It’s officially cuddle season in Australia! The last time you heard from me I had failed to secure a boo thang for the cold months ahead and had decided to take a mini hiatus from dating. During my break of self-reflection and not giving a f*ck, I was able to catch up on some of my beloved hobbies such as listening to podcasts.
I recently listened to one of my favorite feminist podcasts: Stuff Mom Never Told You. The title of the particular episode was Single by Choice where the discussion centered on the social stigmas attached to being a single woman. The use of the word “choice” is intriguing because, from my experience, it seems like “choice” is something only reserved for non-black women. Indeed, three minutes into the episode, the hosts do reinforce this by saying that “choice” is not as big a factor for African-American women mainly because of the disparity in graduation rates between black women and black men. African-American women are graduating from college at a rate twice as high as black men; therefore it is harder for black women to find an equally matched black man to pair up with. This has been a long standing reason used to explain the plight of the single black woman as cited in Kate Bolick’s 2011 article, All the Single Ladies. While this may offer a small piece of the puzzle as to why black women have a hard time dating, I am still left with the burning question: what about all the other races of men out there?
I discovered the answer to this question on Match.com. Yes- I rejoined the world of online dating. This time however, I upped the ante and went with a dating site that you actually pay money to use in the hopes that this would improve the quality of my potential matches. What I got instead was a rude awakening.
You see, one of the main differences between an OKCupid profile and a Match.com profile is that you can specify what races/ethnicities you’re open to dating. I would say that roughly one out of every five profiles I visit specifically exclude “Black/ African descent” in their preferences. Literally, dudes check-off every ethnicity: White, Asian, Latina, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, Other, fucking Martian… all EXCEPT Black. It’s one thing to know in your head that prejudice and bias exists, it’s another thing to see it blatantly displayed on your screen like this:
This phenomenon stirs up some unpleasant memories from my college days in Connecticut when a white guy I was seeing said to me, “you’re awesome, if only you were white.” This is the same guy who wouldn’t hold my hand in public. Or the other white guy I had a brief fling with who told me that he “typically wasn’t into black girls unless she was Halle Berry or something, of course.” Of course! But what I’ve found online is that it’s not just white men who do this; this is pervasive across most other ethnic groups. What’s especially hurtful is that even some black men, who presumably were raised by black women, don’t check-off the Black box. If the black men aren’t checking for us, who is?
What the Data Says
The naysayers out there are probably saying that I can’t conclude that my dating troubles are directly caused by my skin color because I don’t have a statistically significant sample size to prove this. Well, as so nicely pointed out in this week’s podcast episode of StartUp (Episode: Profiled), they interviewed Christian Rudder, the cofounder of OKCupid and author of the book Dataclysm, who confirmed that based on data pulled from various dating sites “there is a persistent anti-black bias. Black women get rated about 3/4s as high… as everyone else.” In other words, it’s not all in my head. What makes this even more difficult to digest is that I consider myself an equal opportunity dater when it comes to race. I don’t like white men and I don’t like black men. I like men. Period. So I can’t even begin to comprehend how someone automatically eliminates an entire group of people from their dating pool based on skin color.
What I’ve also learned is that the algorithms on dating sites also try to match people based on level of attractiveness. Attractiveness is determined by things such as the number of in-mail messages received, likes, responses etc… So an unfortunate knock-on effect of the discount factor that black women are subjected to is a huge difference in the attractiveness level of a black woman and her potential matches. Not to sound like a narcissist, but the matches that Match.com periodically sends me are usually significantly less attractive than me. You can only imagine what a number this does to your self-confidence.
Single by Circumstance
Why black women are consistently not considered to be good potential dating partners remains a mystery to me. I’m just saying, Beyoncé runs the world, Oprah is one of the richest women on the planet, Shonda Rhimes is doing the damn thing in Hollywood, Serena Williams has demolished every record in the history of women’s tennis and Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the Free World, yet this is still not enough to put black women on the map? Shiiiiiit. So single by circumstance it is for now, but rest assured that I'm hatching tactics to tackle this problem and if all else fails, there's always Atlanta.
Top Photo credit: pdxdiver via flickr.com