Category Archives: dating

Peeling Back The Labels: ‘Femme’ By Default

Image courtesy: F3arl3ss Photogr4phy.

By Guest Contributor Becca Dickerson, cross-posted from Elixher

I hate wearing heels. I forget to put on eyeliner every morning. I don’t always sit with my legs closed and shaving my head was probably the best decision I could’ve made. I’d much rather spend extra cash on video games. I love tennis and soccer, preferred remote controlled cars over dolls as a child, and most of my childhood friends were male. I’ve been a tomboy for the majority of my life. Boyfriends pressed me to wear skirts. I obliged occasionally but nothing beat a good pair of shorts or jeans. Back then I didn’t realize how much clothing had to do with someone’s sexuality and gender expression.

I made conscious decisions about the way I dressed, from punk-rock style in high school to bright colors and fitted caps in college. I had always dated very feminine women and during those times I was always in jeans, sneakers, blazers—the least feminine clothing I could wear. I dressed the complete opposite when I was with men. And, well, that didn’t work out for a number of reasons.

In college, I immersed myself in the queer community learning as much as I could about it and subsequently about myself. I stopped dating men, finally admitting I didn’t really want to, and sought to form a committed, romantic relationship with a woman.

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Asians Are Stealing Our Boyfriends On This American Life

By Guest Contributor Elisha Lim

(Please note, the above image has been Photoshopped from its original text.)

I am a reluctant fan of This American Life. The NPR storytellers can be such refreshing and endearing alternatives to mainstream radio. But you have to tolerate a strictly white, middle class point of view, a flaw that has been pointed out and ridiculed before. A case in point is a recent January episode–the first segment was in solidarity with “illegal” immigrant Latin@s of Alabama, but it was ironically followed by a white stand up comedian mocking the Spanish language.

The Valentine’s Day show, however, pushed me to new levels of downright rage. It’s a series of stories all about the mishaps of love, and in the last, 12-minute segment, writer Jeanne Darst describes her outrage when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her.

She reserves a special anger for the fact that he’s cheating on her exclusively with Asian women. That makes her furious. Not, as we might hope, because she is disturbed and angry to discover that not only is her boyfriend unfaithful, he also has a grotesque racial fetish–but because it offends her own whiteness. She reads his journal in slow dramatic tones:

And then I read that he did not have an attraction to… white women. White women like me. I knew he dated some Asian women and his ex-wife was Asian, he had Asian assistants, but I didn’t think too much about it… Maybe it was my fault. I should have said, right at the start of the relationship I’m. Not. Asian. Before anyone got hurt. Me. Before I got hurt.

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Didn’t You Forget Me? A Queer Black Feminist’s Analysis of the Black Marriage Debate

by Guest Contributor Taja Lindley, originally published at Nicole Clark’s Blog

By now we are all too familiar with the preoccupation with the unmarried Black woman in the media. The question that keeps getting raised is: “Why can’t a Black woman understand, find and keep a man?”
Fundamentally I don’t have a problem with conversations about love and relationships. I have them all the time. What’s unfair about this question, and the conversation that follows, is what’s at stake because when single white women search for love, they get an HBO series (Sex and the City). But when unmarried Black women are approaching, at, or over the age of 30: it’s a crisis, it’s a catastrophe with severe consequences for the ENTIRE Black community, warranting late night specials on major television networks and talk shows dedicating entire segments to finding us a man.The conversation always becomes “what’s wrong with Black women? “ and we get demonized as: unlovable, broken, undesirable, domineering, angry, aggressive, incompatible, uncompromising, too compromising, (in the words of Tyrese) too independent, possessing unrealistic expectations…and the list goes on.Then here come Black-male-entertainers-turned-experts on their horses with shining armor to save the Black woman from herself! To save her from her own pathological destruction so she can do a better job of successfully creating and preserving the Black family. (Damn, that must be a lot of responsibility.)

Conversations like these put Black women on the defensive where now we need to explain what we think, how we act, and for what reasons so that these so-called experts can give us paternalistic and patriarchal prescriptions for solving the so-called crisis of the unmarried Black woman.

Academic professor and researcher Ralph Richard Banks, recent author of Is Marriage for White People?, administers the latest advice for us. He enters the conversation on the assumption that has gone unchecked: that all Black women are successful, and all Black men are victims of America…as if heterosexual Black women seeking marriage aren’t in poverty with a net wealth of $5, suffering from wage discrimination, or also dealing with escalating rates of incarceration. But setting those facts aside, he advises that Black women consider interracial marriage for the purposes of bolstering the Black family and better serving our race. (No, I’m not making this up, see for yourself.)

So clearly what’s at stake here is the Black family. Not Black women’s happiness, not our ability to learn and grow as lovers and partners in a relationship or in marriage. What’s at stake is the responsibility that consistently gets laid on our back about the success or failure of the ENTIRE Black community. As if single parent families headed by women are the root cause for disparities and inequality. (Sound familiar? Yup, kind of like the Moynihan Report.) Continue reading

Shame: The Interracial Relationship, The Casting, The Homophobia

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

I saw Shame a couple of weeks ago with my homie Sarah Jaffe…and, on the real, I wanted to check out the flick because I wanted to see Michael Fassbender’s full frontal nudity. (And, considering how quick the box-office attendant was asking for photo IDs for this NC-17 flick, I guess quite a few under-17 others were trying to see the younger Magneto’s full frontal nudity, too.)

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT after the jump.

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Why I Love Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

MTV ruined my mom’s hope for the Good Black Life for me, she said: Black husband, Black children, Black neighborhood. All because of the pretty white boys dancing and singing before my eyes as my hormones coursed through my adolescent body.

She was right…sort of.

I’ve had lovers of various hues in my life, but my long-term partners were white—including my ex-husband. I just knew that my love life would not be monoracial. Duran Duran and Adam Ant simply sealed that fate.

When I tried to find advice to help guide me on that path—my mom certainly didn’t and couldn’t help, since she dated and married only Black men—I read Essence. No help there:  while I was dating the rainbow, Essence touted various admonitions on how to achieve the Good Black Life, including the Kente cloth-themed wedding. The advice and articles about interracial dating treated those relationships as, at best, aberrations.

Cosmo? Glamour? Beyond some “general” advice on “how to catch a man,” it was some variation of planning romantic evenings and Kegel exercises.

The first publications about interracial relationships—this was the Multiculti Late 80s and 90s–treated them as cure-alls for personal and institutional racism. I knew better than that, so that literature didn’t quite interest me. And I walked the other way — more like ran across the street and screamed down the alley — when Shahrazad Ali’s pro-intimate partner violence tome Blackman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman became the dating manual and coffeeklatch topic du jour for Black women in the US. Nope, definitely not for me.

When I finally discovered Racialicious a few years ago, I finally found someplace that talked about dating and race, especially interracial dating, that wasn’t full of foolishness. About a couple of years the R ran a post about the racial implications–and racist assumptions–of dating-advice books. And we did a breakdown of how race and racism worked in the online-dating world. And, of course, we ran a series on interracial dating as a response to Essence trying to position them as the Next Cure-All for the Black Woman’s Marriage Crisis.

My biggest takeaway from all of this is—surprise, surprise—the media and some people in our communities deeply participate in the Dating Economics of Not OK. Part of that economy is advertising that having color is not OK, unless you’re planning to date and mate intraracially. (The logic: you’re all the same race, so you two should relate, right?) The realities are infinitely more intricate, but intricate doesn’t sell too well.

So, I’m hoping that Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s book, Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life becomes a best-seller. Because she not only takes inventory of all those dating-advice books cluttering bookshelves and e-reader lists, she also takes that rarest of inventory: an anti-racist feminist inventory of the whole dating industrial complex.

Mukhopadhyay reminds the reader throughout her book that these books consistently erase those who are not cisgender and heterosexual  and able-bodied and middle-class. She also says that the dating industrial complex is also rather unkind to cisgender men–all of this because they’re trafficking in narrow stereotypes based on gender binaries. And if we believe in some sort of feminism? Well, Mukhopadhyay analyzes, these books try to make that belief the reason why we’re not getting laid, let alone married. We, to paraphrase DuBois, are the 21st century problem to be solved because, so says this literature, we dare to exist–sometimes caring about being in relationships and sometimes not.

Her take, for example, on how these books—along with communities and porn—and their net effects on dating and race:

The mainstream media is ripe with oversexualized images of women of color, and policy often stigmatized and shames this same group of people. Women of color and poor women are blamed for their inability to keep their legs closed and for having too many children. For marginalized groups of women, sex is not linked to pleasure and freedom; it is demonized and used as an example of all the ways in which these women lack self-control. As a result, a lot of conversation around sexual freedom discount the experience of people of color, failing to take into account how much sexual freedom is assumed to hinge on a woman’s privilege—be it because of her race, economic status, or social standing.

Of course, not all women of color are sexualized in the same way. For example, while black women are considered lascivious, always consenting and out of control, Latina[s] are considered exotic or overly sensual and Asian women are considered childish and prude. These particular stereotypes are reinforced through popular culture and pornography (just Google respectively “Asian women,” “black women,” or “Latina women” and then “women” and see what comes up). The common thread here is that nonwhite women’s sexuality is seen as outside the norm of white heterosexuality. It’s therefore something to uniquely desired, manipulated, exploited or controlled. Within this rather toxic climate, being a woman of color who’s in touch with her sexuality is an act of resistance. Pushing past the negative media depictions and still finding a healthy, healing, erotic, and functional sexuality is no small feat.

I have often felt trapped between discourses of sexuality. If I’m overtly sexual, I’m a threat to what it means to be a good, pious South Asian lady and to the white norms of sexuality. As a result, when I am sexual, I am confronting my ethnic community and the norms of white sexuality. Finding a more authentic sexuality that’s just me means pushing past what is considered the appropriate way for me to be sexual based on my race, ethnicity, and gender. This has meant a lot of experimentation, sometimes playing up how “bad” I am or being tremendously secretive about my sexual transgressions (well, clearly not after this book). And it meant sifting through partners and figuring out which ones are a little too obsessed with my being Indian.”

Then Mukhopadhyay breaks out a list on spotting an exoticizer.

Yes. She. Does.

But that’s what she does throughout her book…and that’s what I thoroughly love about Outdated. It’s a great, intricate mix of feminist thought, media literacy, and a couple of tips for dating while feminist (of color) from your you-ain’t-never-lied friend who’s that romantic realist. Mukhopadhyay lets you know that whomever you date—if you even want to do that—is perfectly OK.

Image credit: Feministing

On Black People and Homophobia: for Cedric

By Guest Contributor Andreana Clay, cross-posted from QueerBlackFeminist

There are plenty of other things I should be doing right now: finishing a book review which has already been extended, preparing for classes that start in a week, finishing another post I’ve been working on on gentrification, starting and finishing two other book proposal/chapter reviews that are due, and the list goes on and on. But, I just had to stop for a moment and briefly reflect on a recent trip home I made with my partner/girlfriend–we had a wedding ceremony so I’m trying to say partner now, but I really love saying girlfriend, something about it.

Anyway, we made a long, three week road trip from California to the Midwest to visit with and, in some cases, meet for the first time family and friends. It was a sweet trip: we saw lots of beautiful things, like the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota, canyons upon canyons in Southern Utah, and just the regular, lush greenery of Michigan and Missouri, where we’re from. The road makes us both happy.
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Interracial Dating – The Outside the Constructs Panel (1 of 2)

Khloe and Lamar

Welcome to the Outside of the Constructs panel. This one is a little strange as compared to the others. Originally, this was to be the panel for Indigenous people, but then I expanded it to include people who are normally outside of U.S. racial constructs. But then, we didn’t get very much response originally, and I asked for help recruiting. Cecelia responded, but she invited a mess of folks – but who didn’t fit the original idea for this panel. I was going to move Lyza, Julie, and Richard’s responses – but then I realized their experiences probably fit a bit better here, since they were radically different from other responses on the White and Asian panels. So, it all worked out.

Our panelists are: Cecelia, friend of the blog; Julie, friend of Cecelia; Brandann, friend of the blog and occassional contributor; Lyza, friend of Cecelia; Andrew, blogger at KABOBFest; May, blogger at KABOBfest and Sawaha Sumra; Fatemeh, Racialious crew and Editor of Muslimah Media Watch; El, long time friend of the blog; and Richard, friend of Cecelia.

What types of messages did you receive about interracial relationships growing up?

Cecelia: My parents are an interracial couple. My Dad is Ojibway/Anishinaabe (enrolled tribal member in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) and French and my Mother is various European heritages, the majority of her is Scandinavian (Norwegian and Swedish) and German. When my parents started dated my Mother’s Father said to her, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Despite the one negative message from my Grandfather my parents tried their best, with all of the complications, family issues and life stresses, their overall message on their interracial dating was a positive one. My Dad grew up in Highland Park, MI which was what he called “mixed” and not diverse. He once described the neighborhood he grew up in by having “all the colors.” My Mother grew up in a working class, product of Ford and auto industry, mostly white inner ring suburb of Detroit. They moved to a more lower middle class neighborhood of an inner ring suburb and the compilation of their upbringings gave me a positive message about interracial dating, even despite our struggles as a family and individuals inside the family unit. Because of our various struggles from generational trauma, historical trauma and PTSD from being survivors of genocide on the Native side, I came to the conclusion that most relationships would be a struggle. This struggle can change as well heal. If our liberation and return to culture, language and traditions as Native people means feeling our ancestors pain then it may manifest in struggle within our family and therefore the interracial relationship of my parents.

My family on my Dad’s side is multi-racial, so mixing was already in the family and our family gatherings had all of us mingling which was most always a positive space for me. I am really thankful for my family being so awesome and open-minded! Some messages I received from my Dad (which he said weekly, if not daily): “the white man messed up everything,” and/or “don’t trust whitey.” Therefore, I wasn’t very trusting of white males in relationships, although I have had my share, I have retired dating white males because my Fathers statement that was ingrained in me since I was a child has proven true in the dating world. Sadly, I had to test the waters to prove his statements to be true.

Julie: Light-skinned = good. Dark-skinned = bad. Gay/lesbian also = bad. The races fell into those guidelines.

I grew up Vietnamese in a predominantly white area where they pulled eyes at me and made fun of my parent’s height and accents. As a displaced people who were just trying to survive, and as we watched other PoCs in our neighborhood/family turning to drugs and guns, assimilation seemed like the key to our well-being. I was surrounded by the ‘goodness’ of white people (some were pretty nice, but ignorant) and was brought up to appreciate them and to adopt their ideas, including their racist ones.
I may have received these messages, but more than what I was ‘sold’, was the fact that I was a target for racism (Seventeen Magazine was definitely not written with PoC in mind) and thus differentiated. I grew wary of white people and started gravitating to other races for my friendships (mostly latino and asian) in my late teens.

Brandann: I grew up mixed-race, and only slightly conscious of what that meant. I am assuming that my being a product of a mixed-race relationship meant that my family didn’t frown upon the idea of interracial dating or relationships.

I’m Ojibwe/Anishinaabe and European by descent, registered with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. If there were problems with such relationships, there was no indication of it from my immediate family. Though, as I got older and understood racial identity better (things such as the endearing nickname my father’s father gave me, which was a bit of a jab at my mixed-heritage but meant to be affectionate), I noticed that other people within my own community had ideas about what was right and what was less-than. Relationships between two Native people, at least in my own limited experience, were looked upon more favorably than those between Native and non-Natives.

The only time race ever arose as an issue was when I met my husband, who is Asian. My grandfather is a Korean War veteran, and I personally had fears that it would be an issue, however right or wrong that fear was. Turns out, it was never something I needed to worry about. He was accepted with open arms.

Lyza: Growing up in a rural farm community, where my mom grew up in a suburb of Grand Rapids and my dad grew up on a farm in Rockford, MI(which back when he grew up there it didn’t have the reputation it does today), allowed me to have a simple growing up experience that was for the most part homogeneous(white working class to middle class) in nature of where we lived. My mom was very intentional(coming from a Civil Rights and Feminism background) when it came to making my brother and I aware that the world was not homogeneous in nature she would yearly take us out of class to walk downtown Grand Rapids during the Martin Luther King Jr. day parade, as well as have literature and different avenues where we would be challenged with how we viewed the world from where we lived.

I thank my mom for being so progressive and going against the norm of ignorance that was prevalent in the community that we grew up in. My dad came from another generation where rural was rural and the only people of color in town were generally from the city and didn’t plan on staying any time soon. When I was in my early twenties I dated a Latino man that I worked with and after a date where he dropped me off at the home and met my family my dad sat me down and asked me what my intentions were with him and if I planned on dating him seriously. This comment disturbed me because of the undertone of racism that happened to ooze out of the comment. That was when I realized that there was a standard when it came to dating, and I was at a point in my life where I decided that was not acceptable. Within the past 3 years my father has changed his world view considerably with some hard life lessons that have come his way as well as my consistent challenging of how the world really “is” with all of the double standards.

My Grandpa (mom’s side) has been very adamant that interracial dating is unacceptable, however his deep seeded racism comes from generationalism and growing up in Benton Harbor pre and post WWII era. I constantly challenge his worldview by giving him an opportunity to explain why he has these views towards specific groups of people and offer him a different POV. Bringing some of my friends with diverse backgrounds to family events has allowed him to be around people that challenge where his fears and racism hold so closely to his belief system.

Andrew: I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI after having spent the first four years of my life in New York City. My mother immigrated from Lebanon in the late 70s and my father’s family, also Lebanese, has been in the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. On a personal level, both of my parents have always disregarded cultural traditions in favor of their own interpretations of what’s right and wrong or how people should and should not behave. For example, my mother was 31 when she married, which is virtually unheard of in a culture that pressures its women to marry young, and was the first woman to leave her village in Lebanon. Although there are far fewer social expectations imposed on men than on women in Arab culture, my father seemed to buck the trend by maintaining an air of humility despite his charm, intelligence, and professional success.

As a result, despite the fact that my upbringing was definitely defined by my Arab identity, I was always encouraged to challenge and confront cultural norms and traditions, and push social and personal boundaries within reason. When it came to sex and relationships, my parents never shied away from having conversations with me about relationships and sexuality, yet they rarely came off as nosey or intrusive. They have always encouraged me to view dating as a process through which I develop a better understanding of myself and what it is I’m looking for in a partner. Although I haven’t seriously dated a woman that isn’t Arab, I am confident that my parents would support an interracial relationship.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about my extended family. My grandmother (father’s mother) enjoyed being racist and would regularly claim that she was no Arab; she was Phoenician. She never missed an opportunity to obsess over the kinds of people her grandchildren would date and eventually marry, regularly encouraging all of us to date within our Arab Orthodox Christian community. Such attitudes are reinforced by the rest of my father’s family which, interestingly enough, embrace culturally traditional values and lifestyles despite being third and fourth generation Arab Americans.

On my mother’s side, I grew up knowing that interracial relationships were frowned upon and not taken seriously. This obviously did not extend to Europeans; my cousin was once married to a French woman. I should add, though, that my family is definitely more concerned with religion than they are race when it comes to relationships. This is because they assume that their children will not marry/date outside of the Arab community, and so they focus on religious identity. My Shiite Muslim (now ex) girlfriend definitely ruffled a few of their feathers, but I was never openly confronted about my relationship with her. As a man, I recognize that I enjoy significant privilege and am not subject to the kind of scrutiny Arab women must endure.

May: As a US born and raised to Syrian Sunni Muslim parents, I grew up watching both sides of my family interracially/ethnically marry—it was almost exclusively my uncles though, and to mostly white European women. As Syrians are regarded as the white people of the Arab world, I would venture to say that these kinds of unions were not only considered culturally acceptable, but a reinforcement of an aspirational whiteness.

Further complicating the fact that both my parents are Syrian (my father with a Bedouin background) was the culturally enclavish way I was raised. We lived on a cul-de-sac with all my father’s family populating the six model homes that the track housing in the sleepy Southern California suburb was based on. Thus not only was I encouraged to maintain a link with my “roots” but I was also expected to only have my cousins as my friends. As my father once retorted when I asked to attend a schoolmate’s sleepover party, “Friends? why do you need friends? You have cousins!” So you can imagine the jingoistic way marriage was regarded/viewed. Continue reading

On Interracial Dating – The Mixed Race Panel (2 of 3)


Welcome back to the Mixed panel on Interracial Dating. Our panelists are:

Phil Djwa, technologist; Jozen Cummings, creator of the Until I Get Married blog; LM, long time commenter and friend of the blog; Liz, friend of the blog and co-founder of VerySmartBrothasJen Chau, Founder and Executive Director of Swirl and co-founder of Mixed Media Watch and Racialicious; N’Jaila Rhee, the mastermind behind NSFW); Holly, contributor at FeministeKen, friend of the blog; and A.C., friend of the blog.

It’s been said that mixed race people, by their very nature, are always in a mixed race relationship (unless they find someone of their exact same racial background). Do you think this is true?

Phil: That’s a funny way to put it. I guess so, but it seems more common now, so less of an issue. My wife jokes that I am whiter than she is. Still, I think for me, differences are there. No one can quite tell what I am, or what my kids are, so there is some ambiguity there. I remember being in Hawaii and thinking/feeling I had come home because of all the people looking like me. I don’t suffer the same things my parents did, and that makes it seem less of an issue. Racism expressed directly to my face is pretty rare now, it’s been years, but sometimes I feel it even if it isn’t overt.

Jozen: Short answer: Hell no. Long answer: HHHHHEEEEEEELLLLLLLL NOOOOO! But no really, this is probably the most ridiculous stereotype I’ve heard about mixed race people. If I end up with a woman who is mixed race it’s probably cause I thought she was fine, however that came about really doesn’t matter.

LM: Sure.  But the degree to which this matters depends a lot on the experiences of the people in the relationship, and to go to the other extreme a good argument can be made that just about every relationship is of mixed race.

Liz: Yeah, technically speaking. I’m very proud of both my cultures and don’t see myself excusing my Navajo side with my future family.

Jen: Yes, though I never quite understood the need to point this out. There is a woe-is-me quality to it, a la “Aw geez. I am alone in the world, no one is just like me, racially, so I am doomed to only interracial date.”

First of all, interracial dating is fabulous. Just ask the women out there writing books about it recently….Secondly, there are a ton of people like me out there. I tried to date a Jewish and Chinese guy once and everyone thought he was my brother, so… pros and cons. Seriously speaking, though, I think that things like socio-economic class, values, and belief system, can sometimes trump race when contending with differences in a relationship. Sure, anyone you date is probably going to have a different “racial” make-up than you if you are mixed, but I think there are probably other differences that wind up being more meaningful than the fact that you are from different “races.”

N’jaila: I think this goes for those that “look” mixed. I think even though I’m part Asian dating an Asian man feels to me like an interracial relationship because we are judged by those outside the relationship as a completely different. I think a lot of people feel that people’s races should be dictated by what others perceive them as, and not how the person self identifies.  I have friends that are half White half Black  and a lot of times if they don’t “look” mixed. People act negatively to them dating one race or the other. Continue reading