Dating While Feminist, Part II: Last Words

My dating experiences, which I chronicled in a prior post, have a sparked a range of conversations that for both better and worse, I did not anticipate. In light of several misreadings of my post, both in comments on the CFC blog and in this recent response by Sai Grundy, I want to make a few observations.

Feminism tells us that the personal is political. Therefore, feminism is a useful frame for helping me to make sense of the gender politics that may be at play in my dating life. When a card-carrying feminist goes on a date, it is a feminist issue, maybe a micro-level one, but a feminist issue nonetheless. In my facetious blaming of feminism, I simply meant that the confidence which it instills in women concerning their intellect and the often radical politics it causes us to espouse, can very often throw a monkey wrench in one’s dating game.

Feminism is not a zero-sum game. Who said our politics were so narrow that we can only speak about sexuality, when responding to the injustice of sexual harassment?  A discussion of my dating life in no way undercuts or delegitimizes the struggle of any sister who has ever been inappropriately approached, talked to, or touched.  Suggesting any such thing is shoddy argumentation at best and intellectually and socially irresponsible at worst.

Black feminism says that lived experience matters.  So I have a serious problem with fellow feminists who reject the validity of my experience (and that of so many others who responded), simply because it doesn’t match their own. The insidious nature of patriarchy will find a feminist soldier like Sai Grundy giving men the benefit of the doubt  and defending them no less, while rejecting a sister’s testimony of her own experience. Patriarchal hegemony at work. In fact, the statement “no man in the history of heterosexuality” has ever not bagged a woman because she is too smart is bombastic in its level of presumption.  What Sai has unwittingly done is reify the knowledge structures of patriarchy by giving validity  and universality to heterosexual male behavior, even when there’s a sista (a few of us in fact,) saying, “Sis, it just ain’t so.” But whatever. I’m not in the business of revoking feminist cards.

By way of example, here’s an almost direct (it was in February, so forgive me if it’s a little hazy) quote of apology from my last boyfriend: “I can be insecure sometime. I’m not used to dating women like you. You’re smart. You have opinions and you can back them up. I would normally be friends with a girl like you, but not date you. I’m used to being the one who’s achieved more in the relationship. But this time, I’m with a girl who’s better than me.” He had two masters degrees, was a teacher, and I was proud of and with him.  And of course there are the conversations over many years with several homeboys who would say, “I can see how you could intimidate a man. There’s nothing wrong with you. But you could definitely intimidate a brother.” And finally, there’s the quote from Mr. 5 Hour Ice-Cream himself , “I could see how a brother who had achieved a lot and then met you might not think he could pull you. I mean he worked hard and overcame a lot to get to where he is. And then he meets you, and you’ve achieved more.”

So let me be honest: My feelings are slightly hurt. Not at all the dudes who commented and didn’t get it. Not with the anti-feminist chicks who don’t get it. But with the feminist sisters who should’ve gotten it but didn’t, with these seemingly well-informed sisters who would rather conclude that I had whack game, was too arrogant, or simply wasn’t the object of dude’s attraction, than to consider that the post was representative of a dating pattern, not a singular experience.  A true feminist knows that no one person’s experience of dating is representative. Mine included.  I am truly disappointed that this post and some of  its commenters find it reasonable to prioritize and valorize their dating experiences over my own, leaving me to conclude that something must be wrong with me.  If I wanted to hear rhetoric like that I could have read some Steve Harvey and just gone to church.

crunktastic

20 thoughts on “Dating While Feminist, Part II: Last Words

  1. Yes! Excellent response. Black Feminism at its core is inclusive, receptive and inspired by divergence. Yet, I am often stunned at the narrow perspectives of many “practitioners.” Keep speaking your truth.

  2. Word! Thank you so much for sharing your words and your life B Real! This time and always!

  3. oh my. sorry to read this. really disappointed that your feelings were hurt. I think it is absolutely necessary for us – as feminists – to discuss the varying ways in which patriarchy transforms itself to hurt us. Your experience is ABSOLUTELY VALID and must be celebrated. Through your story, you created a platform to discuss a large pattern of experiences among intellectual women – whether feminist, or not. But I felt that this platform was truly developed in the commentary as you were interacting with people replying to your post. What you wrote was a fact-specific post, which naturally was subject to critique on “what happened”. This happens often with blog posts based on personal experience – readers too easily get lost in the story, unable to recognize the message. I will admit, I did the same. It wasn’t until I read your responses to people’s comments, that I was able to take a few steps back & truly recognize what you were trying to discuss. We all have different experiences. Our feminism need not be focused on one issue at a time. Oppression is not monolithic. So in that respect, I am in full solidarity with you. I will admit, my life is so inundated with sexual harassment, I am grateful to meet an attractive, black male brilliant feminist ally who only seeks to “mind-f*k”. All that to say, we feminists who have not experienced what you’ve gone through need to see more posts like what you shared to understand this phenom. One person responded to Sai Grundy’s post quoting Lourde “there is no hierarchy of oppressions.” I am with you on that. The oppression you speak of is simply something I need to learn more about.

  4. I read, but didn’t comment on, you part I. I don’t think it’s a “you” issue but I did feel myself feeling some sympathy with the male commenter who asked what the brother did wrong. Is this a pattern or did this particular date stick out to you? And yes @aisha I am happy to meet men who only want mental stimulation and nothing more! That’s a relief!

  5. I have similar experiences with dating and men and women being openly intimidated by me. Me saying that though should not be necessary to validate what Moya is saying.

    I carry a feminist card as well and just mentioning that in conversation is often percieved as almost as bad as saying you have kids. (Men and women seem to ask those questions early in the meeting. But funny, they never ask “Do you want to go get tested together?”…anyway)

    I completely understand the dating frustration and deal with it everyday. I always tell people that if I marry a man he would have to be a feminist. No exceptions.

  6. (i posted this on beautifulstruggler.com as well)

    As i’ve processed some of this today it occurs to me that part of what makes this particular issue contentious, at least for me, is not that we’re just presenting different views of feminist oppression, but that the dilemmas I and CFC are presenting here stand directly counter to each other!

    Let me explain (and i just spoke with a homegirl about this so i credit her for forming much of this clarity)– Those of us who have been on the victimizing end of male sexual desire have a hard time feeling sympathy for situations in which men are not sexual. I really want that to be heard. It is not that I do not think it is hurtful to be sexually rejected, but when you live each day with the blood curdling experience of male harassment and sexual exploitation it is honestly hard to hear or understand that some of our sisters are fighting TO be sexualized.

    A lot of us are that man (weirdly enough) on the other side of the icecream date. Trying to network, trying to be taken seriously, and having present company think crude thoughts about us, pretending to be interested in our minds for sexual aims, and carefully crafting their professional power over us to benefit their sexual interests. This was my initial and visceral reaction to the CFC post– that we are arriving too early at a place where we WANT sexual interaction when the fight to even get a space to be non-sexualized has not been won.

    I wonder how many of the women who empathized with the CFC post were victims of sexual abuse, unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, etc (and to be clear, sexual harassment DOES NOT have to constitute male sexual desire. women can be harassed for being undesirable as well). Because for those of us who deal with this daily it strikes a sensitive place where we recall the humiliation and degradation of being sexualized without our consent.

    I am just surprised that the original CFC post was not sensitive to these experiences. I have increasingly come to understand that being desexualized is a hurtful experience and I am fortunate that my fellow feminists shared this.

  7. also, may i add i think this dialogue has been highly productive and amazing how it comes right back to CENTURIES OLD issues with sexuality black women BEEN having. we are either made into mammies or jezebels. and mammies want their sexuality back and jezebels want the space to not be sexualized. but what we all want, and what feminists want for all women, is CONTROL of that sexualization. We hetero women don’t hetero want men determining when and where we are sexual or non-sexual. We want to call that shot. I feel you, crunkista, and I think you can feel me on that note.

  8. I hear you, but I don’t think you get what Crunktastic’s argument is about fundamentally. The original post is not about “fighting to be sexualized,” it’s about being recognized holistically for one’s intellect, sexuality, and so on. It’s also about being able to share one’s experiences in a safe space. However, I am less interested in getting you to see that point. The beauty of individuality is that you don’t have to, if you don’t want to, and that’s cool too.

    What I will say is please take a look at the range of what those of us in the CFC write about. Our purview is expansive: we write about ice cream dates, the Twilight series, Tyler Perry, and the conditions in Haiti. Today, I posted a piece about my experiences as a survivor of child abuse and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve survived other types of sexual violence. I too have experienced sexual harrasment in work and school settings (and while getting my car serviced and in other arenas) AND I can nod in appreciation to Crunktastic’ experience, because I have been there as well. To me, Crunktastic’s piece and my own are in no way polar opposites.

    I know that Crunktastic’s piece has opened up a floodgate of pain for some readers. I read it in the earlier comments–Yellow Mary’s vitriol and Maximillion’s arrogant dismissal. Those comments come from a place of deep pain and I hope those folks find healing. Still, I’m so very grateful Crunktastic was able to share her experiences and to initiate what has been a timely and much needed discussion.

  9. This has been quite a day and I have spent a lot of it having off line conversations about this. I feel that it seems that folks are, unsurprisingly, exhausted and ready to put this down. Not a bad thing, I think there were some discoveries, some connections and some MAJOR food for thought for all of us who participated. And I am grateful for that.

    Here are the two things that will keep me up tonight if I don’t get them off of my chest:

    1)I take great issue with the assertion that Sai and I were “reifing the structures of the patriarchy”. As there is no monolithical thought amongst feminists, then there will be times in which one of us sides with a man over one of her feminist sisters. Beyond that, Sai wasn’t saying “the men are right”, but rather “you might me assigning something to this brother that just isn’t true.” I don’t feel that my loyalty to other women has to take presidence over my love for our men. We take them to task, we ask them for more, but we can’t be afraid to step up and defend them when it seems appropriate.

    2) I don’t think anyone suggested that feminism is only a space to talk about civil rights or sexual terrorism. But I do think it’s fair for someone to ask “is this a feminist issue or not?”

    3) I worry that I caused you pain today and if I did that, I am truly sorry.

    That said, I think Saida’s last comment sums up a lot of what I am feeling right now. I hope that we are able to continue to have these conversations. I dont have a problem being challenged by one of you all than someone from outside the feminist community (which is broader and more diverse than some folks want to believe), because I’d like to believe we can have these chats in a spirit of love and building. I do, however, hope that the next conversation can skip some of the roadbumps that this one had (some very broad statements from myself and a few very nasty “You ain’t no real feminist” snipes from others).

  10. Sister Saida,

    To answer your question, I have not been a victim of sexual abuse if by that you mean incest, rape and that kind of violation. I have been if you include having boys and men grope me (and in public places.) Yes, I have been the target of unwanted sexual advances. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace albeit not to the extreme that Mary described. Been shut down, undercut, ignored for being desired and uninterested AND for being deemed undesirable with no regard to my interest. I have had men stalk me, menace me, threaten violence against me for not being interested. I have had men attempt to sabotage me in professional situations and political organization for not returning their interest.

    And perhaps these experiences is precisely why I empathized with Crunktastic’s post. We all want and deserved to be loved in all the ways that love can be human expressly, and we are not. Not in our full humanity and not on our terms. In some way, we are expected to be less than we are with no regard for our feelings about it.

    I’m wondering how our entire discussion might strike anyone whose experience straddles both extremes. What if there is a survivor of sexual abuse out there who has come to a healing place where she does desire a romantic partnership AND finds herself in repeated situations where she is too strident in her resistance to traditional notions of womanhood to be deemed attractive. Surely, she exists. Life is complicated like that. Even more so for any woman who is bucking male privilege.

    I really appreciate the compassion with which you posed the question and thank you for being transparent about your own experience and reflective about your participation in the conversation. I also apologize if none of my own responses were insensitive to the reality that you have named. Shoulda know better.

    It just goes to show you that these issues are so complicated and why we all must come to these discussions posing questions to each other as well as ourselves. We got off on an unproductive course once the discourse went into attack-defend mode because we couldn’t see past our own pain to see anyone else’s. My initial response to Yellow Mary’s first post was an attempt to move us past that. Thank you for this post which I most certainly receive as an attempt to do the same. I wish we (not just women of color but anyone who cares about social justice) could get to this place of compassion and understanding without taking that detour, but this is what living in a world where domination is the norm has wrought.

    it isn’t the first time, it won’t be the last, but maybe as we continue to dialogue about these things, over time we all will get better at it.

  11. Hey all-

    If we can turn our attention to these lines from the Combahee River Collective Statement, I think it might show the longevity of what Crunktastic raises, as their seems to be a question about whether her experience is translatable. My Spelman sister reminded me of this and I think it warrants repeating in this conversation.

    \”We discovered that all of us, because we were \”smart\” had also been considered \”ugly,\” i.e. \”smart-ugly.\” \”Smart-ugly\” crytallized the way in which most of us had been forced to develop out intellects at great cost to our \”social\” lives. The sanctions in the Black and white communities against Black women thinkers is comparatively much higher than for white women, particularly ones from the educated middle and upper classes.\”

    http://combaheesurvival.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/14-smart-ugly/

    Do you think that these words help this conversation along? I guess I was/am surprised at the surprise at what has been expressed here. I’m really not sure how victimization at the hands of men, even daily, precludes the conclusions drawn by Crunktastic and other commentors or by the writers of the Combahee River Statement (some of whom have written about their survival of such abuse). Seems to be a sentiment that black feminists have been wrestling with for a while, at least since ’74. Please follow the link to see what Quirky Black Girls Lex and I were thinking about when we excerpted this from the statement as part of the Combahee Survival project she created. Also Kameelah adds her own story which also connects to what is happening here as well.

    She writes:

    “we intimately know how we are treated when we are cute and quiet and we know that within a split second we can become ugly and undesirable if we use a polysyllable word or concession clause. we know our partners would prefer us more soft spoken. we know that the day we chose books over lipstick and wrote manifestas on any open space that we found that were choosing a lonely path. it was/is lonely because we never knew where the \’weird\’ black girls hide out.”

    http://combaheesurvival.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/14-smart-ugly/

  12. Dear Sistah:

    Thank you for your blog “Dating while Feminist” (Part I & II). Although I did not agree with everything you said in Part I, I was feeling you. At the same time, I also recognized that what you was writing was based on your experiences. I have earned two master degrees and I am currently completing my PhD. So I do understand.

    My issue was with your use of the term “feminist”. I think the the term “feminist” is too broad. As you are probably quite aware, there are many feminist theories. I choose Black Feminism. Sometimes I shift to Radical Black Feminism. When I think of the term “feminist”, it reminds me of the narrow-minded “White” women who attempted to disregard the concerns of the earlier Black feminist.

    Shame on all those who were unable to voice their disagreement with your blog in a civil and intellectual manner.

    A Sistah in the struggle.

  13. Little BEAR!

    I am so glad that you were courageous enough to write about feminism, Black women and dating. Heady stuff. I didn’t respond to your first post, as the grey text on gray background is just hard on my eyes.

    However I did read this one, and I got tears in my eyes, as I sensed the pain you felt at some women not feeling where you were coming from, at invalidating YOUR experience.

    I am truly disappointed that this post and some of its commenters find it reasonable to prioritize and valorize their dating experiences over my own, leaving me to conclude that something must be wrong with me.
    ========================

    #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture AND #sometimesBlackGirlswriteshitandJUSTwantpeopleTOfeelthem.

    I hear you Love. And I feel you. You were Honest and that my dear is hard to come by.

    Love,

    Renina

  14. Thank you much, Renina! I really appreciate the encouragement.

    Much love,

    Crunktastic

    • As long as women are oppressed, there will always be a need for feminism. Racial privilege certainly affects the ways in which we need it, but there is a need, nonetheless.

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