He Said/She Said

Black Women and the Savior Complex

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Source: Wiki Commons

I can rebuild him. I can make him stronger.” — whispers the soft heart of some black woman somewhere.

Black people have problems. That’s a bit of an understatement, but while some better off than we used to me, so many of us are worse since the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s. So it’s only natural that we want to help each other out. That we want to give back. That we want to be there for each other. And when it comes to black women, that is specifically about black men — any black man really — who we have determined is in need of saving and fiercely protecting. Continue reading

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EntertainmentSnob, He Said/She Said, MediaSnob, PopCulturalist

Question of the Day: Sex and the Workplace

When I worked at a newspaper I used to joke with some of my co-workers that without The Bakersfield Californian some of my cohorts would find a date. I knew plenty of people who dated, broke up and even married within the newsroom. I didn’t date at work because, well, I like to keep things separated if at all possible. But with men and women being human and working together in close and sometimes horny confides relationships and couplings (and the occasional sexual harassment lawsuit) are bound to happen.

More after the jump.

Enter the case of late night talk show host David Letterman, recently blackmailed for about $2 million dollars by a fellow CBS staffer, threatening to reveal a sexual affair Letterman had with an employee. Other than the fact that Letterman is a married man I don’t quite get the shock over this “scandal.” If having sex with co-workers were scandalous, my word, they’d have to lock up half the journalists I’ve befriended over the years, just about every thespian I know who treated musical theater like sex camp and they’d have to re-impeach Bill Clinton. You’d think Monica-gate would have killed any fascination anyone ever had with a person having some kind of sex, on the job, with a subordinate, but apparently it has not.

I think dating on the job can cause muy problemas as Letterman is fast learning, so I almost always advise against it unless you’re both on equal footing (re: please try not to screw or be screwed by your boss) and are willing to have the whole office all up in your Kool-Aid. Sometimes workplace romances can work out great (see President and First Lady), ending in marriage. Sometimes it just ends in a huge blow up, anger, apathy and mean forwarded emails that manage to make their rounds in everyone’s browser.

What’s your take on sex in the workplace? Is it a do or a never, ever do and what do you think of the Letterman scandal?

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He Said/She Said, PostRacialist

The Wet And Wavy Womanizer and the Long Hair Fetish

“Can I touch it?”

He could barely get the question out before his hands went right into my hair. He wanted to touch it. He wanted to pet it. He wanted to put it into a ponytail with a dirty rubber band he found on the marble top of the bar.

“I could fall in love with this,” he said as he scratched my roots. By the time I freed myself from his hair molestation my blow out was frizzy and wild. Not that he cared. I gave him the look. The John McEnroe “Are You SERIOUS?” look and he tried to cover his painfully obvious fetish.

“I just love that your hair is real. I don’t care what a woman’s hair is like as long as it’s real.”

Yet he wasn’t attacking the sister rocking the TWA two stools down even though she was incredibly fierce in her own right. No. It was me and the ten pounds of clothes I had on in the summertime. I believe that everyone is entitled to love who they want to love, but I think people should be honest with themselves.

Black men have just as many hair issues about black women’s hair as black women do.

More after the jump.

We’re not crazy by ourselves. We aren’t imagining things. We aren’t making it up. I’ve heard the words come out of a many fellows’ mouths and seen their actions scream at me in stereo — I love all black women, just ignore me as I break my neck to talk to that light skinned girl with the long hair.

I know this because I’m the light skinned girl with the long hair and I’ve seen it over and over and over again.

Recently I started dating again to mixed results, revisiting an old problem that just won’t die no matter what I do. But the reality of people treating my hair and skin tone as a fetish object is painfully real.

I don’t like being treated like a fetish. If you think I’m beautiful, great. If you fall in love with me for me, wonderful. But I freeze up with aphrension when a man gets stuck in my hair and can’t get out of it. There’s a difference between saying, “Your hair looks nice today” and saying “Your hair looks so much better than all these other sisters who be wearing weaves.” One) Why do you think it will turn me on to dissrespect other black women in your pursuit of me? Two) What?!

It all gives me flashbacks to an ex who would talk about how gorgeous India.Arie was, but married me. Who would bash Halle Berry and other light skinned people, but would admit that it had been his dream since he was a child to marry a girl with light skin and long hair. That he hated the perm I had then, but then bemoaned my TWA when I cut my hair off.

“I wish I never told you to cut your hair,” he said, wrongly assuming that I’d gone natural because of his constant psuedo black militant, intellectual banter. I’d cut it because I’d wrongly thought he was the first guy I’d dated who didn’t care about my hair. That I could cut it without fears I’d be loved less or ridiculed as unattractive. After all, the man before him used to sing Hakuna Matada and call me “Mustafa” whenever I wore my hair just wavy. He was so hostile towards unstraightened hair that even an unstraightened perm was offensive. But he managed to outdo the jerk before him with his hair 360 degree turn, I’m no longer attracted to you, garbage.

“Just date the white girl already,” I used to say when I was frustrated. It made no sense to expect straight hair perfection out of me when my straight hair was a pressing comb illusion.

I am not my hair, as the song goes, but it seems that if you have a lot of hair and you don’t mind dating the occasional completely superficial fetishist you TOO can wallow in the shallow love of the impossible beauty standard.

There is nothing wrong with being an admirer of a particular type of woman, but you shouldn’t disparage other women or berate the woman you claim to love for not living up to your video girl fantasies. Women have enough insecurity issues. We honestly don’t need the help in getting better in touch with our inner crazy.

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He Said/She Said, The Snob

The Cynics’s View of Marriage

As some of you know I was once married (and quickly divorced) and that union was a hard one for me to get over. I love hard and fall hard, and when I fell, I fell into a mess of depression and cynicism. Some of that cynicism permeated through my fiction and other writing during those immediate years after my marriage.

In my novel, “Darla Went Down” (don’t ask where to get it, it’s not published or finished), the main character has to deal with her boss’ hostility towards her because her boss believes Darla thinks she is better than her simply because she is married. (But doesn’t realize that Darla is in a largely passionless marriage.)

The boss is a black woman, over 40, and never married, but successful. In all the news surrounding successful, unmarried black women I decided I wanted to share the monologue of one angry (but with a few valid points), Ms. Janet Hendrix. Re-reading the monologue is amazing to me because at one point I was as angry as Hendrix after my divorce and obviously, as I wrote this, this was more about my own frustrations than anything else. The whole monologue is essentially post-divorce me yelling at married me for giving up my dreams in exchange for false promises of marital bliss.

Monologue after the jump.

From “Darla Went Down,” by Danielle C. Belton, Janet Hendrix’s monologue

Even in today’s modern, progressive age all this, all this accomplishment means nothing unless you have a man. And that’s how you get to feel superior. That’s the one thing you have that I don’t. A husband. And no matter how bad you feel. No matter how depressed you get. No matter how hard I am on you, you can go home every night with the resolve that, ‘I am better than you because I have a man.’ And that’s why I don’t like you. That’s why I’ve never liked you. When I see you all I see is a waste.

Do you know what it means to me when a woman says she’s married? It means – ‘I quit. I tried being my own person and I failed. Think I’ll try being somebody else.’ Marriage is an ends to a means. Not a beginning. There’s a reason why all those fairytales and movies end with a wedding. Because there’s no more to say after that. No more adventure to have. No more possibility. Only stability and tolerance. Another step in that slow march to death. He doesn’t stop dreaming just because he gets married. His dreams get only bigger. It’s your dreams that get narrower and narrower until they mean nothing. Because once you’re married you have to work at it. There’s no time to work on you. You’re finished. You’re done. You quit. What matters now is the marriage. What matters now are his big dreams for the both of you.

I bet you never even thought about it. I bet you didn’t put one thought into it as you rushed to that shining alter. After all, doubt? That’s not romantic! Thinking about how this is the end. Oh no! This is the beginning. A great new future. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself. The worrying about fitting in and about your body and all your mommy and daddy issues? You’ve cured them because somebody loved you enough to humor you and marry you and make you whole. And how long does that good feeling last? One year? Two years? Then what? That’s when all the familiar signs start showing up. That’s when you don’t know if you can stand to listen to that same funny story one more time. When your libido turns to dust, if it ever really existed in the first place.

So you do what all women who marry do. You follow the script. Oh, you think you’ll do something novel and different. You think you’ve got it figured out. But society’s pull is too strong. You’ll be complaining about how he doesn’t listen or doesn’t lift a finger or how he’s from Mars and you’re from Venus and all that other cockamamie bullshit that’s shoved down our throats to save a bastard dying institution that doesn’t fucking work. Better pop out some babies. Be fruitful and multiply. Otherwise you gave it up for nothing. But of course when you have the kids, that’s the final nail in the coffin. There’s no going back after that because the minute the first one drops you’re a corpse. Your dreams are now your children’s dreams. And I know you’re thinking. That’s not how that’s supposed to sound in my head. That’s supposed to sound good. That’s supposed to sound comforting. Well, I got news for you. When you die, you don’t take it with you. And that means the kids. They’ll grow up and they’ll leave and you’ll be left with nothing but memories.

I know it’s supposed to be something that I’m supposed to want, but let’s suppose I never wanted it and realized that it didn’t have to be that way. I don’t want a baby. A baby’s a death sentence. A death sentence to my identity, to my sanity and to my waistline. I know why some animals kill their young. Because they’re trying to survive and the fucking bastards are slowing them down. Sucking the life out of you when you need that life to keep fighting to live another day. Every day it’s them or me and I choose me every time. I’m not willing to sacrifice my goals, my dreams for someone else. And anyone who thinks different is a fool.

And do you know what that makes me? Do you know what I am? I’m a man.

Do I still agree with what I wrote? No. I’m not nearly THAT horribly cynical anymore. But angry, post-divorce me in the form of Janet makes some valid points. In my desire and love for the fantasy of what I thought marriage was I rushed into a poorly thought out union with a man who was not ready for marriage any more than I was. I essentially settled because at 24 I didn’t know my own worth, had little dating experience and was convinced that it was better to have somebody love me than have no one love me at all. Boy was I ever wrong.

The end result was a bitterness that knew no bounds that lasted for a good two or three years as I worked to get over being burned. The only good thing about my bitterness was that I at least didn’t hold it against all men, let alone all black men. I was only angry at the one who broke my heart. All my anger and frustration began and ended with him, which I think was helpful when I finally started dating again. But I didn’t date while I was that angry because I was just dying to hurt someone as much as I’d been hurt and that would have been cruel to the innocent party.

So if you can get past the bitterness, I think the lesson here is that it, again, does not serve you well to panic in your pursuit of a spouse because you might end up with less than stellar results. You don’t want to compromise so much of yourself and negotiate away so much of who you are to the point that you’re left with nothing that resembles you. And this goes for both men and women. It’s easy to lose your identity in a coupling, especially if one partner is more dominant than the other. We have to maintain some portion of ourselves and have a partner who can accept that self, rather than compromise so much of who we are until we are blobs of nothingness.

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He Said/She Said

Are Black Women Being Punished For Being Successful?

Elayne Fluker recently penned a column for Essence.com opining if black women are being unfairly targeted and punished for daring to be successful.

Study after freakin’ study—from CNN, to MSNBC, to ESSENCE—has told us, warned us, that as educated, accomplished Black women, we run the risk of being “punished.” That we won’t be able to find a suitable mate, nor get married, nor have children. Ever! I think I speak for us all when I say: WTF?

… Now that I’m “ready” (to settle down), I pay more attention to what “they” say about my options, and I’m reeling from the cruel statistics. “45% of Black women in America have never married; compared with 23% of White women,” they say. The rate of childlessness among highly educated Black women born between 1961 and 1970 is 38% they say. “African-American females, even with lots of education, do not fetch as much ‘value’ in the marriage market,” they say. “Black women outnumber Black men almost 2 to 1 in higher education,” they say. “The disparity is important because Americans have a strong tendency to marry those with equal levels of education.”

Well, damn. How does an SSBF debunk the stats and find a man during this recession of romance?

More after the jump.

Fluker covers the usual basics — Date online! Date outside your race! Go Lesbian (she writes jokingly)! But isn’t this an odd mixed message we’re giving to young black women? Your success precludes your loneliness, or is there another factor at play? Is it really the fault of women who choose to advance their education and careers that they can’t find mates, or is there a bigger problem? Like, for instance, when my father was in college he thought it was odd that his friends were so excited that the male-to-female ratio at his alma mater, Prairie View A&M, was so skewed heavily female. While it boded great for the dating chances of him and his friends, he didn’t think it was exactly a good thing that there were four women for every man on campus.

And that was in the 1960s.

Now the ratio at black colleges and universities are even worse. Aren’t we really asking the WRONG question here. It’s not “black woman, you are too successful,” shouldn’t it be, “Hey black man, why aren’t you successful enough?” We’re ARE you? Why aren’t you at Howard University matching the number of sisters there? Why aren’t you at Prairie View? Why aren’t you at Grambling? Why aren’t at state schools? Why aren’t you at the work place? What is going on with black men where there is such a huge disparity? Are we not reaching black men soon enough? Are boys getting left behind? What’s causing them to be left behind? What is causing this gap?

No one should be punished for being successful. That’s ridiculous. It’s the American way to push yourself to do better and go farther than you possibly can. Why aren’t more black men meeting this same challenge? Why don’t they have the same motivation? What is causing this failure? It seems to me that what we really have is a black male failure problem, not a black female success problem. Isn’t some of this the fault of the collapse of the well-paying blue collar job — the former gateway to the Middle Class — that many men used as a springboard to be able to start families and buy homes?

Instead of asking women to step down, shouldn’t we be expecting more of ourselves and asking our brothers to step up? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out what went wrong?

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He Said/She Said

Google Stalking Hill Harper: Harper Wants To Have A Conversation, But Is There Anything Left To Talk About?

In Hill Harper’s new book “The Conversation” he takes a stab at the dating/marriage crisis in the black community. And why not? Everyone else is doing it from Steve Harvey to your grandmother. The Root gave the book a tepid review, arguing that while Harper tries to address both men and women in the book, it’s still largely geared towards black women and doesn’t offer much new.

But what more can be said about the black marriage crisis that hasn’t been said 50 times over and hasn’t been written about exhaustively in Essence Magazine? You have to applaud Harper for giving it the old college try because goodness knows, we need all the help.

More after the jump.

Harper presupposes that black men and women need to talk. Great. I’m all for talking. I talk for a living. But as The Root’s Felicia Pride writes in her review there isn’t much talking going on in the great dating debate, just mostly “finger-pointing and avoiding responsibility.” As I wrote in an earlier piece, it’s easy to say “all black men are dogs” or “all black women are angry” and absolve yourself of any guilt in the reasons why you are single. These statements kill conversations, not start them.

Then there’s the whole separate debate of whether or not books like Harper’s, which focus solely on black male/female pairings, reinforce the belief that black women’s only options in dating are black men.

What I would personally like is an honest conversation between black men and women about what they actually want from one another. I feel like all too often we get stuck on fighting old battles and old hurts and don’t deal with the realities of our dreams and desires and how sometimes those are the culprits causing our unhappiness with one another.

I had a lengthy conversation with a male friend going through a custody battle who was frustrated with the perceived disrespect he’d received from his ex-wife and other women he’d dated. I mostly listened as he went into depths trying to figure out where things went so terribly wrong between black men and black women. Much of the critique of black women was well-worn and rote. The complaints about our perceived bossiness or how we are emasculating. He agreed that I weren’t these things, causing him to rethink some of his statements. And he understood that all black women weren’t this way, but I didn’t understand why when one black woman or one black man fails us, so many of us are quick to label all black men and women that way?

One of the first men I ever loved truly was horrible to me. He was also black. But my relationship with him did not change my perception of black men at all. After all, my father is a black man. My uncles are black men. My grandfathers were black men. And I love them all. It seemed immature and silly to base my view of black men solely on that bad relationship or any other bad dates that followed. I didn’t understand why black women couldn’t be extended that same courtesy. Instead we’re often all labeled as harpies.

Some women are emasculating. Some men are cruel. Some women are manipulative. And some men are unfaithful. Where does this mentality come from where we must taint the whole for the infractions of the some? That’s the conversation I’d like to have. When will we stop disrespecting each other out of bitterness?

If I were to ever write a dating book to black women I would tell them what I’ve said before on this blog, don’t panic. Freaking out over scary statistics like 70 percent of professional black women never being married will not get you a man. Being your best self, getting out there and meeting people, loving yourself and not clinging on to the past or bad pathologies, will help you find your happy place with or without a man.

As for black men, I obviously can’t speak for them, so I ask my male readers, what would you like to talk about in regards to the marriage crisis? What kind of conversation would you like to have and what advice would you give if you could write a book?

Harper had his shot. What’s yours?

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He Said/She Said, PostRacialist

When Love Is Black (Guest Post)

by Frenchie

When my boyfriend and I first made our relationship official almost a year ago, the most common question I was asked by my friends was, “…Is he black?” As an educated young black woman, the meaning and weight behind the question never ceased to surprise me and is continuously reflected in the dynamics of black relationships. While I’ve dated inter-racially before, dating an African American man in the U.S. brings an endless amount of joys and challenges like no other. Our relationship has functioned as a sounding board for many issues facing black people in America, and it is necessary to note that this has become an inescapable reality. To date a black man in America is to date the entire race and over 500 years of history.

More after the jump.

Statistically, our relationship should have failed a long time ago. News articles and TV constantly remind us of the violence, misogyny, institutionalized racism, police brutality, and class issues that the black community faces. We are also often reminded about stereotypes against the “angry black women”, “promiscuous black men”, “dark skin vs light skin”, inter-racial and even inter-ethnic dating both consciously and subconsciously. Through many articles about the Obama’s, aspects of our own relationship are scrutinized and dissected for deeper meaning and shortcomings. And, most interestingly, is how older black couples will offer us advice, often without provocation, because they feel invested in the success of our relationship.

We’ve found that these dynamics are inescapable. We can no more deny them than we can deny our own history. Neither of us fit any mold or black stereotype but we’ve found a safe space in our relationship to have honest discussions about how these statistics, stereotypes, and realities effect us both overtly and covertly. To date a black man in America is to understand that he may have been raised by a single mother and this will resonate throughout your relationship. That he has to be ten times better to be thought of as a equal, even if he is not treated a such. That getting pulled over for DWB or “fitting the description” can cause him to lose his life, or cost him his pride. That there is no single definition of success or progress, and at times he may fall short. That being upheld by society as an example of masculinity, sexuality, and athleticism can often rob him of his own manhood and humanity. That everyone else wants him, but no one else would trade places with him. That, at times, his anger is justified.

We have stumbled along the way, but we do not allow these things to define us or consume our relationship. As his girlfriend, it has been important to offer an understanding ear, support, and criticism and advice when needed- and to laugh. We’ve defined our own relationship without CNN and others spewing constant negative statistics about being ‘Black in America’. If our relationship continues to thrive, its not because we’ve defied the supposed odds, its only because we loved each other.

Frenchie is from  Miami, FL. Ms. Francois currently resides in Washington, D.C.   where she is pursuing her masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. Frenchie also has a B.A. In Political Science.

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