The Undateable Black Woman

This is a guest post by Diane Lucas. Diane is an attorney in New York.

The ‘Why are Black Women So Difficult’ debate heated up again when a 3-minute-plus You Tube video animation done by a website called PhilosoG’s, where a professional black woman dictates what she requires in a mate to a professional black man, went viral. Not surprisingly, the video depicts black women as abrasive, overly demanding, and hyper-aggressive. In the last two weeks, this video has been widely circulated by email, with posts on Facebook, on the Grio, MSNBC.com, Essence.com, and many other sites.

The Grio summarized the video, as follows:

“I can’t find any good black man,” the highly educated black female says to a potential mate in the video, who asks “what are you looking for?” As she rattles off a checklist that includes a six-figure income, integrity, good character, good credit and loves his mom, requirements he actually meets, she later details many restrictions including little to no sex.

As she reiterates her demands, he notes the irony of it all: “wow that’s confusing: career-minded, strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man but you expect to have your way through life paid for by your man.” Yet, when he finally submits to her unrealistic wish list, she tells him “you’re too weak. I need a man with a backbone who won’t let me run all over him. Besides you’re not 6’5 and that’s a deal breaker.”

There are also two ‘comeback’ videos, “Black Marriage Negotiations (Woman’s Perspective)” (depicting a black man who wants a black woman who works, while not making more than him, is independent, cooks everyday, and raises their flock of children, all while maintaining a flat stomach) and Black Marriage Negotiations II (detailing a conversation between a professional black man and a professional white woman who is pursuing him romantically, in which the man rejects her for a black woman), but these were not nearly as popular as the one attacking black women.

The You Tube Black Marriage Negotiation animation was obviously intended to be offensive; it is a caricature of black intra-racial relationships at the expense of black women. The PhilosoG’s video portrayed stereotypes of black women as superficial, unreasonable, overly demanding gold diggers. I previously wrote a post about how damaging, frustrating, and insulting the media’s incessant inquiry of ‘why black women can’t find a good black man?’ is; it’s no surprise that I found this video offensive. But I initially dismissed it as cheap stunt for publicity from a start-up website.

Then it went viral. More frustrating than the video itself were the reactions to it. It was taken by many as social commentary that, although comedic in nature, revealed the truth about black women in relationships. It was widely circulated among young black professionals. I received emails containing the video about a dozen times, even from contacts abroad. Many people found the video to be outlandish, but still, “so true.” There were polarized reactions to the video on Facebook and twitter postings, but the majority of people characterized the video as being true, at least to a certain extent. The Grio and Essence.com featured the video, and highlighted the dramatic reactions. Last week MSNBC discussed it and conducted a poll on whether it was funny or insulting. The results were 81.7% of the respondents thought it was funny and 18.4% thought it was insulting. Many of the commentators on the site thought the video was based in truth. Comments like, “Most black women have fanaticized unrealistic expectations of a black male relationship. The animation is a very close depiction” were a common sentiment.

This video going viral, and the general consensus that its caricature of black women as too difficult to find a man is true, is a painful reminder of how we, as black women, are perceived and characterized by the media, by black men, and by in society in general. We are constantly ridiculed for how we date, and blamed for being unmarryable. This video isn’t new; it’s relying on some pretty tired stereotypes. But it is inaccurate, it isn’t funny and it only serves to perpetuate the all too pervasive image of the unlovable, undateable black woman.

32 comments for “The Undateable Black Woman

  1. November 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

    This is such a gross video – as are the follow ups.

  2. bp
    November 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    yeah, i can barely stand to engage with all of this. i opted out of the compulsory heteronormativity and misogyny of the mainstream discourse around black women a long time ago. i wish others would do the same. you don’t have to even give these sorts of frameworks the time of day. the kyriarchy suffocates. we can build a culture that values black women however they choose to construct themselves.

  3. Iggles
    November 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I haven’t watched it yet (i’m at work) but reading your post about it made my blood boil. I’m so sick of black women being denigrated from all sides — black men, whites and other non-blacks, even other black women!

    WTH? We are human beings. Sheesh.

  4. November 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Diane,

    I’d not seen any of these videos. Boxed in every which way, aren’t we? It would be different if there were *any* widespread positive memes/stories of Black women, but there are not. If we’re not Shirley Q. Liquor (from that racist skit), we’re hoochie mommas, stab-you-if-you-look-at-us-wrong Sapphires, passive, self (and our own family, children, everyone else)-sacrificing Mammies, lazy, ignorant welfare queens, and now – educated, credentialed and professional ball-breakers and gold diggers.

    What’s a girl to do? And all that.

    It is sad when we (Black folks, general) are participants in the perpetuation of these stereotypes, but somewhat understandable with so much societal and media pressure. Okay, not really, but… well, sigh.

  5. November 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Yeah, heaven forbid Black women have high standards.

  6. karak
    November 8, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I’ve never seen a problem with being up-front about what you want in a relationship, even if what you want is near-impossible or even contradictory. A friend of mine once said, “I’d rather spend the rest of my life completely alone than try and settle with the wrong man,” and I agree with her.

    See, remember, when a woman has an extensive list of demands for her partner, it’s offensive and shows how terrible women are. When a man creates a list of ridiculous requirements for a woman in response, well, that’s just funny.

  7. PrettyAmiable
    November 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    karak: I’ve never seen a problem with being up-front about what you want in a relationship, even if what you want is near-impossible or even contradictory.

    This irritates the hell out of me too. And I agree with your follow up line. Maybe that’s a position of privilege, to be able to say that, but if I like being by myself better than being with someone else, then my ass is staying in and reading a book. Everyone should have this option.

  8. Shadowcat
    November 9, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I have opted out of the whole dating scene period. At my age it is just not worth it. I gave up on having and husband and children a long time ago. I have never gotten along with Black men. I was bullied and tormented by Black men in my teens and ignored, rejected, and ridiculed by the same men as an adult. I refuse to be with Black men who have made it clear I will never meet their standards. I would rather be alone than settle for a less than ideal relationship. If a man of another race came along and loand ved accepted me for who I am I might change my mind. Right now I would rather be by myself.

  9. Bitter Scribe
    November 9, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I like being by myself better than being with someone else, then my ass is staying in and reading a book. Everyone should have this option.

    Everyone does have this option. I haven’t heard of roving gangs of yentas (sp?) busting down the doors of single people and dragging them into the street to date each other.

    FWIW, I agree with you, but there are some people out there who sincerely believe that anyone is better than no one. That’s their right, too.

  10. Beth
    November 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    What I found most offensive about these “videos” was that they take aspects of truth from a relationship with any woman and make them particular to black women. I have no idea why one does this. Every woman gains weight when pregnant, but this is only relevant for black women? Sex decreases in all marriages, but again, this is only relevant for black women? This fact is true for almost every “idea” this video espouses as a flaw of black women. It reveals the complete ignorance of it’s creator to the facts of the reality of men and women, and furthermore, it pretends universal aspects of womenhood make only one “race” less than. I’m so tired of this debate, and the sad males of color who espouse it as a way to gain power with their non-colored peers. It’s like selling out your mother for a better job. And why on earth would you do that unless you hate yourself. Which is what I think all of this boils down to: self-hate.

  11. sonia
    November 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    As somewhat of a loner, I don’t see the issue with being single if I don’t find someone who matches what I am looking for. I have spent fairly long parts of my life alone and wouldnt mind spending more of them by myself.

  12. November 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    PrettyAmiable: then my ass is staying in and reading a book. Everyone should have this option.  

    Here here!

  13. brighteye
    November 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    career- minded, strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man but you expect to have your way through life paid for by your man.” Yet, when he finally submits to her unrealistic wish list, she tells him “you’re too weak. I need a man with a backbone who won’t let me run all over him. Besides you’re not 6′5 and that’s a deal breaker.”

    ,

    Translation: has a job, hobbies, opinions, and not too short. How will any man live up to that?

  14. Brazollie
    November 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    #8 “Everyone does have this option.”

    While this may appear true, from what I can tell (and being male I have no direct experience of this) there is a huge amount of societal and cultural pressure encouraging women to be in a long-term monogamous relationship.

  15. PrettyAmiable
    November 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I tend to agree with Brazollie, but i was also thinking of people who feel they need to be with someone else for financial reasons. My parents are an example of a combination of financial reasons and cultural/religious pressure issues. Catholicism tells them to stay together, and eternal damnation beats out that my dad is a violent weekend alcoholic. I don’t really think my mom has the option, but I’m blessed that she made sure I had it. Anyway – because of that, it irritates me when people make fun of women who are lucky enough not to feel they have to make compromises in a life partner. Thus, go-this-post!

  16. shah8
    November 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Culture wide synchronization of a “neg”.

    Interesting.

    I wrote more but I recognized that I’m too sleepy to coherently elaborate.

  17. exholt
    November 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

    I’ve commonly heard nearly the same types of stereotypes being assigned to college-educated women in NYC.

    The same idea that “standards are set far too high/contradictory/double-standardish” cited as the reason why there are more lonely single women than men in the NYC area.

  18. Shannon
    November 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I am a black woman, and I just wish the media would stop worrying about my love life. This is just another way to push the stereotypes about how aggressive and undateable black women are. Neither myself nor any of my friends behave in the stereotypical manner usually portrayed in the media.

  19. November 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    IN this interview, http://www.theroot.com/views/root-interview-man-behind-black-marriage-negotiations

    the guy behind the videos says there’s a strange correlation between feminism and decline of the black family..that’s when I stopped listening

  20. CaliOak
    November 11, 2010 at 1:00 am

    By what interpretation is the ability to take a ridiculous amount of bullshit, succeed, (possibly) single-handedly navigate one’s children though what our country does to black youth, and still be sane enough to seek love and joy in healthy way make someone a bad prospective mate?

  21. November 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    @ Roxie

    Yeesh, yeah. He lost me at “feminist theology”. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t such a thing as feminist theology, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant!

    Yuck, and then he compares ragging on black women as being too demanding to talking about the issues of low graduation rates for black men – an unpleasant but true problem in need of serious discussion. Seriously?! Even if this so-called dating problem actually exists (which I think is pretty dubious), if someone tried to argue that the low graduation results were because black men are stupid and lazy (by, say, making an insulting animated video about it), that would be asinine and incorrect. Equally asinine and incorrect to accuse black women of screwing up at dating because they are just materialistic and shallow.

    He played off a tired cliche about black women in order to produce content for his website and is now trying to justify it along the lines of, “Well, we all know it’s true! Of course, I found the one smart black woman out here and happily married her, but all the rest should really thank me for bringing to attention this serious problem.”

  22. November 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Nice to see Feministe covering misgoynistic attacks on black women more prominently.Clearly the work of the Black Women Empowerment bloggers is reaching a critical mass stage where others see benefit to add their contributions. Now you need to have a permanent contributor to cover that (as well as other general issues).

  23. Kayle
    November 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    brighteye:
    ,
    Translation: has a job, hobbies, opinions, and not too short. How will any man live up to that?  

    NICE. That’s every woman. And really all she says is pays the bills. My sister-in-law is a VERY, SUCCESSFUL, VERY INDEPENDENT BLACK WOMAN whose husband is currently paying the bills. Yes, they both normally make over six figures and both are black. I believe when white women do this its called a “normal outgrowth of mainstreaming 3rd wave feminism.” When black women do it, they’re unrealistic shrill harpies who need to lower their expectations. Maybe their expectations are too high because they’re talking to certainblack men (incarceration, undereducation and underemployment rates aside
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/06/21/the-media-v-black-women-the-peculiar-case-of-the-media%E2%80%99s-obsession-with-unmarried-black-women/)?

    http://dysonshow.org/?p=1419 minute 13:30

  24. kung fu lola
    November 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Brazollie: #8 “Everyone does have this option.”While this may appear true, from what I can tell (and being male I have no direct experience of this) there is a huge amount of societal and cultural pressure encouraging women to be in a long-term monogamous relationship.  

    …. and some people simply have a very powerful need for sustained emotional intimacy and romantic partnerships. I’m one of those people; I would find the prospect of lifelong singlehood soul-killing. I have a compelling and persistent drive to share my home and meals with someone else, to be touched with kindness and affection every day, to have a like-minded person in close proximity for impromptu laughter and chatting. It doesn’t make me better than the Lone Wolf types who prefer to have their space; it’s just a neutral part of my personality, like hating salmon dishes and the way I like to wear my hair.

  25. Tamen
    November 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Kayle: I am not sure I am interpreting you comment correctly, are you saying that it is in principle ok to not contribute financially to the marriage when you have the means to do so just because you’re a woman? And that having this expectation of your man paying your bills is a reasonable expectation (regardless of race)?

  26. PrettyAmiable
    November 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Uhh, to clarify, I’m not a lone wolf type. I’d love to have a partner, but I’m not willing to be with someone who doesn’t make me happy.

  27. November 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Really wonderful article, I think that all too often mainstream discourse assumes that it’s not sexist if you’re commenting on a smaller subsection, and that you are ‘black’ before a ‘woman.’ Of course, the worst thing about the video is that it assumes that a bilateral hetereonormativity is the aim for every black woman too.

  28. Megan
    November 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I am sick and tired of hearing about the “black female problem.” Everywhere we look in today’s media outlets, from television shows and comedy hours, to the viral nature of this video, Black women are cast into a variety of negative stereotypes. In the age where the “America Dream” is supposedly achievable by all, black women are constantly told through media portrayals that we can’t have it all.

    For instance, if black women are employed and independent, we are depicted as overbearing, overly-masculine, aggressive, and impossible to date or marry (As portrayed in the featured video).

    On the other hand, if we’re unemployed, or even worse– single, Black women are depicted as uneducated “welfare queens” who have babies out of wedlock, and attempt to manipulate the welfare system at all costs. We are depicted as bad mothers, and the sole downfall of the African American family. If you need an example, simply look to the recent “Precious” movie and the media sensationalism it received. After the release of the movie, stories involving bad black mothers were widely dispersed, adding to the belief that bad mothers are the “real” problem in the black community.

    Whether we are single and dating, married with kids, successfully raising a child alone, or temporarily unemployed but actively working to find a job; the media tells us there is ALWAYS something wrong with the black woman. We just can’t win.

    But back to the subject at hand and the perceived “undate-ability” of black women, I’d like to know WHAT makes us so different from everyone else? Why are we expected to settle for less than we ask of ourselves? I highly doubt that women of other races have lower or fewer standards than African American women.

    Darwin’s biological “survival of the fittest” theory applies to all races. Humans are inclined, by nature, to mate with members of the opposite sex who posess biological and physical qualities that will ensure successful reproduction and healthy children who will carry on the genes in the future. Therefore, humans are most inclined to mate with the most attractive, stable (financially, emotionally, etc), and successful members of their species.

    I am not convinced that Black women are the only people that adhere to their natural human tendencies. So then the question becomes, if ALL women and men have these natural urges to mate with the best suited member of the opposite sex; why are black woman supposed to act otherwise? Why are we supposed to fight our nature? Why can’t we have high standards and not be ridiculed for it?

    My answer? On the one hand, I blame the media. Black women have been consistently “othered” over time. We don’t conform to the stereotypical image of beauty, therefore, we must be the opposite. We don’t necessarily conform to the stereotypical gender roles, (we were working to support our families long before it became more socially accepted) therefore we are othered again. With each social “othering,” more disparaging labels are placed upon black women and a dichotomy is established between the ideal (non-black) woman, and the non-ideal black woman.

    I believe the reason black men, members of our own race, tend to buy into this way of thought may be linked to the long established “battle of the sexes.” Each sex is constantly trying to establish its dominance in every aspect of life. However, with black women becoming more educated and receiving better jobs than black men (thanks to sociological and racial stereotypes at play again); black men are on the losing end. As this doesn’t work well with the black male’s cognitive idea of self and the societal belief that men should always dominate in every aspect of life; black men resolve their cognitive dissonance by attempting to knock black women down a peg. In other words, black women have become undesirable by men of their own race because in a number of cases, we have already achieved the goals they (often through no fault of their own) have been prevented from achieving.

    Black women seem to have become victims of their own success and desire to overcome adversity through any means necessary. Until a major shift in dominant sociological thought occurs, black women will continue to be depicted as the bane of society and will remain the competition black men secretly despise.

  29. Danyaile
    November 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    This is an interesting subject; I’ve often discussed with my goal-oriented, career motivated, single black female friends. The materialistic, abrasive, demanding, aggressive and unrealistic black female images are overkill and unfortunately I’ve become used to seeing black women portrayed in these ways in the media. I think the wide number of people who agree black women have unrealistic expectations that deem them as undateable are unconsciously influenced by these media depictions. The stereotypes of black women particularly professional black women creates a stigma that intimidates black men and encourages the black woman to really believe she is unworthy, or unfit for a mate.

    Can someone tell me why having expectations and standards a bad thing? Is it really asking too much for women to want a man that fits her definition of a good mate? Or is it just an issue for black women to have standards? When a black woman refuses to settle there’s controversy and backlash. Is the issue really black women, or is it that black women are asking too much of black men? Are we saying that black woman is undateable or are we saying a black man that “six-figure income, integrity, good character, good credit and loves his mom, requirements he actually meets, she later details many restrictions including little to no sex” is impossible to find? I would hope with black women maintaining high expectations would motivate and encourage more black men to strive towards more.

    On the subject of the caricature or images of black women, I think a good example is the images we see in reality TV. In my Women’s studies class, entitled Women and Popular Culture, I read article that identified and discussed how even when TV is expected to be to depict realistic images (e.g. “reality” TV), television officials still choose images that depict black women to be “superficial, unreasonable, overly demanding gold diggers”. To see women with these characteristics are often entertaining, however, it becomes a problem when we allow these images to represent the way we feel about black women and we use these images to judge and label them.

    Another issue I have is how the focus on black women as meant to be single when they are professional. It appears when black women are not considerate to be professionals they are stereotyped to be on welfare, single (bad) mothers, with a plethora of fatherless children. On the hand, they are women professionals are incapable of finding a spouse and balancing family life. This does not accurately represent the wide population of professional black women who are excellent mothers, and wives, and those women who have not been on welfare but work hard every day to make ends meet. In my class, we’ve discussed how the idea of women being unable to balance career and family life has is not specific to black women but to all women today. An example of that is found in the movie the Devil Wears Prada.

    Anyways, I agree with you one hundred percent. I too am tired of seeing these stereotypes that blame us for being unlovable and undateable, when we should be placing the blame on the media for the continuous ways we are negatively depicted and characterized.

  30. Mike
    November 19, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I thought it was funny. But i can see how it could be offensive. There wasn’t any difference to this and some of the jokes Chris Rock makes. Its tongue in cheek as much as anything. If anything, black womens reactions to it actually adds to the stereotype. Just laugh it off and keep moving.

  31. November 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    The thing that gets me about videos like this (as well as television broadcasts and newspaper/magazine articles), is that Black women are the only race of women told that our standards are too high and that we need to settle for less.

    Everything on the list are qualities that White and Asian women are deemed deserving of, and no one ever criticizes their demands for a man that meets them.

    But for some reason Whites and most Black men seem to feel that the dregs of society, the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel are all that Black women should seek to have in their lives. If we want a man that has ends meeting, WE get labeled a gold-digger, whereas the White chick seeks a good provider. If we seek higher education, we get labeled by Black men as unmarriageable or not having the qualities of a good wife, whereas White women expect their men to have at least an undergraduate degree or at the minimum, a technical certification.

    What Black women need to do is stop passing along these links. Stay off sites like Bossip that promote these ignorant Black men and hurt Black women in the process. If you run across an article, video, photo, blog post or television broadcast that depicts Black women in a negative way STOP READING OR LOOKING AT IT!!!!

    People like the creator of that video create such things with the intent to wound the psyche and break the spirit of Black women. Don’t give them the pleasure by not giving them the power.

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