them.

    My second, more considered reaction is that this is not a productive response to racism. Almost everybody knows the right answer to the question “Is racism bad? Circle one: Y/Y” This is why there’s so much of the “I don’t think it’s necessarily racist if…” rationalizations and circumlocutions and why so many people try to derail any discussion of whether act/thought/system X may be racist, because that’s a horrible thing to say about the people involved with it if you don’t have signed proof that they are members of the KKK, the Nazi party, and Stormfront.

    (Because one is a fluke, two could be a coincidence… three is a trend.)

    “Racism is bad” is a good starting point, but it’s also the point at which a lot of people get uncomfortable and change the subject. As the AG so aptly said: we are a nation of cowards.

  137. Act:

    “If somebody doesn’t like dark women, are they violently racist?”

    Why so adverb? The answer to that question is obviously no. Not liking someone isn’t a violent act and I don’t see where anybody has suggested that it is.

    Better questions:

    “If somebody doesn’t find people attractive based on characteristics that code as racial, is that preference likely to be rooted in the racist aspects of society and/or their own racist thoughts? Is that preference and the manner in which they express it likely to contribute to the same circumstances which fostered it within them? What does this do to people who are excluded by that preference, especially when this exclusion is only one small facet of the exclusion and marginalization they face?”

    Yeah, some guy who probably took home the douchehound gold in multiple events doesn’t like his ladies to be “ghetto” is not the end of the world. Does it have to be the end of the world before we start talking about it? I think if we break down most racial issues in society, we’d find that few, if any of them, are the end of the world.

    Logic says there is some psychological remnant from many a millenia ago of “people who look most like me are most likely to be my friends so I should stay by them.

    I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but logic does not say that. Even if it happened to be true, you cannot look at a thing that exists now and go “Well, obviously this is because of this specific thing thousands of years ago.” That’s not logic. That’s a Just-So Story.

  138. Act: Hi, ;P

    I was thinking about that too, and the way I see it, i think social conditioning plays a huge role in it, and so having a ‘preference’ for white people comes from ideas that have been hammered into people since they were little, that are very racist, even if the person isn’t neccesairly racist. But, what I’m wondering about is, even if a person can acknowledge that they have a bias towards white people that is racist in nature, that preference isn’t neccesarily going to disapear. Un-learning what you’ve been told is attractive doesn’t seem like a particuarly easy thing to do.

  139. @Alex Erin

    Why so adverb? The answer to that question is obviously no. Not liking someone isn’t a violent act and I don’t see where anybody has suggested that it is.

    Meh, I hyperbole’d without really meaning to. I meant it as a synonym for “extremely,” but hyperbole is a bad discussion mechanism anyway. My bad.

    First of all, I agree entirely (violently?) with the point of the post (which I took as “beauty ideals are white and it really effects the way we treat each other.” Reading the comments kind of spurred me off on the train of thought I was on. Your “better questions” aren’t really my question, which more succinctly was, “If someone doesn’t find a potentially racial characteristic attractive, would you default to considering them racist?”

    Let me also say, as I was saying to Miguel, that obviously there are tons of complex factors are work in determining what we find attractive. And societal expectations play a huge role. No one is arguing that. My sentiment was more, “What role do you think genetics play?”

  140. I think online dating – where participants see many pictures very quickly, and are therefore making a lot of split-second decisions about what is attractive – exacerbates racial preferences in that we turn people down on the basis of profile pictures who if we actually met in a normal social-type occasion, we’d be interested in. I dated a black woman who I met online, and she told me that she didn’t post her profile online because women didn’t respond to her – but that if she got to the point of meeting someone, race wound up not mattering nearly as much. And, honestly, if she’d posted a picture initially, I’d have been less likely to respond – I would have looked at it and thought, “not really my type.” But then I met her, and it turned out I was wrong. I find myself doing that with a lot of physical stuff when it comes to meeting people online – my sense of what I’ll be attracted to when I’m scrolling through pictures is much narrower than what I’m actually attracted to in real life. Online dating can give the impression that there are so many people out there, and so there’s less reason to try to get beyond the most shallow, initial physical attraction thing. I wonder whether if online dating included pictures, but you had to send a certain number of e-mails back and forth before you got to see someone’s, whether there’d be slightly less strong racial preferences expressed.

    I don’t think that explains that much of what’s happening, but I think it’s a small issue when it comes to online dating.

  141. And, because I constantly come off as as much more aggressive than I mean to, I’d just like to add that I’m asking honest questions and not trying to be argumentative. *sigh* Oh, interwebz and your inability to convey tone!

  142. Act: If you’d said “extremely” or even “very”, my response would be the same: why so adverb? Putting a qualifier on the question acts to raise (or rather, set) a bar for what is “real racism”.

    There’s a meme for this on livejournal that follows the construction of “it’s only ______ if you’re killed”, where _____ can be whatever a community is dedicated to discussing (racism, sexism, bad service, etc.) I agree it’s not the worst thing in the world for someone to have a “preference”. Each individual act of it indeed has very little impact on the world as a whole or the vast majority of the population. But reality is made up of the aggregate.

    And I know my better questions aren’t your question. If they were, they wouldn’t be better. To answer your question: It’s a racist attitude. It stems from and reinforces a racist system. It contributes to racist practices. So in point of fact, my answer would be that yes, I would consider them racist… if I were interested in dividing people up into “racist” and “not-racist”, but I don’t think that’s a terribly useful exercise.

    And my answer to your question about genetics is the question “Where do you think this line of inquiry came to you from (hint: IT’S NOT LOGIC) nd where do you think this line of inquiry will lead you?”

  143. And Act, I’m not perceiving you as aggressive or confrontational. In fact, your smiley monster avatar makes me read your comments in a cheerful and upbeat voice. That doesn’t change my responses.

  144. @Act – I think genetics plays far less of a role in determining what you or I or anyone else finds “attractive” (or sexy) than social conditioning.

  145. The role of genetics on what is perceived as attractive is irrelevant anyway. Its not something that can be helped, whereas the social conditioning can be (okay, well maybe not realistically; but at least in the sense that its something that can be changed).

  146. @ Act, Alexandra Erin, hsofia – OK, here’s another, related question to ponder, in syllogism form:

    IF it is the case that white dominant culture forms our concept of beauty, THEN beauty in our culture is formed around whiteness.

    Is it possible, then, for any member of a white dominant culture, whether white or not, to not have a concept of beauty that is formed around whiteness?

    IF it is the case that an individual has a concept of beauty in AND is in a white dominant culture, THEN it is implied that in the perpetuation of that concept of beauty, that individual is promoting the racism of the white dominant culture.

    Is is possible, then, that any time a member of a white dominant culture expresses an opinion about beauty, he or she or zie is being racist?

  147. @Krishji:

    …and you have found one of the reasons why I feel it’s not a productive exercise to start dividing people up into columns of “racist” and “not-racist”.

  148. Act: Do you see that as something that changes if the “unattractive” characteristic is one that can indicate race?

    I find this one puzzling. I’ve been mulling it over since the thread started. I find black women almost universally attractive for reasons that probably just have to do with the combined effect of ‘African features’ — a racial preference. (In that if one of the associated characteristics is absent, that’s fine, but just one on a person who has no others doesn’t do it for me, regardless of which characteristic it is.) I find blondeness unattractive, a preference about a particular feature, and my aesthetic response to a person can be quite drastically changed by hair dye. I don’t know what to make of this, unless it all has to do with who was mean to me and who was nice when I was five. I doubt it, as I am definately not automatically well-disposed to someone just because I think her or him beautiful, and if I’m looking for someone to spend my time with I examine behavioral rather than physical characteristics in making that choice.

    Puzzling. This is an interesting one.

  149. @ Grafton – I also have an anti-preference for blonde hair, to the point where someone dying their hair can make me find them less attractive. In my case I’m pretty sure it is a childhood thing (no blondes in my family, no one blonde who I liked as a child, the most memorable blond people were one little boy who was my nemesis and another who was a close friend in an I love you like a brother sort of way, to where thinking of him in a sexual sense would have been icky), but still, you’re one of very few people I’ve heard say that blonde hair actually puts them off, like it does for me, so interesting.

  150. There are a few truly blonde (yellow haired) people in my family, and lots of light brown or ginger ones. Still, I just don’t like the look of yellow hair. Dusty/sandy/mousey/dishwater-blonde colour is a bit better, but not much, and that’s what both me and my brother had as children.

    I was tormented as a child by a set of mean yellow-haired siblings a few years older than I, and had a yellow haired babysitter once try (and fail) to get me to suck his dick. But I don’t have thoughts or feelings about those things when I encounter yellow haired people, I just think it’s not very pretty.

  151. I wouldn’t agree/say that white dominant culture (or any dominant culture) is the only thing that informs our (individual) sense of what is beautiful.

  152. @Grafton – Yeah, I think it’s mostly just an aesthetic thing for me too, though I’m sure growing up in the Middle East and seeing very few blond people must have had some impact. It’s a wierd thing for me though, because my particular set of aesthetic preferences do end up meaning that I’m effectively going to be interested in people of certain ethnicities more often and interested in people of other ethnicities less often. I mean, the vast majority of the people I’m excluding on the basis of “don’t like blond hair, strongly prefer dark brown or black hair, prefer brown eyes to blue or grey” are going to be white, but that’s not me going “I’m not attracted to white people, ever” it’s “I’m generally not attracted to blue eyed blonds”. It’s not an absolute thing – my former fiance was a blue eyed blond, but he fit my usual aesthetic preferences in every other way. It’s wierd to try to think about where your preferences came from, because some of them are quite easily explained and fit in with the dominant cultural narrative, but others don’t.

  153. @CassandraSays — I’d say the same if I thought I was really doing the majority of the choosing, or if I was really choosing based on appearance rather than simply having a preference for some things over others. As it happens I married somebody who doesn’t meet my preferences for physical attractiveness. I’m perfectly happy to look at her, but it’s the behavioral stuff that drew me.

    Actually, it’s easy to guess where my ‘beauty ideal’ for women came from — my mother when I was very small. I definitely fit that particular evo-psych theory. It’s all the levels of attractiveness after that that are odd.

  154. @ Grafton – Heh. From an evo-psych POV I screw up their theory, since the dark hair is the only trait my father shares with the men I’m usually attracted to. Also, I have problems with mustaches and I think it’s because he had one for most of my childhood. Beards/other facial hair I can cope with, but I see a man with just a mustache and think “Dad”, and apparently I lack an Electra complex. Although funny you mention the non looks stuff, because I do tend to be drawn to men who share certain personality traits with my Dad, but that may just be because the most prominent of those is “genuinely likes women”.

    We’re getting really off topic here, so feel free to tell me to shut up, mods, but I do wonder how often what people are attracted to in terms of personality is to do with their parents.

  155. I’m a mixed (Mizrahi/Ashkenazi) Jewish young woman in London, which is multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Physically, I don’t look at all like the mythical feminine ‘white’ woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, thin delicate body: I have very full lips, high cheekbones, very dark curly hair, round butt, strong thighs, big boobs, almond dark eyes and, mostly and oddly, very very pale skin.

    This is was so great to read. London’s colorism is a very very strange animal.

    I would say that my “distaste” for blond men was conditioned into me as a child. I know exactly where it comes from. I remember the day I realized where it came from. The first time I ever saw “Three Days of the Condor” and realized how handsome Redford was then versus what he looks like now. and suddenly I could hear bits and pieces of people from my childhood talking about blond men.

    And I’m unpacking that. See, it’s not really that hard if you’re open to the idea that you want to change that which you have been culturally trained to prefer or dislike.

  156. I have never understood the hair color/eye color thing in personal ads. I mean, it is one of the first questions you’re asked and one of the first things people list about themselves. I could never imagine unchecking a hair color or eye color so as not to receive potential matches with those traits. I also can’t understand what reading a person’s hair/eye color in an ad tells you about what they look like. Maybe because I grew up around mostly dark eyed, dark haired people (except my light eyed mom)? Or maybe I really just don’t give a crap? I continue to be surprised as an adult to learn that people have STRONG preferences in this area of eye/hair color (as in, “I *only* date blondes). I can see finding a particular hair or eye color interesting or particularly beautiful, but beyond that … I’m just left scratching my head.

  157. @hsofia – Funnily enough I wouldn’t exclude matches on that basis either, even though I do tend to have a preferences, because…well, my former fiance didn’t fit that preference and I thought he was attractive. The whole checkbox thing for dating sites seems odd because, well, don’t you at least want to see the person’s face before you make up your mind?

  158. @hsofia – I don’t get it either. Those things can be faked (eye/hair color). Though I’m guessing it’s what the authors of those ads believe are nicer ways to codify their racism or cloak it in preference. Similar to men who decide to state they wish for their partners to be “athletic” as a dodge to avoid saying, “No fatties” though they aren’t interested in athletics per se.

    Though honestly, I don’t know who they think they’re fooling. Better to come out and state “No WOCs or Fatties” so people can quickly side step them and find someone actually worth their time.

  159. The only think I can imagine checkboxing for is age – I’ve done that, specify only people within 10 years of my age in either direction. That becomes another dude entitlement thing though, where you can see them specify a range that goes from 20 years younger than them to either their exact age or 2-5 years younger than them. I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen a man specify an age range that includes women older than him.

  160. eye color/hair color:

    It’s also probably a means of not alienating women they wish to date, which might explain how so many women end up with “great guys” who just happen to be bigots. These women side step the coded language figuring it’s okay because he’s simply expressing a preference.

    But at the end of the day, there is often a chasm between what men express/expect and what they actually get and some of that posturing is a way of asserting masculinity or at least trying to seem as they are “better” than other men by expressing a fairly paint-by-the-numbers laundry list of physical characteristics their ideal partners should possess.

  161. “Wanting to sleep with” and “finding attractive” are two very different categories. I don’t know that there should be any guilt associated with the very peculiar mix of whatever-the-hell influences our personal idiosyncratic physical preferences–I am very into big blond Viking-type men, for example, and I’m pretty much okay with that, because while I know that big blond Vikingish men are likely to push my buttons, I also know various Black, Latino, East Indian, Jewish and Polynesian guys who do. And it’s not like the men of the world are lining up outside my door, begging me to find them hot, and devastated when I don’t.

    But attractive? That’s a different matter. People (men and women) considered beautiful get better treatment from others (men and women.) And I’m both sure it’s a racially influenced beauty standard, and sure that even unconsciously preferring the pretty is bad behavior, since it leaves large groups of people in the second-class category. So while I don’t spend any time or energy worrying about the fact that blonds are more likely to get me hot and bothered, I do worry about the classist and racist and ableist implications in the way I treat strangers to whom I am not physically attracted, but whose physical attractiveness nevertheless influences me to perceive them as nicer or smarter or more worthy. That’s bad. That’s where I draw the moral line.

    It’s like Mr. I-Wouldn’t-Date-J-Lo above. Does this break J-Lo’s heart? Ha. Not likely. But I’m gonna guess that the blond woman he works with gets better treatment than the Latina woman he works with, and while neither of them might give a rat’s ass about his sexual proclivities, his racist beauty preferences probably have actual racist real-life effects. (Yeah, I know, I’m Captain Obvious.)

  162. @Snarkysmachine – I’ve wondered that myself … although anyone of any race can be a natural brunette with brown eyes. So is it just a way to underscore the light haired, light eyed people?

    Another thought just occurred to me – the only other people who seem to care about hair/eye color are the folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Were early personal ads trying to recreate the DL “data” (including height, weight, race)? I don’t know. In any case, it’s out-dated and pointless. Even on Driver’s Licenses. I meant, wtf, our photos have been on them for several generations now.

    All this is to say I think the hair/eye info that is nearly universal on personal ad sites is useless. While I’m sure there are some people who will only date a blonde or a redhead, etc. I bet most people care more to see a photo. And in my experience, hetero women on these dating sites care more about things like facial hair and level of sports addiction, but you have to specify THAT stuff in those free form boxes.

  163. Starling – w00t. I have rereading the work of Gordon Patzer, who while not really discussing the racial implications of the beauty standard, does really talk about the “halo effect” and what that looks like for people in a very real sense.

    He does seem to approach the idea of beauty from that magic ratio thingie, so when I sought to call him out about what appeared to me as some rather narrow views on this (and sent a picture) he analysed my picture (and a bit of my content) and that helped me expand my thoughts around beauty enough so I was a lot more aware about the way some of my own heritage has given me “markers” of attractiveness that are easy for me to dismiss merely because they happen to be on a brown face.

  164. I’m sure this has all been said before, and far more eloquently.

    Based on my own experiences: As a white woman, when I fail to examine/acknowledge my white privilege I risk aligning myself on the side of oppression, and I am possibly acting out a trauma bond.

    I can think of many examples, but I don’t know how to talk about my white privilege without trivializing the tragedies of racism, without sounding like a gloating or arrogant pig, and without whining over this bullshit *burden* of privilege. In other words, without making my listener (and myself) sick at heart.

    One example. I have lived my whole life without believing I am attractive—at least by any social/cultural standards of beauty. As a teenager I came to believe that those standards are narrow, oppressive, unnatural, and robotic. Yet I fell in love with women who were white and athletic (not “athletic” as in thin, but athletic as in strong and powerful.)

    What I believe about my own appearance (or what I believe about cultural standards of beauty) doesn’t change the fact that I experience white privilege. This is a small part of the insidiousness of privilege. You don’t even have to ask for it, expect it, or recognize it. You get it anyway.

  165. @cassandrasays – re age, it was my experience, too, that men would write me even though they fell out of my declared parameters. I did not write to people whose parameters did not include me. I figured, if they say, “I don’t want a girl taller than this or fatter than this or this race or under this income, or with less than this education, etc.” then they don’t want me and I don’t want them! But a lot of men didn’t seem to think this way. I would frequently get emails from much older men – like 10+ years older than the top of my age range! Other things, too. Like distance, and personality, and interests. I would get excited to receive a message, then read it and think, “Did this guy even READ my ad?”

  166. @CassandraSays Although funny you mention the non looks stuff

    I have found that I am absurd about it. I have a work-colleague who’s got some little motor-mannerisms that are semi-frequent in my family. I know very little about this person. I have a bit of prosopagnosia. The result being that I not only can’t tell you anything about him, I do not even recognize him if he is sitting still, but the instant he starts to move and display those mannerisms my lizard brain goes ga-ga for him: “You must be my cousin! I love you! I want to share my food with you and clobber any hyena that may attempt to nibble you!” I think this is very creepy and hope the poor guy hasn’t noticed.

  167. @hsofia – Yep, I’ve had the same experience. The top end of my age range listed on OK Cupid is 45. I once recieved a message from a man in his early 60s. I am 36. I’m not sure if they don’t bother to read profiles or if they just assume that hey, who cares what the woman wants? Certainly they seem to ignore any indications that they aren’t what a woman is looking for, which just seems like classic male privilege. I don’t know any women who’d contact men who’s specified preferences clearly exclude them.

    Also a lot of men just don’t seem to put much effort into the whole process. I got one recently that just said “Do you like Italian food? You look like an Italian food kind of girl. Want to meet up?”. Note that my profile lists a ton of food that I love, since I’m a pretty hardcore foodie, and none of it is Italian.

  168. I would go out on a limb and say once straight males on dating sites fall in “love” with the picture they merely scan the profile to make sure there isn’t some “scarecrow” that completely turns them off. They don’t really scan to see if they meet your stated needs, only if you meet theirs.

    Another one of OKC’s – and I don’t mean to beat up on them as there is plenty of blame to go around, it’s just the site I have experience with – trend reports demonstrated that 2/3 of the men chase the same 1/3 of the women, which based on my assessments are:

    white, thin, conventionally attractive, bi 24 y/o without kids, who appear to be abled and don’t seem to be overt spammers or scammers.

  169. My friend Barbie and I ran an experiment where we changed her age to 24, and didn’t list her kids (she has four) but we ran a current picture (with a my space-y angle) and within a day she had over 80 responses.

    The catch:

    Her profile was pretty much blank, with the exception of noting that she was a chain smoker who drank often.

    In sifting through the responses we were amazed by ones from men who listed they did not want smokers or drinkers as mates.

  170. I actually have a friend meeting that description who’s on OKC. She says most of the messages she gets are either from men her father’s age or the male halves of couples asking if she’d like to come help to spice up their sex lives.

    Most men on dating sites seem to be straight-up projecting an entire personality, history, and potential relationship onto photos that catch their interest. I’ve gotten letters that are basically elaborate fantasies with a whole personality and set of life goals (mine) that they claim to be able to tell just from looking at a picture. Also the urge to ethnically profile people seems to be endemic – I got one a few weeks ago who messaged me out of the blue and the opening line was “Are you French? You look French, but like that North African mixed kind of French, like Isabel Adjani.” How one would identify a person’s ethnicity that specifically just by looking at a picture is a mystery apparently only known to the assholes of OKC.

  171. @snarkysmachine, RE Barbie experiment – Yep, that sounds familiar too. I’ve gotten multiple messages from men where their listed age range ends well below my actual age. As in, they’ll specify 18-25, and I’m 36. Which pretty much proves that they don’t read the profiles before contacting women.

  172. Ha! My suspicions confirmed. A lot of these dudes (most?) don’t read the ads. Okay. At least I know it wasn’t just me. Note, I never used OKCupid (I felt I was too boring for it), but did use Match.com and one or two other big ones.

  173. @hsofia – The best part of OKC is that there’s a percentage match thingy with the categories Friend and Enemy. It’s not uncommon to have men pop up with the little bar on the top reading something along the lines of “95% Enemy. 2% Friend”. I mean, clearly they’re contacting women with whom they assume they’ll have a deep emotional connection and lots of things in common, right?

  174. I’m sad to say that I read the article and all the comments and the only thing that absolutely gobsmacked me was that people rent designer handbags. I’m ashamed that such an inconsequential item of trivia stuck out for me so much more than the very serious subjects at hand. I’m part of the problem and I feel ashamed, and I realize that even just accepting the status quo to whatever extent I do (I’m not even sure how much and in what ways I do, I’ve only ever been me) makes me part of the problem.

  175. Thank you for this post. I really appreciate it and the comments.

    . . .I’ve become a whole lot less tolerant of “preferences” talk. Technically, I do believe they exist, but more often than not that theme is (ab)used to get away with racist tendencies and/or racial issues.

    And it irritates me in another way because I personally have been attracted to, crushed on, and dated people who have violated a good amount of my physical preferences, so I can’t wrap my mind around those that needs next to all of there preferences met before they can deign to date someone.

  176. My “preference” test goes as followed:

    can this be true of any person regardless of race, gender, size, ability status, etc?

    Then, for me it’s a preference

    For example:
    I like people who like Chabon. preference
    I like skinny, white hipster dudes in eyeliner who like Chabon. prejudice.

    You’ve just knocked me out of the running (leaving aside sexual preference). Now that’s just wrong!

  177. Cassandra – ha. I remember guys with 88% enemy, no profile info and no pic sending me messages. I never knew what to make of their interest.

    And any dude who matched me too much – say over 80% – I assumed just blew through the questions in order to get to teh ladiez, approximating answers that would make him attractive to those “hot bi babes” or whatever.

  178. @snarkysmachine – I’ve literally gotten messages from men who show up at 98% enemy. How is that even possible? Who are these people, and why do they think women who they have nothing in common with will want to meet them for sex?

    OTOH I recently found a guy who’s a 99% match, who’s super cute (to me), and who I can’t find a single non-appealing thing about, and he seems to be totally legit. Any now I’m psyching myself out about saying hi, even though I know he won’t make the first move, because his profile clearly states that he’s too shy to do so.

  179. Re Iago:

    “It would be redundant to point out that men are ignorant pigs.” I think that’s a terrible thing to say.

    Also, in response to the responders to Iago: I don’t think you have to be an “idiot” to “believe” in evolutionary psychology – as a discipline it is controversial but it is not without merit. It does a reasonable job in some situations of telling you where your biases might be. That doesn’t mean those biases are okay.

    Every human society ever documented engages in favouring in-group over out-group individuals. That tells us that it’s probably not 100% cultural behaviour – there seems to be an innate human tendency to do this. Culture might decide the criteria on which we split people up into these groups. But NONE of that makes it okay or right. Natural =/= right or good. Human beings are concious animals and nature is what we were put on this earth to rise above.

  180. When I was active on OKC, I used to message black women sometimes, but not as often as I messaged white men. I hope that’s mainly to do with the fact that there are a lot more straight men than queer women in the world, and a lot more white people than POC on the site (though definitely not in the world!), but it might also show that I’m subconsciously racist. I certainly turned down a lot more white men (lots and lots and lots) than WOC (none).

    Similarly if I look at people I’ve actually dated, it’s two definitely white men, two arguably white men and one arguably white woman. If I’m going to go looking for racism in that, I think it’s most likely connected to who is part of my social circle; there are a lot more white people than POC who come into the category of being the sort of people I’m likely to date. I’m not aware of any specific preference for white men, but I do have a strong preference for people who have common interests with me and move in the same circles. And it’s not a complete random fluke that those people are predominantly white (and more often male than female).

    I have on multiple occasions made the mistake of not policing my boundaries enough when creepy men approach me, if those men happen to be Middle Eastern or black. Instead of following my instinct that this guy is just getting his jollies from making women feel sexually intimidated (as I would with white men in similar circumstances), I correct myself and think, well, maybe that’s a racist prejudice, maybe he’s just being friendly and perhaps coming from different cultural norms from me. And of course my first instinct is always right and my corrected second guess is always wrong *sigh*. Don’t know what I can / should do about that.

  181. Re: Blondes

    I am starting to get over a dislike of blonde hair and the reasons I’m coming up with as why I never liked it before are really stupid but made sense to my 10-18 year old mind. The holocaust made me feel like having a preference for blonde blue eyed people would make me a nazi so I went the opposite. Also, I’ve often noted people liking blondes over other people and I think it made me kind of bitter towards them. That’s what I’ve come up with, and it makes me feel like younger me didn’t think very much, which is probably the long and short of it.

    I like Snarky’s test for preference, and I’m going to steal it, though preference is such a silly thing at times regardless of whether it’s about personality or looks. We can never really know what it is that’s going to make us swoon.

  182. Cassandrasays, I wholeheartedly agree– a large percentage of the people who contacted me on dating sites had not read my profile. What else could possibly explain the right-wingers who messaged? Or the people who had very specific parameters about race and income when I clearly noted in my profile they should not contact me if that were the case? At the time it hadn’t occured to me, but now I can see that if one isn’t even going to bother to read the profiles, it’s even more likely that race or hair color or eye color will become a crucial factor, given that for some it must be THE ONLY THING NOTED (whether consciously or no) before getting in touch.

    I was never able to pinpoint why it would make me so mad when that would happen, or why it infuriated me when someone would, say, send me no message, but only an attached picture of his 4-wheeler and expect a response (wtf?), or why I would feel so furious when someone got pissy for me not responding to him. . .I have come to realize by reading this post and these comments that I was having a gut reaction to their sense of entitlement–as white, cis, straight, able males, we women were supposed to fawn with no effort on their part. (And I say that while learning to recognize the privilege that I was experiencing, at the same time.)

    (Quick funny: one guy who was mad because I didn’t respond to him changed his headline to “The redhead is a moran.” I reported him for abuse. And bad spelling. And the fact that he brought to mind Erin Moran, so I had the Happy Days theme stuck in my head all day.)

  183. @aliciamaud74 – Why does that remind me of those people who, when losing an argument on the Internet, respond with YEAH WELL YOU’RE A LOOSER. Um, I think you meant to say “loser”, dumbass, and yes, I am duly chastened.

  184. Hey, all, I like the unpacking of “why I have found myself with certain preferences as an adult” talk, but can we avoid actually listing the things we like or dislike (i.e., here’s why I’ve always disliked blondes, here’s why I love African American faces)? Even with the unpacking, to me at least it’s very unpleasant to read specific physical characteristics assessed as though they aren’t attached to people. I know that’s not the intention, but I think we can still have this discussion without making those kinds of statements.

  185. I fell asleep last night before I got around to hammering out an addendum to my comment, but it did occur to me that, since society really smacks or favors women according to their adherence to the beauty standard, and men get some passes, my internalized markers of attractiveness for women may be a much bigger deal than what I actually find teh sexay. Since I’m not sexually interested in women, I think that the hard-wiring I’m dealing with is cultural, and probably easier to actively challenge.

    There are some things that men get smacked for (the strong preference for height, and extreme instead of average height, is pretty rough for men), but I think there’s generally less crap associated with being a less-attractive man than a less-attractive woman. Men’s social purpose is generally not considered to be decorative. Women? Hah. We are. I bet that carries over–I know that carries over–into my socially-conditioned responses. What else is body snarking and the mental hot-or-not rating?

    I hate it when I notice that The Patriarchy has taken over my mind.

  186. In fact, at every opportunity, The Patriarchy sneaks in where I live and EATS MY BRAINS. My own personal zombie problem. I wonder if the local extension office has pest control advice?

  187. The patriarchy made me eat hot dogs for breakfast again! Nevertheless, it’s always good to be mindful of the way in which we unpack stuff in public spaces. Nobody really should be subjected to a sackful of period chonies.

  188. Though honestly, I don’t know who they think they’re fooling. Better to come out and state “No WOCs or Fatties” so people can quickly side step them and find someone actually worth their time.

    Indeed. I see “athletic”, I’m thinking Ironman, maxing the pump and whatnot. Also, “whoa, hiking twice or thrice a week, huh? Well, I don’t mind trying something new…bear with me if I get winded occasionally.” but uh, alas, nope. I was on a niche dating site a while back, so I know how that goes.

    @perla: jive turkey goes with everything, but I like to switch up every now and again. self-aggrandizing, jackoffish jive dodos would be more applicable for this “chain of tools” (hey, another song on the set list! Synchronize lighters!) but that’s neither here nor there.

  189. @snarksmachine: I don’t wish to derail. For some future time, perhaps?–a discussion about privilege/racism/intersectionality in the realm of health/health care/the business of medicine? Or a link? Thanks! I really appreciate your perspective.

  190. Those responses were infuriating to read–not that they were unexpected, I guess, and not that you did not (and do not always) situate them well.

    I haven’t read all the comments, and I don’t totally want to change the topic, but I was curious–last Sunday I heard an interview on the radio with a woman whose name I can’t find now, she’s a media studies prof (I think–I came in late). But the interviewer (Teri Gross?) asked her how portrayals of African American women had changed over the years and the professor basically said that while black women are no longer portrayed as “Mammy” or “Prissy” the roles that they are given now are still somehow in the “Mammy/Prissy” dichotomy vein: supportive, maternal, no-nonsense, wise, or clueless, helpless, actively disempowered–she pointed to Halle Berry as having won an oscar (triumph!) but for a role that reinforced certain of these stereotypes (fail.).

    So I’ve been thinking for the last two days about mainstream movies with black female actors and I can’t think of a single RomCom or blockbuster with an African American leading lady who does not ultimately fit the “mammy” thing. I don’t get out much, though. What do y’all think, any help?

    I don’t think this is totally irrelevant–after all, where do we get rid of these ingrained ‘birds of a feather’/’fairer is finer’ notions if not through influencing the exposure of alternatives in our culture? But I guess the idea is that maybe interracial dating wouldn’t be so “unthinkable” to the dating site guys if movies and media were more representative.

  191. IrishUp,

    I did not mean that making everyone as objectified and stereotyped would be superior. I just wanted to point that it is the trend. I too would prefer a system where we were not as victimized, but I am at a loss as to how we move towards it.

    amy,
    You wrote that many men might not be attracted to women with darker skin because of a ‘combination of a stereotype of African American women as self-confident and non-submissive, and a feeling of being threatened by any woman who is not submissive. In other words, “I know you’re not going to put up with the usual crap I deal out to women, and that scares me, so I can’t find you attractive.’

    I’m sure there is some of that. But I suspect a lot of the problem is visually superficial instead of culturally superficial. Black women often don’t conform to the entertainment industry’s norms for beautiful facial features. They are less worried about staying thin. They are also less worried about staying thin as they age. So a superficial guy who probably doesn’t even question his belief that he is right to control women at all is more likely to reject a black woman because she doesn’t look like Britney Spears, she’s fat, or he thinks she is more likely to get fat as she ages.

    Also, the stereotype of black women as generally more independent and less submissive is not accurate. I work for a company that conducts medical research, and the percentage of black women who are victims of serious domestic violence is heart-wrenching and staggering. Sadly, many more women of all skin tones than you would think put up with abuse.

  192. Addendum to the post above. The sentence fragment “I too would prefer a system where we were not as victimized” was meant to be “I too would prefer a system where we ALL were not as victimized”. I wasn’t trying to make a “white man’s woe” statement.

  193. You know, I used to give people a pass when they’d say: “I don’t date ___ person. It’s just a preference, you know. Like hair color . . .” But then I paused for one moment. Because, really, there’s a fairly wide variance in brown hair color as it is, let alone all Asian people (South? East?), black (AA? Caribbean? African?), Hispanic (Mexican? Cuban? Argentinian . . . and let’s not forget that black is frequently a subset there, too). So, even if we put aside the fact that the system of privilege coalesces to form a very specific white ideal of beauty, you still have the problem that the very reductionism that allows a person to state that all Others are one thing and Whites (or other acceptable Others) are yet another is racist.

    But I agree with others that OKC is a cesspool. If memory serves, while you can remove people of various ages/races/religions from your search, such things are not actually noted on your profile (besides “No blacks at the drinking fountain!” would really destroy white liberal cred, so I almost don’t expect people to be honest about that in the way they might be about size). Fairly early on, I learned not to write to people, but let them write to me instead and I can’t lie. I got a lot of responses. Most fit into these charming categories 1) tourists (as mentioned above by others), 2) couples looking for a third, 3) poly person in dominant partnership(s) looking for occasional partner/fuck buddy, 4) men who said “You’re crazy but I’d do you anyway” and 5) guys looking indiscriminately for a breeder (I’m fairly certain one was using form letters because he wrote to me more than once saying the exact same thing without any acknowledgment that he’d written to me before). And, of course, to add insult to injury, my experience was much like the ladies above — a lot of responses from people who were, according to the algorithm, piss poor matches for me. Not all of them, of course. Some of the people who were delightfully open about *only* wanting to screw me were high percentage matches which means we had a lot in common but they only wanted me for my body. So were some of the people who *were not* open about about only wanting to screw me. But, after three horrible medium-termish relationships and two short flings, I decided I was tired of being the “colored glory hole” entry on liberal white men’s bucket list, because it became apparent over time that even the men to whom I’d originally given the benefit of the doubt didn’t actually deserve the pass. So, yeah. I gave up because I turned to the internet because I wanted to *date* and potentially get involved in a long-term relationship, but realized that wasn’t really in the cards for me.

    Oh, wait. So this has a happy ending, right? I’m actually dating someone I met through the site. We met. We did not start dating. We were friends for quite some time. Eventually I made the move on him. That’s good, right? Except that this past weekend I spent a lot of time turning these very issues over. It was interesting to me to see the number of women who, in discussing the V size issue (not necessarily here, I read quite a few comment threads on it so I couldn’t say with certainty whose readers these were) said even though they knew self confidence had to come from within part of what made them feel beautiful was hearing their partners tell them they were beautiful.

    And it occurred to me. The only man in my life who has ever told me I was beautiful (not in the form of a catcall, “Now with more lewdness!”) was a stranger who caught up to me after I had exited the train. He was a model for how all strange men who have any wish to interact with women they don’t know. He was calm, deferential and polite. He didn’t attempt to invade my space. He said to me: “I just wanted to let you know that you look beautiful today.” He smiled and, just as quickly was gone. It is, of course, tempting to say that beauty isn’t everything and not everyone needs to be beautiful, or even pretty and I do agree. But when you’re in a body that is consistently written as fuckable as opposed to beautiful, it eventually gets to you, because who we consider beautiful vs. fuckable says a lot about who we value in our society. And it’s not singularly that men only want to screw me but not date me or, if they deem themselves liberal enough to date me, not introduce me to their parents or contemplate anything deeper. It’s also that look when I show up for job interviews (hints to Lakeisha’s and Howard attendees: don’t bother, we all know what’s being screened for and it’s *not* your name or your college or what those say about you other than the fact that you’re ______), ex-coworkers petting me like I’m a frelling dog without asking me for permission (as if I’d give it), people running me off the sidewalk like I don’t exist, calling me unfeminine even though when I had a job I pretty much lived in heels and dresses and have long (curly) hair . . .

  194. I’m a little uncomfortable with the degree to which Mike S is speaking for women, in such statements as “[WOC] are less worried about staying thin. They are also less worried about staying thin as they age,” and that “Sadly, many more women of all skin tones than you would think put up with abuse.

    Really? “put up with”? I’m not sure what more to say, as I don’t like to get too judgmental on people right out of the box. I think this language and POV bear looking at, though.

  195. Mike S.; I think you should engage the First Rule of Holes, ASAP.

    This right here
    “Sadly, many more women of all skin tones than you would think put up with abuse.”

  196. errrg! Sry for the break.

    Even if your other stuff wasn’t full of serious problems – which it is – that statement is just gobsmackingly fucked-up.

  197. @Mike – not trying to pick on you, but “Black women often don’t conform to the entertainment industry’s norms for beautiful facial features. They are less worried about staying thin. They are also less worried about staying thin as they age.” I disagree! I think we are told this, but black women worry about these things often.

    @Dalcyanne – There are a lot of contemporary African American movies that I haven’t seen so I’m not the best person to respond to your question. However, I was surprised to watch Alien vs. Predator and find one of my favorite actresses, Sanaa Lathan, playing THE hero of the movie. I have an inexplicable fondness for the first Predator movie (seen 25+ times) so this made me very happy.

    I don’t think it was a blockbuster, though. There are very few black women starring as leading ladies in blockbusters. Tyler Perry is the only one I know of making AA “blockbusters,” but he reinforces a lot of stereotypes (altho his movies are well-loved by many AAs I know). Star Trek is the only recent blockbuster I can think of with a black leading lady (Zoe Saldana).

  198. Snarkysmachine: RNigade is there a specific issue – organ transplants, mental health, health disparities, advocacy – that you’d me to focus on?

    You (and many others) might like to look at Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk http://www.truthaboutnursing.org/savinglives/ which looks to be much about sexism in the health care profession.

  199. MikeS: “Also, the stereotype of black women as generally more independent and less submissive is not accurate. I work for a company that conducts medical research, and the percentage of black women who are victims of serious domestic violence is heart-wrenching and staggering”

    I agree that the stereotype isn’t accurate — in the first place, because it’s a racist generalization, and in the second place because women from all backgrounds vary a great deal in how deferential they are to men; there is surely much more variance within ethnic groups than between them. I’m not sure how that connects to domestic violence, though; I don’t know if there’s any correlation between submissiveness/assertiveness and liklihood of finding oneself in a violent relationship. At any rate, I think a lot of people do have that stereotype, and it could account for some men’s avoidance of dating AA women. I was thinking in particular of some of the commenters saying that Black women are mean or angry or violent; that could be “code” for “Black women are assertive, and I don’t like that.”

  200. Mike, no woman is abused because she’s too submissive and not independent enough. She’s abused because some asshole abuser is hurting her. She doesn’t stay because she’s not strong enough to leave. She stays because the asshole abuser uses a combination of physical, psychological and economic threats to convince her that to leave would hurt much more than to stay. (Not to mention the use of hostages–children and pets.)

    One of the most effective tools of this sort of psychological warfare is to blame it on the victim: If she just got it right, he wouldn’t hurt her. The victim buys into this, and into the idea that love and violence can coexist, partially because the dominant culture supports and endorses these ideas.

    When you blame the victim for not being “independent” enough to leave, or for “putting up with” abuse you are propagandizing for the abuser. That’s inappropriate in any space, but particularly here.

  201. In sifting through the responses we were amazed by ones from men who listed they did not want smokers or drinkers as mates.

    . . . yeah. I’ve encountered, repeatedly, men whose kink appears to be changing the women they date. I’m not sure if it’s me that attracts those few men, or if it just becomes explicit because we talk more explicitly about turn-ons/goals before meeting than most people, but I’ve definitely encountered a lot of “you’ll change X in the future for me.”

    It’s usually been presented to me as though I should be flattered that they’ll settle for me until I fix myself for them, but it triggers my control issues, so I usually dump the jerk preemptively. Sometimes this revolves around weight, but drinking, fashion sense, masturbation, TV/reading preferences, and liking of children have also played a role. I’ve noticed that the trend is always for me to alter my behavior to become more feminine/mainstream rather than less.

    So my guess is that a lot of men didn’t read the profile, and a reasonable number figured that your friend was just that hot that they’d catch her after she brushed her teeth and before she blacked out, and a few more thought “I can change that.”

    I noticed this first on kink sites, but once I noticed it there, I recognized the behavior in mainstream approaches, too. Sadly, I haven’t run any Very Scientific Research, so I’m not sure if this is an anomaly or not.

  202. re: “black women care less about gaining weight meme”

    ROFL. *deadpan* Seriously, that stereotype needs to die in a fire. Please, tell this to my, my mom, my previous roommate, my mom’s coworkers, (etc) weight complexes that we are, in fact, actually okay about gaining weight, because that would be freakin awesome. I need all the body acceptance I can get (one reason why I love this blog).

    Seriously, because that would have been very helpful for my recent jeans shopping and resulting emotional breakdown from having to re-size myself.

  203. I’ve been trying to come up with a folk-song addition to the Back Hair Aide Concert, and I’m struggling to do better than “Back is the Location of My True Love’s Hair,” the companion tune to the old folk song and also sideways Nina Simone “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” tribute.

  204. My favorite male-privilege-in-the-personals story was the 55yo guy who contacted me. I looked over his profile and noticed that his preferred age range was 25-40 (I was 38 at the time). He also stated that he did NOT want children. Back in my internet dating days I always checked to see what the person’s profile said about age and ethnicity preferences and would not respond to anyone who limited themselves to very young women, or only women of certain ethnicities since racism or entitlement are deal-breakers for me.

    So, normally I would have just blown this guy off, but I was in a mood, so I emailed him back and told him that even if I would have been attracted to him otherwise, I was utterly turned off by the fact that he was ruling out women even close to his own age. He replied and said that I had a point, but that he wanted a younger woman because he might want to have children. He then went on to tell me that he found my photo very attractive and really admired my sharp mind (apparently being able to subtract 40 from 55 is what passes for sharp in his world). I did email him back to point out the contradiction about wanting/not wanting children and never heard from him again, but he did change his profile to say that he wanted kids. My guess is that he in fact never wanted kids, but didn’t want to get called out on his blatant ageism again. Blech.

  205. snarkys, thanks for this great article. I wrote a one-million word comment but really, a thanks is more in order.

    Thanks also to the comments of members who jumped on the evo psychology bullshit that so often comes up in these discussions.

    I also appreciated hsofia’s insights about life with her daughter.

    I’ve been interested also to read the testimonies of women partnered with racist/sizeist/etc. partners.

  206. Rachael: While evolutionary psych does actually have some uses, I still hold that the first person to use it in an argument loses, because they’re not usually bringing it up in order to examine the primordial roots of beliefs, behaviors, or inclinations, and attempt to rigorously determine how much comes from cultural influences. They’re bringing it up to justify reprehensible behavior or attitudes. Therefore, they lose, and are also (as I said above) huge fucking jackasses. (I am not, by the way, calling you a huge fucking jackass. But Iago was one, and Act was getting awfully close with his postulations that attraction is genetically determined.)

  207. Sadly, many more women of all skin tones than you would think put up with abuse.

    Shut the fuck up please.

  208. Mike S, your privilege is showing. It’s showing a LOT.

    “Black women often don’t conform to the entertainment industry’s norms for beautiful facial features. They are less worried about staying thin. They are also less worried about staying thin as they age.”

    First of all, who are you to say what black women worry about? You are NOT a black woman, so please do not try to come out here and explain what we black women want, need or worry about. That is NOT your place, so please, sit the hell down and STFU.

    That being said, yes, black women DO worry about being thin. Eating disorders in black women are often ignored because privileged folks think that black women are all proud of their “thickness” and all that other bullshit that has us fit the ghetto standard of beauty, which is really nothing more than an exploitative standard for which we are forced into.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/thin/minorities.html

    And we do worry about conforming to industry norms. Know why? Because it is those same norms that strip us of femininity. It is those norms that place us in the contradicting trichotomy of the Mammy/Jezebel/Sapphire stereotypes that people place on us. Black women are the only race who is seen as “unrapeable.” People think that because we are the scary angry animals (Sapphire), or the fat and ugly darky (Mammy), nobody will want to fuck us, but if it does happen, it’s because black women are just horny sluts who give it up to everyone (Jezebel). Like someone said above, no matter what we do, we won’t fit the standard of beauty because we cannot change our skin color.

  209. I love it. We’ve got Real! Live! Black! Women! talking about our experiences, and here’s some dude telling us what we really fucking care about.

    Um. No.

    You can tell us, “It seems to you that X is true.”

    And we can tell you how wrong you are.

    But you don’t get to tell us what we do and don’t care about. Read some books, please.

  210. I always keep in mind, whenever it comes to any kind of evolutionary anything, this little fact: All the fossil evidence we have for hominids from Africa before there were one-species-but-one-away-from-human-hominids? All those fossils? The whole record? Would fit on a pool table.

    Paleoanthropologists make arguments about speciation based, say, on the evidence of one fossilized molar. These are arguments made with physical evidence. And it’s about, essentially, taxonomy and classifying physical features. We’re not even in the territory of what those physical features can tell us about behavior.

    I mean, you can figure out some things, right? Like “this animal has teeth consistent with X kind of diet.” But evo-psych “the earliest humans thought or did this or that?” And “humans today like or prefer this or that because our earliest ancestors did this or that?” I just think “what you can honestly say looking at the fossils is restricted by the record.” So what can you say about the behavior that the animal that became a fossil was up to?

    Some of the “our earliest ancestors did X which is why we do X” should read “we do X and therefore we think our ancestors did, too. And oh, yeah, the variation in human behavior across the world and across cultures is *so* varied, I should check that “we” while I am at it. Because I what I really mean by “we” is “me.”

  211. EXACTLY, eli. Privilege is a hell of a thing isn’t it? It allows the people who have it to tell the people who don’t what their priorities are or should be, without ever having to live the life of the person who they are condescendingly speaking of.

  212. Plus, with evolution, just having a characteristic does not mean it was selected for, or that it serves a primary purpose. We have all kind of sub-par and extraneous bits, variations that don’t mean much, genes that are really weird, etc. The bodies we have is NOT some sort of expression of the highest awesomeness (see knees, design of).

    Also, you can’t just talk about theoretical genetics in evo psych – if you’re going to posit evolution, you need to actually talk about actual evolution, which requires selection on the basis of these characteristics. Unless there’s selection on the basis of the theoretical characteristic, it’s hard to talk about its role in evolution. So not only are you saying “we’re hard-wired to like body ratio x:z”, you’re also saying “because people who didn’t tended to die out (genetically and/or socially).” That’s a really hard claim to back up, especially since it’s been awhile since humans experienced the kind of necessary population pressure to do much species-wide gene selection.

  213. Er, instead of “die out genetically and/or socially”, that should have just read “genetically: which could be literal death or just lack of procreation”. Yeah.

  214. @snarkysmachine: Your posts & this conversation are making me think about other ways that POC are continuously harmed by white privilege & racism & sexism & other socially constructed forms of oppression that exist because people of privilege continue to create them and recreate them and give our support to oppression like blind asshats. I’m sorry. I’m really angry/sad right now. It’s not your problem, I know. I’m thinking about all the fucking white privilege and racism I tried to wade through in nursing school, how hard it was to get through to students (and even profs), most of whom have always had advantages, medical insurance, easy access to medications & treatments and healthy/abundant food…and how most of these nurses (me too, too often) couldn’t see our own privileges & couldn’t see the ways in which socially constructed privileges intersect with health status, economic status, level of experience with stress/trauma/violence, access to care, and so forth. And the attitude of begrudgement, like it would be fucking charity or social injustice to “provide the underserved” (translation *undeserving*) with full access…and how *scarce* *our* medical *resources* supposedly are (like health care= fucking trees on private property), how *our* resources need to be allocated carefully…blah blah blah.

    Look, I’m not in search of a prize for caring. I’m sorry if I sound like a born again liberal, gonna swoop in and save all the poor POC. There’s just a lot of ugly stuff bubbling to the surface in me right now, some of it that I swallowed too often to get through school. I apologize for veering off into my own little world of silent rage right now and for acting like a really privileged blanketyblank. In the midst of some scary setbacks in life, I had conveniently begun denying my privilege–again–and then I started reading your comments and posts…

    I’m gonna go away for a little bit, now, and i shall STFU (insert embarassed grin), and collect myself, and do some more digging around, and find better focus.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the life line. Didn’t even realize i was drowning…

  215. @ Snarkysmachine and @ Other Becky: I completely agree that when combined with the sort of mansplaining and justification of “preferences”, Evolutionary Psyche becomes the justification for behaviour that is odious and destructive. Those who do this surely deserve our condemnation!

  216. I’m always interested in these kinds of web posts because they usually end up not being about racism or privilege but a whole lot of non Black people enthusiastically making disaster porn out of Black women’s suffering and misery laden lives. Or something like that.

  217. RNigade – yeah I don’t know how to dismantle a system that basically stuffs four years of learning into a 2 year technical degree and expects to produce fully competent and nuanced professionals. People scoff a very mention of nursing theory & practice as it relates to health disparities as though it is some big unnecessary burden that only PhD research nurses ought to trouble themselves with. But go into any hospital and you’ll find some otherwise good people working in nursing whose lack of examination and understanding of privilege/oppression and how it contributes to their standard of care is down right dangerous.

  218. Thanks snarkysmachine. You nailed it. Except I graduated from a 4 yr B.S. program and it was still a horrible battle to try and have a rational conversation about health disparities, for example. I wanted to walk away so many times, and I got branded as a trouble maker (imagine that) for always hammering the status quo. Any posts here connected with any of the topics you mentioned (advocacy, health disparities, etc) will be much appreciated. Thanks again.

  219. I’m thinking of the escalating irritation I felt when doing online dating when I came across countless male profiles that concluded with “No baggage please.” It pissed me off to think that if this was someone I was going to start a relationship with, he was going to make it clear right from the beginning that I was to have history or emotion or unresolved conflict prior to meeting him.

    Seconded.

    I came across a “how to write an appealing dating profile” article a year or two after I dropped the online dating thing and LOL’d because I had, apparently, broken every rule of how not to ‘scare’ a man off.

    I had thought a direct “I want X things in life, I do not want Y things in life, do not contact me if we don’t agree on these basic topics, kthx” would be, ah, *appreciated* as I wouldn’t be wasting anyone’s time. But, no, apparently you’re not supposed to say things like that because saying you don’t want to deal with XYZ means YOU HAVE BAGGAGE!! From a previous relationship! OH NOES!

    Proper human beings, of course, enter all new relationships baggage-free.

  220. “I’m always interested in these kinds of web posts because they usually end up not being about racism or privilege but a whole lot of non Black people enthusiastically making disaster porn out of Black women’s suffering and misery laden lives. Or something like that.”

    Hmm.

    The response to this may be interesting.

  221. RNigade, I know exactly what you mean. I’m a RN student myself, and I absolutely cannot stand the amount of privilege I have be slapped in the face with whenever I go to class. These teachers act as if racism is some distant and insignificant object that doesn’t happen these days. And the students are middle class and have never experienced true poverty. And nine times out of ten, I end up becoming the National Spokesperson for Black People and Poverty, since I’m most likely the only PoC and the only person who actually has experience with being on welfare.

    One of the instructors said out loud with a smile on her face:

    “Just imagine…when I was younger, most of us didn’t even meet our first PoC until I got to high school!!!! Isn’t that just unfathomable????”

    I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream so loudly at her “THIS STILL HAPPENS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Another time, I had to argue with a student who, when speaking of national health care, went:

    “Why should I have to pay for people who don’t get off their butts and work for their money? Most people on welfare don’t even work, they just welch off the system.”

    I told her my situation, and she quickly got quiet and backed down. Another student thanked me for speaking up after the class was over. Privilege hurts us. And because people aren’t willing to examine their privilege, it continues to hurt us. But of course, ignorance is bliss….

  222. @ Littleem: It usually ends up this way. Non-black people with privilege usually ask “Please, tell us about your struggle….”

    And we tell them, and it’s the stuff they don’t want to hear. They start to feel uncomfortable, but instead of examining their privilege to aid in helping us, they say “But…I don’t understand??? WHY do you feel like this happened? Couldn’t it be something else???” to make themselves comfortable again.

    And then we look like “WHAT? We are telling you what you asked of us. Why are you telling us it could be something else????”

    Privileged: “Because it may not have been racism!!! It may have been *insert something completely random* instead”

    And it goes on and on until the black women get burned out and angry because of the prodding and bringing back up painful moments in our lives, and then it becomes a case of appeasing the Angry Black Women, which in turn solves nothing and puts us back into the same spot we’ve been in. Privilege still prevails, privileged people pat themselves on the back for being “progressive and understanding of black plight”, and black women are still seen in the same light as they were before. Nothing changes.

  223. I used to get a little upset that black women are “allowed” to be fat and I’m not. But in the last few months, since I’ve started actually thinking about racism (because I never needed to, hello privilege), I’ve also started hearing: “Well, obviously we can’t expect those black women to live up to normal (read: white) standards of beauty, so we’ll give them a pass on this one” underneath the idea that “black women are allowed to be fat.”

  224. That’s a fallacy, you know, the whole idea that “black women are allowed to be fat”.

    Black women have just as much pressure to be thin as white women. We’re not picnicking in the body image park over here.

    Some black men like fat black women, just like some white men like fat white women.

    Much the way it is in the white community, we’re “allowed” to be fat in socially acceptable ways. Tits and Ass.

    Sir Mix-A-Lot’s anthem wasn’t about loving fat women, it was about loving women who fit into an even stricter set of measurements than ever.

    I mean, it’s cool that you’re investigating your privilege and shit, but let’s be real.

    Black women live in the same world you do, getting the same messages about looks and size that you do.

    And the idea that we’re allowed to be fat, or that it’s easy to be a fat black woman, is, quite frankly, bullshit. And it’s ideas like that, that fuck over a lot of black women.

  225. PlusSizedFeminist, I’m really glad you spoke up in class. I might feel embarrassed when someone calls me on my privilege but sometimes it’s the only thing to shake me outta my trance of self centeredness & despair. Discrimination against fat people may end up having a weirdly twisted but ultimately enlightening result (me fantasizing wildly), just maybe providing more folks with their light bulb moments: “Hey, but what about racism and other kinds of oppression?” If only.

    O the bitter irony. I haven’t been able to muster up much hope for this world ever since our President got nominated & elected but then the nastiest brands of racism got louder and louder. I live in a very right-wing, socially unprogressive state, and the bullshit just keeps getting deeper and more offensive. I’m sad there has been so little progress in my lifetime.

    I can’t say I have much hope, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a miricle–which is strange because I’m not religious.

    Stay strong in school! We need enlightened brave nurses like you. Thank you for sharing about your experiences. It helps.

  226. I think black women who wish to me be mammyfied are “allowed” to be heavy, but if you actually wan to participate in life in a non stereotypical way you’re gonna have to dance with the one who brought you, so to speak.

    It’s never been “okay” for any female to be fat (in our current society) and like what Eli mentioned, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song wasn’t championing fat women, but women with hourglass shapes who also happened to have a shelf booty. In addition, I’m not apt to take any comfort having my status elevated at the cost of someone else being denigrated, “Knock kneed bimbos looking like hoes…”

  227. I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to imply that I still believe that now. Having a black friend with an eating disorder pretty well knocked that idea out of my head. The “black women are allowed to be fat” idea is hurtful in a lot of ways, including that it’s not actually true.

  228. I got a message once from someone who was listed as 100% enemy.

    To be fair, he acknowledged it. Still, “lol, 0% match! wanna chat?” is not a good way to get my attention. :)

  229. @ Littleem: EXACTLY LIKE THAT!!!!! It happens every single time without fail. And notice in the second link you posted, the black women posting came down HARD on the owner of the site, and many got burned out and simply left.

    I had this conversation with some white friends of mine about bell hooks’ book “Ain’t I a Woman,” and about the notion that black women are deemed”unrapeable” due to the Mammy/Sapphire/Jezebel trinity, and one guy kept going “but, PSF, you are a beautiful woman!!! I don’t see race when I look at you!!!”

    And I seriously looked at him and said “Yeah, but that isn’t the point. The point is that my body is seen as already conquered territory, so I have no value in this society, therefore I am not considered worth protecting. Femininity is not allocated to me or women of my race. I have to fight to be seen as a woman. I have to fight to show that I am vulnerable. I have to fight to show that I am not the Mammy/Jezebel/Sapphire. I have to fight to show I deserve to be treated like a HUMAN BEING.”

    He couldn’t grasp such a blunt and blatant explanation. It made him uncomfortable, it made him rethink his privilege as a white man, and he flat out told me “I don’t like this feeling.” I told him “Good, because this is a feeling I had to internalize all my life.”

    And that’s something people seem to forget. PoC have to learn how to get used to that feeling of being crushed under that privilege. That eats away at your SOUL. It really does. It’s painful, but we learn to deal with it. And when we have to bring that up, you better expect to feel a hellova lot of pain to be in those words you hear.

  230. He couldn’t grasp such a blunt and blatant explanation. It made him uncomfortable, it made him rethink his privilege as a white man, and he flat out told me “I don’t like this feeling.” I told him “Good, because this is a feeling I had to internalize all my life.”

    Totally. I never know how to not be snarky when someone expresses this sentiment to me. I just don’t. Also, when confronted with my own privilege I’m not apt to say, “Ewww yucky feelings. DO NOT WANT.” and attempt to toss them back at the person parting my mists, so to speak.

    I might not like having it pointed out to me, but I hopefully know better than to then assume folks are gonna need to carry their rage and my “hurt feelings” too.

  231. Obviously, the solution is for underprivileged people to stop being all rageful – and then those of us who feel icky about our privilege can stop feeling guilty!

    . . . it’s totally redundant to say that one of the markers of privilege is the expectation that people owe it to you to make you feel good about yourself, isn’t it? It’s really hard not to go in circles with this stuff. Note to people: If your entire world is suddenly not massaging your weary ego at every microsecond, and you’re outraged about it, that’s not a sign that the world is suddenly going horribly wrong – it’s your first clue that it’s already that way.

  232. ^^^^^^^Seriously. The above comments remind me of a time I was talking to a white man about racism and sexism. He said to me, a black woman, “I do not like talking about those things, because I do not like being made to feel bad about my sex or race.” Without irony, sarcasm or anything. *headdesk*

  233. Boy, this is the first time I’ve ever heard this shit about black women being “unrapeable” and it is making me so angry at this culture that I feel like finding a building to burn down. And, as a white woman, I have no idea where to start. (Not burning down buildings. In general. To combat a society where that sort of idea still has any cultural traction.)

    At least when I get all stabby about Rape Culture, I can write furious essays. As a white (privileged) person, I just do not know what the fuck to do about such a jaw-dropping, nauseating wrong, except to be really really angry at the world.

    Any non-arson-related ideas for practical action? Other than self-education, self-awareness, and personal attention to invidious racism, which is all good but not much practical value to anyone but me.

  234. @Starling – This thread is the first time I’m hearing about the unrape-able thing, too, and I’ve been black all my life. Oh, if only it were true!

  235. @MarcusWu – wow. Must be nice. That reminds me of a time when I was attending a workshop/lecture on racism within the latino culture, and the facilitator asked us to break up into groups according to how we racially self-identified. And this kind of jumpy white guy stood over with us black and brown folk, and declared that he had discovered and denounced his evil whiteness and was now one of us.

    Thinking about him … all I can say is that people are very interesting. Sometimes our behavior is a perfect reflection of some particular aspect of our society.

  236. We certainly don’t want anyone to feel badly about their race and gender, particularly if it in any way interferes with their right to waltz merrily unexamined through life.

  237. @MarcusWu: I seriously would have shot back, with a straight face:

    “Well members of your sex and race have done far worse things to people of my sex and race, so quite frankly, we are FAR from even with you feeling GUILTY about your racism and sexism.”

    I know that it would have not helped the situation any, but shit like that grinds my gears.

  238. I was born into a religion that only allowed white males to hold the priesthood. Supposedly, the church did not discriminate (in their minds) and I grew up with a grandmother (pillar of the church) who cackled with glee when she refused to rent to a PoC after hearing and “‘cipherin” his or her voice on the phone (of course she spoke her ugly N word). Shit like this happened all the time. But everyone around me kept telling me “Our church doesn’t discriminate”–with a straight face. Eventually, their ministry reached Brazil, where I lived for a decade during my youth. Ooooh, the church was vexed. What to do? What to do? How can anyone weed out non-whites with a population that is so diverse, so nuanced? How do you convert many men in major cities where non-whites are a minority? AHA! God will have the answer! And so of course there was a revelation…ALL men could now be priests. The convert rate soared and the tithing money poured in… Even “acceptance” is often about big business, big profit.

  239. Thank you for this post. I’m a white girl who was/is guilty of this kind of privileged thinking. I will do my best to try to change that line of thinking in the future. I appreciate that you took the time to educate.

  240. Oops. I meant to write “where whites are a minority”. Interesting slip. Probably the first time I’ve written that phrase…

    PlusSizeFeminist’s post about having to explain to non-PoC women about white privilege and racism has been nagging at me. Having to explain and explain about white privilege to people with white privilege is itself evidence of white privilege. If a white person who thinks, for instance, that she or he is progressive or liberal, and yet needs to have that concept explained again and again and again… then the white person (she or he) should try to be quiet and go off and do some thinking about how oppressive it is for a PoC to have to explain and explain a fact of life so vitally important…but STILL not be understood. That is just fucking cruel.

    The ugly posts at the dating website are horrible. No argument. But white women here must already know about all that shit, about those ugly beliefs, because no one should be surprised (sickened, yes) unless they have been living in a cave alone somewhere…I can think back over the years of my life and little by little all those incidents where I have *benifitted* (eeew) from white privilege and all the incidents where I witnessed the injustices and horrors of racism (my gawd) just slowly rise to the surface of my mind…if I don’t actively push them down…those incidents are all over the lanscape of my memory and history. It would be cruel and ugly to write even a small percentage of those experiences here. Why repeat what PoC already know?

    Yeah, sisters, I felt like crap as I started making my list of white privilege, and my list of witnessing racism, and pretty soon I saw my list stretching back over the decades right to the day I was conceived, and then I saw the origins of my privilege going back even before that, before I was a contemplation in my mom’s mind, and yeah, I had to put down my list and walk away from it for awhile, get some air, clear my head, shake off the sorrow for the truth that has been staring me in the face forever, cry, feel like shit, wonder how I could stay so sightless and heartless even when I was taking pride in my “progressive views”, wonder how I could go right back into denial again and again throughout my life… Yeah, it is painful. WTF? IT ISNT ABOUT MY PAIN.

    And then I see that everytime I deny my white privilege, I am focusing simultaneously on all the bad stuff that has happened to me in my life, all the abuse and injustice and cruelty and torment and uncertainty and terror, and I’m rationalizing, somehow, that it’s the SAME, somehow, that all my pain is the same as other people’s…and all the bad stuff somehow cancels out my privilege…

    But that’s what rationalization does. It lets me turn away and not feel quite so bad, not have to truly understand and feel empathy, not have to take action and to actually change my life, TO CHANGE MY LIFE and get out from under my own pain. Because when I stop all the rationalizing I see some really really creepy shit back there in that seldom visited region of my consciousness. I see that all of that pain I’ve been running from, and all of that pain I’ve been trying to cope with, isn’t just my pain. People who don’t have white privilege are trying to cope with pain like mine too, but they have this whole other WORLD of pain stacked on top of that, too, this whole other world of pain I can even fucking SEE because none of my pain happened because of my whiteness or because my parents were white or because my grandparents were white…

    How can I live free, live with a peaceful consciousness, when my own privilege is sparing me so much pain and costing others so much misery? I turn this stuff over and over, I slip back into denial, I divert attention to pain far far away in other lands (the people who make my crappy clothes for pennies a day that might not even keep them from starvation), and I shift my attention to global climate change and all the destruction that will result (see, then we will ALL be dead, we will all be fucking screwed, so that somehow makes us all the same in terms of our suffering?!), and all the while I’m shifting and shifting my gaze around at all the bullshit going on, but I’m rationalizing. I’m not seeing my own privilege right NOW.

    Christ. That is some fucking pile of rationalizations…when I can tell myself that somehow we are all IN THE SAME BOAT (?!) just because I believe we’re ALL gonna be shit-up-a-creek-desperately-screwed in 50 or so years. Man that is one big pile of bullshit stinking effort to avoid looking at my own fucking privilege right this minute. That is one fucked up magic trick of my mind… I KNOW I don’t want to look at all the OTHER tricks I’ve been using to stay in my own little protected world of illusion. Why should I have to look at that shit? Why should I have to give up my illusions?

    I don’t.

    That’s my white privilege.

    I can just go right on telling myself I’m a kind, good, decent, empathetic, loving human being. I can keep on reminding myself I don’t go around hurting other people. I’m not some kind of oppressor or offender for gawds sake.

    Right.

  241. RNigade and Plus-Sized-Feminist, in your education did anyone have you read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down? Or Stories in the Time of Cholera? I’m just curious.

  242. @AnthroK8: Yeah, I read “The Spirit…” and was never the same again. Made me question the whole medical paradigm, for one thing, and re-examine cultural assumptions about ethnicity and the privileging of dominant paradigms. I’ll check out “Stories in the time of Cholera”…it sounds so familiar but it must have been a while since I was exposed (haha) to it. Thanks for the mention of those.

  243. “Black women have just as much pressure to be thin as white women. We’re not picnicking in the body image park over here. ”

    I sometimes wonder if my experience is just so far from everyone else’s that it doesn’t count, statistically speaking. Because I’ve got to disagree. I’ve never seen black women (myself included) pressured to be thin as much as I’ve seen it happen to white women. Not anything close.

    My experience was that among black people (in the places I grew up in, at college, where I live now) there wasn’t the kind of intense pressure on black women to be the “perfect size six.” That’s how old I am–back then, a size six was the ideal. Today it’s, what a 2?
    Not all, but many of the white women I interacted with would fret endlessly about what they saw as 10 or 15 pounds of excess weight. They judged themselves so much on the numbers–the idea of being a double digit size was just unthinkable. And if you did end up having to wear a (God forbid!) size 10 or 12–you lied about it. They were always, always on a diet–“Oh, I’m not allowed to have that.” “I was so good/bad today!” (this regarding what they had eaten.)

    This sort of thing was common among the white women I knew, but I don’t ever recall any black women I knew being caught up in this kind of thinking. To judge from what’s been said here, my experience is really unusual. Or maybe I’m just getting old and things have changed quite a lot recently. That’s probably it. :-(

  244. I am a white woman with many black female friends. It’s terrific to read these blog entries by women of color and have our consciousness raised about our privilege, but we have do our own work too.

    One easy, key way to support women of color – do not accept the flirtations of men of color in front of your friends. I cannot tell you how many times (for both professional & personal reasons, I’m often the only or one of the few white peoplein the room) black men will look at me, look at my friend, and flirt with me or give me more attention. I can’t tell you how angry this makes me. I am single, as are most of my friends, and we are all looking for love. So what does it mean when I see my beautiful friends being overlooked just because a white chick is in the room?

    It’s ok to cry about our privilege, but then we have to stand in solidarity with our sisters and reject the ego boost of a good flirt when it’s rooted in these ridiculous standards of beauty.

    And BTW – I’m not against interracial relationships in theory, but if a black man is going to outright ignore a black women STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO AND CLEARLY THERE WITH a white women, he’s NOT getting ANY time from me.

  245. @Heather – When I was growing up (and I’m only in my 30s), I didn’t sense that pressure. I rarely heard the word “diet” in terms of weight loss as a kid. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s. My own thought on the subject is that within black communities, 10-20 pounds is not considered a big deal. But there are more and more black people who don’t live within “black communities.” I wonder how much that has to do with it.

  246. I grew up in Detroit, in the 80s/90s. I guess at that point, most of the pressure was coming from my mother, and who knows where it came from on her end. But I felt pressure. I was above being 10-20 pounds overweight, so who knows. If I had managed to diet down to that bracket, maybe the pressure would have lessened.

    I haven’t actually lived within the black community since I was 18 (30 now), so I’ve no idea what it is like at present.

    I would guess that given the black women who get accepted into the mainstream in acting, music, and modelling that younger black girls coming up are getting a more concentrated dose of diet talk and hair straightening and hueism than we received growing up.

  247. J. Ann, why did alarm bells go off in my head reading your first sentence? Oh…that not-so-fresh “some of my best friends are black” feeling (dang).

    Keep unpacking. *George Carlin side eye*

    ___

    Snarkys, forgive me for not adequately contributing to this conversation…I have to get some things reorganized IRL (oddly enough, The Man hasn’t gotten in the way). Ladies, I bid you adieu…

  248. J. Ann,

    Er, I think you might want to do some more reading on the site. There’s lots to see.

    @hsophia,

    That’s a good point about people living outside of black communities–I imagine there would be more pressure. I think I was lucky–I spent my formative years in a mostly black neighborhood until I was 12. The next place we moved was majority white, but with a large enough black population that I didn’t feel isolated or out of place. At college it didn’t affect me as much because I had an eating disorder. I know, that sounds…odd. I was (and still am) a compulsive overeater. To the point that I didn’t think much about or care what my body looked like, what other people thought of it.

  249. I just wanted to agree with the notion that nursing school does not do a good job of discussing privilege and intersectionality within healthcare. In fact, my BSN program didn’t address it at all, and I can also third how infuriating it was to hear people unironically say things like, “What do you mean that Baltimore has poor access to healthcare when we have the best hospitals in the country here?” FAIL.

    > RNigade is there a specific issue – organ transplants, mental
    > health, health disparities, advocacy – that you’d me to focus on?

    I know that this wasn’t addressed to me, but may I cast a vote for mental health (it’s for purely selfish reasons; I’m a psychiatric nurse)?

  250. Re: living in black communities (or not) and weight standards

    There was actually a study done a few years ago demonstrating a correlation between living in majority-white community contexts and increased anxieties about weight among black women when compared to their peers living in majority-black contexts (controlling for social class, education, etc etc.) Hmm, I’ll look around for the cite (I’m off campus now, so can’t get on the search engines through my uni’s library).

  251. @ J. Ann: Honey, your privilege is showing. I suggest you fix that, IMMEDIATELY.

    @ Heather: Believe me, there is some pressure. I know that I felt it like hell when I went through having an eating disorder for about 6 months… I wanted to be like the women I saw in the magazines I’d read. I’d see those Family Circle “Lose weight fast!!!” articles and go “I’m gonna do that to look pretty!!!!”

    @ AnthroK8: No I haven’t, but quite frankly, both books would most likely be telling me things that I already know about the system: It is to benefit those who are rich, and the poor are left to rot and die out when they have served their purpose to the rich.

    @ Jerome: I’m an LPN, and they don’t talk about it in LPN schools either. It’s like they have 2 pages on race and ethnocentrism and the rich poor disparity in the nursing theory books, but that barely even scratches the surface of how privilege and intersectionality hurts patients.

    @ Annitspurple: I believe I have the study you speak of:

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/114080139/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

  252. I’m a lurker and usually don’t say anything because I’m afraid I’m going to screw up or be misunderstood. I hope I’ve got the comment right and will do serious unpacking or reading if anyone is kind enough to point out where I went wrong.

    Re: black communities and weight

    Maybe it has something to do with where (and “when”) one’s family is from?

    My maternal grandmother was and her sister is very concerned about appearance, especially weight. The family is from Georgia and grew up in the Jim Crow South. They weren’t well-to-do: my great grandparents had to decide which of their children was smartest so they could justify scrimping to pay for high school for that one. I wonder, at times, if the emphasis on maintaining the look they feel is acceptable is less “Southern Belle” and more related to having to be “respectable” in certain ways back then to avoid extra specially ugly treatment.

    Anyway, it could be a little more complicated than just time and space. My aunt was always in to clothes and fashion. My grandmother was of the opinion that my mom got special treatment by her paternal grandma and thusly went out of her way to be mean, always harping about the shape of her face, her hair texture, and how much she must have eaten to have hips so “big.” (In this case “big” meant: “your body shape is more like an hourglass in comparison to ours, so we’ll just call you nasty names until you exhaust yourself trying to diet in to a shape that looks like us.”)

    Eventually, it was my turn. I was short and heavy for a while as a child and in to my teenage years. My grandmother and aunt used to tee off on me all the time. It was incredibly hurtful to hear that I’d already “ruined” my figure and men would want me only for sex because of my size. I wouldn’t get the quality of men they did because they maintained their slim figures in to their elderly years. Their mother, my great grandmother, never treated me badly when I was short and heavy as a child. In fact, she always tried to encourage me to feel good about myself after her daughters tore me down and interceded if they had the nerve to do it in front of her. She died well before it hit fever pitch when I turned 15.

    I was tired of being teased, so I avoided eating whenever I could. By 17, I’d lost about 70 lbs and they were agog over how “pretty” I had become. Suddenly they wanted to take me shopping for clothes, but were baffled by my unwillingness to wear anything that might hint at my shape or show the limbs that they singled out of the worst critiques. I had to meet everyone they knew. I just had to get rushed in to charm school so I could be properly presented at a cotillion. Most disgustingly, I was “better” than my 2nd cousin they’d run out of town with the same mind fuckery. It didn’t matter that I was always lightheaded, seeing red, and miserable: I looked “good” and that was enough.

    When I fenced or played rugby competitively, I fell out of favor again for daring to have leg muscle (read as “the size of your thighs is proof you’ve let yourself go”). Two years ago, I gained a significant amount of weight after a bout with a medication that nearly killed me–more pariahdom. I avoid family gatherings because my great aunt watches my fork like a vulture and takes food away from me if she feels I’ve had “too much.” It’s okay for her to talk about me (or other women and girls in the family) now because she’s “old” and has “earned” the right to say whatever she wants.

    The most effective way I’ve found to shut her up is to attack her for no longer having what she feels is her ideal figure. I went off on my grandmother in a similar way a year before she died, saying her need to use happy people to nastily illustrate her superficial fears for my body was really a cover for desiring what age had withered and robbed her of outright. I’d had enough after a decade and a half of taking it without retaliating (or being allowed to because of their age and relationship to me). It felt good to layeth the verbal smacketh down, I won’t lie.

    I also realize that what I did was no better than what they did to me. It makes me feel awful because, even in what I thought was victory, I lost.

    I know that living in a mostly white setting increases the likelihood of food anxiety and issues associated with body image. At the same time, I wouldn’t say what happens in black communities in necessarily less virulent even if it’s not as visible in the same ways.

  253. I am a white woman with many black female friends. It’s terrific to read these blog entries by women of color and have our consciousness raised about our privilege, but we have do our own work too.

    Believe it or not, that’s not really my job – to raise your consciousness. I got my own hell to raise.

  254. What can I say? I blew it. I’m pretty unsophisticated when it comes to the blogosphere, I should’ve put the @ symbol so you could understand the context of some of my responses (including the consciousness raising one). But that’s no matter, because in the end, I’m not going to justify what I wrote because it’s indefensible. I was trying to make a point, but don’t think it’s worth clarifying because it won’t add value to the otherwise insightful discussion.

    I thank you for the feedback. Feel free to delete my comment so as not to continue offending people, or leave it up as an example of a really insensitive comment that might be instructive as to how NOT to talk about these issues. I grew up in a really homogenous part of the southwest and am living in a more diverse area for the first time – I have a lot of learning to do and I’m bumbling my way through. No, I am not offering that as an excuse, just a little background. I am truly sorry for my actions – my bumbling clearly caused harm/anger/frustration/hurt to others and I need to look at that. I’m clearly part of the problem and not the solution. I did say I needed to do my own work, and will do so. In part by being quiet for now.

  255. PlusSizedFeminist,
    When I wrote, “Black women often don’t conform to the entertainment industry’s norms for beautiful facial features. They are less worried about staying thin. They are also less worried about staying thin as they age.” I was speaking of the stereotype generally believed by the men who refuse to consider black women as romantic partners. I did not assert that the stereotype was true.

    I also did not blame abuse on the victims.

    But enough mansplaining, I’ll go back to reading the posts without contributing.

  256. @hsofia: the BW as unrapeable thing is the super icky conclusion of the jezebel/mammy sterotypes. i mean, if we accept that BW = either constantly aroused animals willing to get it on with anyone, who never ever want loving tender physical interactions OR that BW = asexual and in many ways ungendered lumps of compassionate self sacrifice who could never be sexual, let alone sexually attractive then clearly BW can’t be raped. *and now i need to go sanitize my keyboard*

    it makes me SICK, especially now that i’ve had it pointed out to me and i can see all the ways it plays into media representation.

    @snarkysmachine: thanks you for this particially well timed smash on the head with your clue-by-four. the way i view and treat BW and how i can treat them more a) like women and b) like people has been much on my mind lately. between you and the amazing women at SWPD my brain has been thinking many thinky thoughts.

    @J. Ann: i think… and this is just me here… the reaction to your initial comment was based in the reality that a) BW are not your personal after school speacial/ public service anouncement and b) they often are forced to be by people who fake agree to conditionally accept their humanity only after they have proved their suffering.

  257. and it occurs to me that first paragraph sounds really whitesplaning…. pretend i said that in a way that wasn’t pedantic if at all possible.

  258. @ digitalcoyote: i feel ya…i also lurk ‘cos i don’t wanna stick my big ol’ cyberfoot in my mouth and say the wrong thing or have it come out completely craptastic!

    i just wanted to say that this was a great post and that there are many, many Shapelings/Shapesters that are MADE OF WIN….

  259. Thank you for this post! I haven’t been able to get it out of my head for the past few days.

    I’m just repeating what other have already said, but I’m hoping repeated praise is a little less despicable than any of the myriad other things that get repeated within a comment thread :-)

    Also, you made me laugh when you said “ab dab dab dab”. It’s so goddamn tangible!

  260. Here I go with sticking my foot in my mouth, I think:

    In regards to one of the subthreads in the comments here, about attraction to people of other races–I have a belief/attitude/practice that I’m pretty sure is faily but I can’t actually tell where the fail is. If anyone who can see it (it’s probably pretty obvious to anyone who isn’t me) would like to point it out to me, I’d be grateful. It’s this: I’m a white woman, I try not to be racist but I know I have various racist attitudes that I’m not conscious of or haven’t yet been able to train myself out of, and I have always only dated whites because I’m afraid that if I dated (or even expressed interest in) someone outside my own race, they’d get close enough to discover all my unconscious racist attitudes and then a) I’d have hurt my partner and b) my racist ass would be hanging out. (To a lesser degree this has applied to friendships too.)

    Like I say, I think there’s something wrong with this belief of mine, but I’m not sure what. With the disclaimer that I don’t believe it’s anyone’s responsibility to educate me, I would appreciate it if anyone did want to take the time to in this instance.

  261. Millefolia: The problem is the fact that you are avoiding the situation entirely. The more you shy away from the issue, the more you perpetuate it because in your mind, you’re going “Oh, if I avoid the racism issue altogether, I won’t have to worry about it.” There is where the privilege lies. You aren’t even willing to put yourself in that uncomfortable position.

  262. @ PlusSizedFeminist: so I’m just avoiding the struggle, when it may be the only way to change? Makes sense. Thanks for pointing that out. (Not that I’ll assume any potential partner wants to deal with my remaining racism, but I also will try not to assume that they don’t.)

  263. Late to this (sorry, everyone) but DAMN this is a fantastic post, and so many good comments too that I probably really don’t need to throw my two cents in… but this part really leaped out at me:

    But make no mistake, if you are a white cisgendered able bodied female in Western society your beauty is privileged above other women. Ab dab dab dab *holds up hand* – It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or your boobs aren’t big or if your hair isn’t blond. Look around you. Who do you see the most represented as “beautiful” in society. Remember, rattling off a couple of very, very, very famous WOC who are often visibly of mixed race and whose features and hair often adhere very closely to white standards of beauty doesn’t count.

    Back when I still uncritically thought that Nice White Lady Issues were the only issues, I would have bristled at this. “But surely you can’t possibly understand my pain at being the ugly girl at my very moneyed private school!” “But SURELY you can look at my body and see the ways in which it is DIFFERENT FROM how I’m supposed to look as a Pretty White Girl!” etc. And then, later: “But the toxic beauty standards for acceptable white femininity gave me all sorts of GINYOOWINE DISORDERS! PsychoLOGical ones!”

    And they did, and those experiences and disorders were painful, absolutely. But none of those things made me into someone oppressed by racism. Instead, I’m someone who is helped quite a lot by racism, and who can — if I’m desperate; if my neuroses are really getting the better of me and I can’t IMAGINE that I’m lovable and in desperation I decide to make myself feel better by telling myself “Well at least I’m not XYZ…” — use my whiteness as a way of feeling better. Of course I try not to do that, but that’s kind of how being white works.

    God, I sometimes find my Nice White Lady issues so all-consuming and depressing that I can’t frankly imagine what it’s like to take even one of my (many, many) privileges away and still get up in the morning. So if that *is* your reality? Yeah… I’m SO not allowed to approach you and ask you to make ME feel less ookie about having privilege.

  264. I’m not sure millefolia was being shirty; I think she might have been being sincere. But I also think it’s a really problematic question, but I haven’t yet been able to put my finger on why it makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s because the implication is that the role of any POC she might date would be to help her work through her own racism. That’s not only a bad reason to date someone; it’s also not actually not racist.

  265. @millefolia – I agree with PlusSizeFeminist. If it’s important to you to work on this stuff, you need to be willing to put yourself out there. That doesn’t mean using your non white friends as your sounding boards or dumping all your shit on them (everyone has shit, not picking on you). But part of learning how to be a really good friend means learning how to be a good friend to people who aren’t just like you. Also, don’t try to hide your shit. Like I said, everyone has some, and there’s few things more annoying than a racially insecure white person trying to act like they don’t see color. If you fuck up, own up to it.

  266. @millefolia – Also, I forgot to add this (I got started thinking on some wackness I said to my in-laws a few weeks ago): Find yourself some white friends who are anti-racist. Not “ooh rainbows and Bob Marley yeah” white friends, but ones who read books and put themselves out there and actually collaborate with POC.

  267. Jillian, there it’s not as much that I deliberately only seek out white friends as that I am much shyer about pursuing a friendship with someone of another race than I am when pursuing a friendship with someone of my own race (for the same reasons mentioned above). It mostly leads to the same results: the vast majority of my friends are white, though not quite all. My thoughts on that have made it as far as “but it also wouldn’t be right to try to befriend someone solely because they have an external quality that I feel is lacking among my group of friends–and I don’t hang out much in situations where I would naturally discover a friendship with POCs otherwise, which might be a thing to change.” I’m aware that I have quite a bit farther to go on that one, I just haven’t made it there yet.

    Sweet Machine, I wasn’t being shirty, I meant my response to PlusSizedFeminist literally and I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer. And yeah, fillyjonk, I did word it sloppily in that there was the implication hanging there that I thought a POC lover would be there for the purpose of me work through my issues–I didn’t mean to imply that but I didn’t take the time to word it better, and I apologize for that as well.

    hsofia, thanks for the advice!

  268. @ millefolia:

    My thoughts on that have made it as far as “but it also wouldn’t be right to try to befriend someone solely because they have an external quality that I feel is lacking among my group of friends–and I don’t hang out much in situations where I would naturally discover a friendship with POCs otherwise, which might be a thing to change.”

    This sentence alone is pretty much sounding like you believe POC are from a different planet, and you have to tiptoe around us in order to get to us or something. Which is in fact taking away humanity from us. You are consciously placing POC in the “other” category, rationalizing it with the mentality of “because they look like me, I feel safer being friends/lovers/acquaintances with them.”

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: When it comes to deconstructing your white privilege, YOU WILL NEVER, EVER FEEL COMFORTABLE ABOUT RACISM. And you should not feel comfortable. AT ALL. The only way to overcome that is to go through it and unpack your privilege along the way. Read up and learn beforehand, but don’t think the booksmarts will get you there. That’s only 1/4 of the entire equation. The rest is living life and being sure to LISTEN to POC and take them seriously when they tell you “Hey, this is a racist sentiment you’re having here.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but don’t shy away under your privilege when someone calls you out on them.

  269. I believe it is our jobs as partners – not say random internet strangers – to help each other become better people. And so that does mean help each other work on issues of privilege and so forth. It doesn’t have to be this whole, “Oh teach me, great and mighty chubby brown girl.” and it also doesn’t have to be, “White partner, today I will scream at you because some other white person pissed me off. You must listen and be hurt because doing otherwise means you’re a racist jerk.”

    There just needs to be a willingness to talk even when people are mad, even when people are being unreasonable. I think people make the assumption that by default interracial relationships of the white/black dynamic always result in the white person being “wrong” and the black person being “right”.

    It’s hardly the case. My politics might often times be on point, though sometimes they aren’t, but I’m not an especially pleasant person most of the time. I mean if I love you, it’s a little bit better, but not by much.

    And I own that.

    That said, I want to be viewed as a crabby person because that’s a truth about me and not have it attributed to my race. There are plenty of nice ladies who happen to be of color. I am not one of them. Just as their niceness probably has little to do with their race, my misanthropy probably has practically NOTHING to do with my race. It just helps me get away with it more.

    If you frame your relationships with POCs in ways that either attribute all their “flaws” to race or excuse them due to race then those relationships will be fraught with drama.

    I do feel fortunate to have very deep and awesome relationships with women of all kinds. One thing they all have in common is the ability to approach our relationship from the stand point of us being two people.

    I think a lot of folks spend time fixating on the whole, “I don’t see color” dodge – whether it’s from an analysis of its flaws perspective or as a personal belief system – as a way of just not having to do anything. It’s not useful if the goal is to find people with common interests who don’t work your last nerve.

    I used to think there was a way to express “I don’t see color” so it does in fact mean, “As I have worked on dismantling my shit I am able to see you as an individual who is only representational of yourself.” but the sentiment is so damaged and so co-opted by folks who haven’t really unpacked anything that it’s never going to evoke the anything more than privilege and ignorance.

    As for dating and desire. It’s constant work and checking in with each other and giving permission to laugh at black comedians even though it’s annoying to do so and that’s what you do when you love someone – at least what I do.

    So for me and my partner we talk a lot. We just have to deal with it. It can’t all be cupcakes and endless viewings of The Big Lebowski.

  270. It seems like I’ve taken up more of the thread than I meant to; thank you all who have responded, and I apologize for taking up so much room. (Which feels odd to write in a fat-acceptance blog, but I think it’s appropriate in this case anyway, since I’m not talking about my fat-person size but my person-of-privilege metaphorical size.) I’m not surprised to learn that some of the growing I still need to do is in directions I hadn’t noticed yet. Thank you all who have taken the time and energy to make suggestions/give advice/point out things I hadn’t noticed/etc., I do appreciate it very much! (Which could, unfortunately, be read as sarcastic, but I mean it truly.)

    And PlusSizedFeminist, your second paragraph in your most recent comment (first paragraph after the quoted text) is sadly a lot truer than I’d like it to be. That’s not the person I want to be, and I’m working on changing, and this discussion will help me a lot in that. Thank you again.

    And having written all that, I am very uncomfortable with having pulled so much attention my way as a privileged person in this context–even more now than when I started writing this comment, I feel guiltily aware of it. So I’ll stop writing anything now and go back to reading others’ comments and linked posts.

  271. SnarkysMachine – nice to hear someone else’s experiences … My husband isn’t white but we are ab interracial couple and he didn’t have any deep relationships with any AA people prior to meeting me. Race comes up almost every day – almost aa much as religion. Even with my naturally sunny disposition and his INTP indefatigability (word?), it was 2-3 years before I could stop feeling this pang of anxiety or dread when he would bring up race (in re to black people). It was nonspecific anxiety or dread, but it was there. I’ve screwed up too. Once I said described non-Asian eyes as “normal” and he totally busted me. I still feel so embarrassed that I did that.

  272. @ millefolia: I agree with you that seeking out POC to befriend merely because they’re POC (or POC to date) makes little sense. However, if all you ever see is Otherness, you may never notice similarities and if you choose not to open yourself up you might not learn enough to break out of the self-perpetuating cycle.

    Besides, why do you think it is that fear of harm only comes into play when race is on the table? As we all step in it from time to time, undoubtedly you’ve said something hurtful at some point in your life to one of your friends. Have you used such an event not to become involved with new people? Because if you haven’t you might need to spend some more time contemplating why the possibility of using a statement you didn’t realize would be offensive/racist causes you greater distress than any other boneheaded thing you might say. I’m not going to lie and claim that it doesn’t hurt more when the racism originates from a friend than a stranger, because you want to think that your friends *know* you and what you’ve gone through and would be able to figure out that some things might hurt. But I think those kind of events get worked through if everybody is willing to be open.

  273. The mention of “why do you think women are called the fairer sex” reminds me of the moment in the Star Trek episode “the Naked Time” when Sulu (George Takei) is all high on the “chains of water molecules” and dashes out in front of Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) with a sword crying, “I’ll protect you, fair maiden!” to which Uhura replies, “sorry, neither”.

    Nice intersection of race and gender there, pretty radical for 1966. It emphasizes how the dominant European tradition (made more noticeable by the fact that it was being enacted by an Asian character) literally equates beauty with both paleness and youth (and virginity obvs).

  274. I know this thread is long dead, but considering it’s a discussion of privilege, I feel compelled to mention that this: “Believe me, there is some pressure. I know that I felt it like hell when I went through having an eating disorder for about 6 months… I wanted to be like the women I saw in the magazines I’d read. I’d see those Family Circle “Lose weight fast!!!” articles and go “I’m gonna do that to look pretty!!!!”” -PlusSizedFeminist is really not okay.

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