Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Bad Name Pt. 3

For background, see "Why I Like Asians and Latinos," Pt.1 and Pt. 2.

I'd like to request that, if you're sick of the black/white interracial dating discussion, you indulge me at least just this one time. This time, there will be a bit of a queer female perspective on black and Asian women, particularly in relation to traditional stereotypical opinions about these women.

Being in law school, I see black women all the time who are quite date-able. Unfortunately for me, they are hetero. But, potentially, fortunately for men, they are hetero...and oftentimes, available. I'm talking black women who I couldn't imagine jumping up and fighting and getting loud, as Snipes put it. I don't know about how "mean, aggravating and unkind" these black women would ever be towards a man. Most of these women are ones that pretty much every black male at our law school has spoken to way more than I have, so they should be able to answer that question better than I would. But their first and second and third opinions of them from class and organization and social interactions should be similar to mine--these are generally intelligent, decent-to-good-looking, articulate, well-behaved, well-mannered, logical, non-sensitive (i.e. feelings aren't easily hurt/aren't easily upset) black women.

Do men pay more attention to these black women than stereotypical black women? Hell, no--if anything, these black women have more of an uphill battle when it comes to finding a man than any other kind of woman, including "ghetto" black women with attitudes. Why? Well, for one thing, the problem with stereotypes is, no matter how much you claim you don't rule anyone out because of them or don't judge everyone according to them, they are likely to make you see everyone from that group of people you apply it to in the same way. In other words, stereotypes make you look right through just about everyone from that stereotyped group. I wonder how many of these black males at my school have looked around and thought, "These are a different kind of black women. When I say, 'I would date a black woman if I could find one who is like XYZ,' these are the kind of black women I was talking about!!"

That's why I don't tend to buy those kinds of qualifiers when men (and queer women) discuss their racial "preferences." Like I said, these black women are generally either just as single as the day is long...or...a white guy recognized that this was a black woman who "wasn't like those other ones" (which is still pretty offensive) and asked her to be his woman. Around here, more white guys see what none of the black men are willing to about the kinds of black women who attend prestigious white universities, particularly in graduate and professional programs. It's possible that the black women here who are dating white males were just as discriminatory towards black males as many black males tend to be towards black women (because I've seen many black women say that they "prefer" white men because black men are XYZ negative thing)...but, from many of the discussions I've heard and/or been told about involving black women here, I think most of them would still prefer a black male.

Now, Snipes says that black men don't want to come home and have a fight with someone who is supposed to help him. Well, what I've observed in heterosexual relationships is 1) many times when a black woman is "starting a fight" with a black man when he gets home, her points in the argument are so valid. The guy just doesn't want to hear it. Point taken about working hard all day and you want to relax when you get home. But the same goes for the black woman. She works, and she wants to relax. She doesn't want to have to tell a man something he should take a lot better than he does and, oftentimes, something that makes total sense and he should already know; 2) when the black woman is trying to tell a black man something, usually it is an attempt to try to help him. But he feels like she's trying to be controlling or nagging or "be the man" or act as if she knows more than he does. This is what I mean by men not taking things as well as they should.

I've got to say, a queer woman thinking about how I would approach a black female romantically, I will say that sometimes black men make some really true points. I generally don't agree with the actual relationship dynamics that black men describe with black women and the relationship dynamics they seek with "other" women. As mentioned in Pt. 2 of this discussion, I find it flat-out chauvinistic, and I think black women are generally very correct in their "fights" with black men, even if they aren't approaching the man in the best way (however, with most men, it simply doesn't matter how you approach them--they just...don' However, comments that black men have made about what it's like to approach black women, I agree with.

For those who don't know, I have never, myself, dated a black woman. I think there are far too many reasons for this to explain in depth why. Still, I want to make clear that when I see a black woman, I can usually tell relatively quickly what kind of black woman she is. So there's none of this "black women have an attitude" or "black women nag and are confrontational" stuff. If you really take the time to observe a woman and speak to her, you can figure out whether or not she's the kind of woman you might be interested in getting to know.

One of my problems--a problem that men don't have, so this is no excuse for them--is the sexual orientation issue, i.e. how to tell when a black woman is queer and is receptive to a queer woman approaching her. Then there's also the fact that I simply refuse to approach women. I won't do it. Either way, there's an extra complication with approaching black queer women than with other queer women--black women aren't as "out" as other women are, especially not feminine black women. The black women whom I've known to be queer have almost always been the ones who are not feminine and essentially advertise their queerness by the way they look and carry themselves. I like the feminine women, so this is particularly a problem when it comes to finding a black woman to date. There's also this stubborn resistance on my part to just go up to women that causes a problem.

On the flip side, I've been out with two white women and one Asian woman. I was a teenager when I met the Asian female, so that was a time period in which I really didn't understand or think that much about race. Therefore, race wasn't the appeal. Heck, at that point, I didn't really even realize I was queer. So I definitely wasn't rejecting black women. I would also say that I was in a different frame of mind racially when I dated the white women. I'd just gotten out of college, and I didn't really start thinking about race in a meaningful sense, though I started to feel more uncomfortable with whites, until maybe a year before I started law school or around the time I started applying to law schools. I also don't think that this discussion of racial preferences and why was happening when I was seeing these women, so I had just never really thought about it.

Well, I've thought about it now, and this is what I've come up with in relation to me:

-I'm scared of black women.
And it's not because of how I think they'd behave in a relationship setting. It has a lot to do with how they treated me growing up and a lot of the comments black and white men have made about what it's like to approach a black woman to even ask her out in the first place. See, I do think there's a difference between many black and "other" women here, but the following is certainly not uniformly applicable and applies to different kinds of women in, albeit maybe with a slightly different scenario, too.

I think black women are more straightforward. I like straightforwardness. But I don't particularly care for the following nightmare-like daydream that I think I share with the majority of hetero men: Picture a nightclub or bar. Tons of people. A beautiful black woman is surrounded by a group of black female friends. Dammit, why do they have to come in packs?!?! You get up your courage anyway and you approach her. You're trying to be decent with it. You're simple, just say hello, she looks nice this evening, you'd like to buy her a drink, maybe get her number. She looks you up and down, mentally (and maybe even vocally) checking out your hair, your clothes, your overall appearance--and mentally (or vocally) talking sh!t about it. Then she says loud as hell: "HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLL NOOOOOOO!!!!!!" People burst out laughing. The WHOLE...DAMN...CLUB heard and saw that! You're embarassed as hell!

And I don't mean to sound like Bill O'Reilly here ("motherf*cker, I want some tea!" or whatever-the-hell dumb thing it was he said black people allegedly scream out in restaurants). I'm not saying black women do this; I'm saying it's the nightmare some of us envision when we think about approaching them because so many black women are so direct. And I've seen/heard stories of black and white men going through things like this with black women...some of the stories not even being in the context of a man approaching a woman (one guy wrote on a message board that a black woman told him to get his white @ss out of her way...which I thought was funny as hell--I think black women's blunt speech is hysterical--but...then I don't want a black woman saying anything like that to me).

See, I've said before that I view white women as shallow. And I think black women are, too (and, as I will discuss another time, some Americanized Asian women seem to be...there are just all kinds of shallow women). You noticed how I mentioned in that nightmare the black woman just looking at you like you're ridiculous--blatantly--because of various aspects of your physical appearance. I mean, I think that might be the difference. "Other" women seem to hold their negative assessment of you back a lot more. They might talk about it with their friends or laugh at you after you leave. But they don't have the guts that black women do, which, on some hand, I really do have to give to black women. A black woman will you're crazy as hell for approaching her. And, many times, will do so loudly/in front of people. Not all black women--probably, for sure, not the black women at my's a scary enough scenario to make me not even try my luck unless, perhaps, we have become friends. I certainly wouldn't cold-approach a black woman (or, in actuality, any woman, but especially not a black one).

Men also talk about the standards black women have, and I somewhat agree there, too. I think black women are a bit unrealistic. Many overrate themselves, physically, and/or have ridiculous ideas about what a man should be like and what he should do. I don't really know how this translates into what black queer women expect from other black queer women. But not all black women share the same standards. The weird thing I've noticed is different black women will have their different must-haves, and it's as if it's the most natural, common-knowledge must-haves in the world to them. For example, there might be a woman who, in her mind, insists that a man is supposed to pay every time, even if they're not dating. So, she's out with a guy-friend and he doesn't make any move to pay for her. Oh my word, get ready to watch her dramatically huff and puff with disbelief over how the hell could he not know that, even though they are just friends, he is supposed to be paying for her. I know some black women like this, and some of them do attend this law school. It's a really tricky, picky system, navigating black women's standards.

Now, if a black woman is insisting on someone with an education, a job, their own place, no criminal record, put family first/respect their mothers and those kinds of things...I really can understand. It's some of this other nonsense that I've had my straight black female friends spout off to me or those black women who come out with small halter tops on, big stomach hanging out, big booty bursting out some spandex pants, face to'e up from the flo' up and thinking they are drop-dead gorgeous and deserve only a black male model as their man...that kills me.

-The false-positive characteristics men associate with Asian women
When I meet cool Asian women, I don't attribute their awesomeness to their race. That just doesn't make any kind of sense to me. And what I noticed from reading white men's opinions of Asian women on those forums--smart, nice, polite, subservient, respectful, classy, graceful, physically youthful/beautiful, and so on--was that my friend Angel actually does fit a lot of these descriptions, if not all, of Asian women (and not that she's submissive, but she is a bit of a pushover, I've noticed, or at least puts other people first a little too much). Never once did I think any of these things had to do with her being part-Asian. On the other hand, I have an Asian Indian friend who is very in-your-face--that's why we're friends (the "good girls" like Angel, I don't normally like; I like strong, fiesty, outspoken women). I guess you could consider her Americanized (but, then again, so is Angel), but she's also close to her Asian culture (probably more so than Angel is). I just attributed Angel's being like she is as part of her natural, individual personality, just like my other Asian friend's personality as being just who she naturally is.

I thought all the negative points about white women were really interesting, because, clearly, black men don't agree. And I probably think more negative thoughts about white women on the whole than other races of women...but the truth is, white women are probably also the most diverse group of women when it comes to personality (for many reasons, but probably mainly because there's less pressure on white women to be a certain way because of race than there is for other women).

So, on some level, I was really shocked and just thought those men were at the ultimate height of ridiculousness to 1) say that Asian women have all these good qualities, and then 2) act as if there aren't going to be a lot of white women out there who have those, as well. I talk crap about women my age a lot, and usually when I'm disgusted with women my age that disgust is directed towards the things young white women do. But I think the uniformity is there less than I make it sound like I believe, and I believe that age results in sameness among a group of people more than, perhaps, most other identities. I know that I could meet an amazing woman my age tomorrow and be interested in her. But I don't know that these men who "prefer" X race of woman over Y could say the same thing in terms of race.

I've noticed that at universities I've attended, Asian women have been...very much not like white guys seem to think they are. My mother says a similar thing about the Asian women who attend the university at which she works. And, of course, there's diversity among Asian women, even at schools. So I've met Asian women who are nice (the female definition, not the male definition that means they just do whatever a man likes). But then there are these ones who are just really snobbish. They walk around as if they are barbie dolls, everything has to be perfect--hair, outfit, makeup, etc--they're rude/arrogant and think they're better than everyone else, except perhaps whites (and sometimes, even them). They just look and act like mechanical dolls. The materialistic stereotypes that I saw some white guys mention...well, since these kinds of Asian women act like they can't acknowledge blacks, I wouldn't know from interacting with them...but from observing these women, I'd say that's applicable to these kinds of Asian women.

Final thought--there's this stereotype of Asians caring more about family. There's this direct opposite stereotype for blacks. And, yet, I've never met anyone who is the way I am about their family. I want us all living in the same city. I would be happy to have my parents living with me as they age. I worry about being able to make enough money to take care of my parents when they stop working or if they become sick. And if my parents told me they didn't like someone I was dating, I wouldn't date them. Seriously. Most other people in my family are very family-oriented, as well. It seems like someone always cries at some point whenever one of us leaves after a visit, including (and especially, actually) my sisters' kids. My mother cries. I cry. My sister really wanted me to live with her when I was working in Chicago this summer, and when I got sick while I was there she wanted me to come to her house so that she could take care of me. I'm almost 27, people, haha. But this is what we're like.

Most other people I tell about my family thinks they're ridiculous. Angel is probably the only person who has never acted like anything I've told her about my family was crazy (and I have, at least, two other Asian friends besides her and have had others over the years), but I do know from speaking to her that her family is not as close as mine is. After all, she has a brother who has never met their other brother's 2-yr old child, which is something that could never happen in my family. My sister who lives in Chicago had her last child after moving there, and my mother and I rode the train to Chicago for his birth. Her children know us; it's not like strangers visiting when we come. They are really excited. We saw my mother's sister all the time when we were growing up, but we weren't really all that excited about it...especially since if she was coming to our house, that meant we wouldn't be sleeping in our own beds. My sister's kids, on the other hand, don't care if we take their beds. They don't get to see my other sister's kids that often, but they have stuffed toy animals named after them and like to play with them when they come south.

Anyway, I'm not finished reading the different threads, and I'm sure I saw comments on them that I wanted to point out that I have forgotten about. In particular, I realize that I need to explain more why I see the stereotypes of Asian women as false positives. So, anticipate Pt. 4 soon.