“You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!”
-The Joker, “The Dark Knight”
What do Tyrese Gibson, Gilbert Arenas and Kyrie Irving all have in common? Well, aside from the fact that they’re Black American men who, by dint of the sweat of their brows and God-given gifts, have reached the heights of success in their respective fields, they all three committed the cardinal sin of our time:
They all publicly expressed their preferences as to what their ideal woman is.
We all recall Gibson’s huge kerfuffle earlier this year right after his secret wedding to his betrothed, Samantha Lee; he referred to her as his “Black queen” and Black women across the country went apoplectic. Last year, basking in the afterglow of their “revenge win” against the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers star player Kyrie Irving decided to have a big party on his yacht – sans any Black women. Once again, Black women across the country, as expressed on social media, became unglued. And finally, fellow basketball great Gilbert Arenas expressed his personal opinion that Oscar-winning actress and de facto “dark girl idol” Lupita N’Yongo wasn’t attractive to him; one mo gin, Black women took to social media to express their discontent in response.
Of course, what supposedly links all three high-achieving Black men here, is the notion that such men have a mate selection criteria that is rooted in “the legacy of slavery”, better known as “colorism” – the idea that lighter skinned Black people are just “better” than darker skinned ones.
Especially if they happen to be female.
This, among other “defences” Black women throw up in a heartbeat in the face of a Black man expressing his preferences in women, adds a kind of moralistic “kick” to said defence – after all, who could really argue with America’s “original sin”, that of slavery and its aftermath over a century after it ended? Black women have gotten a lot of mileage out of essentially calling any Black man who doesn’t express his undying devotion to what I’ve referred to as a “Jill Scott with a Grace Jones paint job” a particular type of racist – one that singles out certain kinds of Black women for harsh words of criticism.
Of course, this is all bullshit, for the very same historical forces that have hobbled Black men as a group could also be applied to Black women when they express THEIR preferences. For example, much hay has and continues to be made over the idea that Black women “vastly” outnumber Black men when it comes to formal educational degrees and thus, explains in large part why so many formerly educated Black women simply can’t find Black men “on their level”. The fact that at no point in post-Civil War America has Black men equaled or surpassed Black women in terms of formal education and more to the point, that this state of affairs is directly tied TO that very same “legacy of slavery” that so many Black women use as Captain America’s shield, never enters into the conversation.
The same can be said when it comes to Black male earnings. Despite the fact that overall, Black women outnumber Black men in the labor force, have more formal educations, are unemployed and disabled much less, Black men STILL out earn Black women on average, this doesn’t stop Black women and their advocates in the media, academia and even entertainment, from peddling in notions that the reason why Black men don’t make as much money as White and other non-Black men do (and thus, don’t measure up as viable mates for Black women), is due purely to the personal decisions of Black men themselves. All the talk of “a legacy of slavery” is suddenly nowhere to be heard.
A “legacy of slavery for me, but not for thee”, indeed!
Meanwhile, Black women not only feel entitled (more on this word in a moment) to their preferences, not only do they defend them come hell or high water, but the culture – both in and outside Black America itself – encourages and supports this view.
For example, when newscaster and media personality Jackie Reid appeared on The Nightly Show in response to a previous panel of Black men’s assessment of Black women and said defiantly that she “had standards” despite the fact that her romantic track record screamed for the need for adjustment, she received nothing but applause. Not to be outdone, the always jocular funny man turned relationship guru Steve Harvey, found himself under the gun some years back in Atlanta on a special on ABC News about, what else, why so many Black women couldn’t find “good Black men”, for daring to suggest that – gasp! – Black women LOWER their extraordinarily high “standards” if they were serious about getting a mate. Harvey, ever the wily businessman, knew what side of the bread his butter was on, and kept quiet on that front.
Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum. Black America IS part of America overall and there we’ve seen an increasing amount of the same “fuckery” behavior on the part of non-Black American women at large. For example, no one bats an eye about the notion of a “lack of marriageable men”, yet at the same time, we are besieged with accusations of “fat shaming”, “slut shaming” and so forth. Not only that, but “plus sized” American women suddenly don’t seem to be such staunch adherents of the idea of “assortative mating”; they’re checking just as hard for the square-jawed, conventionally handsome “hunk” of a man as their more petite sisters – and they do it all with a straight face. Wow. Just…wow. No one accuses women, Black, White, fat, baby mamas, you name it, as being “entitled”. No says that these women have to “move on”. No one tells women that “life ain’t fair” – no, these and other rhetorical devices designed to silence, cajole and otherwise herd MEN into doing things they don’t want to do, are NEVER applied to women.
So, why the immense double standard?
The Obsidian Rorshach Test
Although I didn’t plan it this way, I’ve found that one way to determine one’s view of these matters is to simply recount a true life story from my past as a younger man. Because of the nature of the responses I’ve gotten to it over the years, I’ve decided to call it my own personal “rorshach test” – and boy, do people – WOMEN AND MEN ALIKE, I might add – see things in my story that I never suggested, implied or intended!
Here’s that story: many years ago, during senior prom season, I, like many young men in America do, made the rounds looking for a prom night date. Because beauty moves me and speaks to my soul, I of course, was attracted to the “hot chicks”. However, after asking out somewhere around a dozen such young ladies, I found that the feeling wasn’t mutual, LOL. With roughly a month to go before the big event and no prospects THAT I WANTED in sight, I simply decided to gracefully bow out of the whole thing altogether.
My mother and three sisters however, held a differing view of the situation. Although I didn’t request their “help” they took it upon themselves to enlist the aid of my sisters’ girlfriends to be candidates for my prom night date. In all, four young ladies were “in the running” – AND ALL FOUR WERE HOMELY. What made it a serious insult to injury was that my sisters actually had really good looking girlfriends they could have hooked me up with; instead, they seemed to be hooking me up with the LEAST attractive girlfriends they could find.
Although I “signaled” non-verbally and “nicely” that I wasn’t interested – my facial expressions, body language, you name it, were clear indications – my mom, sisters and the four homely chicks simply wasn’t having it. They cajoled and needled me for the rest of that prom season.
It was a living hell.
With about a week to go, I decided to put the whole thing to a blessed end.
One evening, when I knew that the gang would all be gathered at the house, I first told all four of the homely sisters that I wasn’t sexually attracted to ANY of them, and to please stop and leave me alone. I didn’t scream or yell; in fact, I put on my “blank slate poker face” and used my deadpan voice to deliver the coup de grace. I then immediately turned to my mom and sisters and told them to never do that again.
Of course, I was the bad guy! “She/they’re so nice!” (a classic line if there ever was one, that the lady in question is unattractive) “You’re an asshole!”, and so forth. Mind you, I never requested their “help” in the first place.
And you know something? NOT ONE PERSON I’VE RELAYED THIS REAL LIFE ACCOUNT TO, HAS DISAGREED WITH MY MOM AND SISTERS. In fact, the whole situation bothered me so deeply, that not only did I skip my graduation ceremony, I promptly left home and didn’t return for over a decade later!
See, men are expected to LOWER their standards – both women expect this, AND MEN EXPECT THIS, TOO. In fact, you often hear men say things like, “I like the women who like me”, and so forth. In that I’m a “live and let live” kind of guy, if a man or men feel this way, more power to em. However, where I draw the line is when others attempt to impose this line of thinking on ME. For ME, just because a woman “likes” me, DOES NOT OBLIGATE ME TO RECIPROCATE THAT AFFECTION OR INTEREST WHATSOEVER. Morevoer, I reserve the RIGHT to reject ANY woman for ANY reason I damn well please – WITHOUT explanation, qualification or information. Why?
BECAUSE THAT IS MY RIGHT.
However, our society doesn’t recognize this. ANY man who does what I do, can expect to be hit with all manner of rhetorical devices:
“Who the fuck do you think you are?”
“You aren’t entitled to thus and so!”
“She/they’re so nice!”
“You’re so shallow!”
And of course, if you’re Black like me,
“Yo mama Black!”
Notice that when (Black) women express their preferences, there is no “follow up” discussions about what they’re bringing to the table (or not), the importance for the need to “move on” (read: to people you’re NOT attracted to in the first place), they’re not subject to “tough love” and “real talk” (which isn’t only unsolicited, it’s downright ABUSIVE), and so on. When (Black) women express their preferences – no matter how outrageous, unrealistic, etc. – they are simply respected. In fact, in Black America, there’s a sizable number of Black women who are voluntarily celibate – the ostensible reason being, that there aren’t enough Black men “on their level” – and so they do the exact same thing I did back during senior prom season – gracefully bowed out. However, instead of being subjected to a barrage of crap, this is somehow seen as a badge of honor – when (Black) women do it.
You just cannot make this stuff up.
As the lead off quotation at the beginning of this article points to, I think the reason why men in particular get so much pressure to lower their standards in mating is because that’s part of the “life script” many of us – again, women AND men – strongly adhere to. Indeed, that is, as the Joker said, “part of the plan”. Men are supposed to pair off with someone – it doesn’t matter what HE wants – and he’s supposed to get on with the business of upholding society: getting a job (that he will most likely hate), work himself into an early grave (not at all unusual in my line of work prior to my retirement) and so forth.
I’ve always cut against the grain; I’m a born contrarian. And I’ve learned, that nowhere has this impulse caused so much agita, then in the realm of mating. The mere ACT of saying that you find a sizable number of (Black) women wanting as potential mates, is damn-near BLASPHEMOUS. Of course, recounting in painstaking detail the numerous foibles and ways in which men fall short in the eyes of so many (Black) women, is all par for the course.
As the Joker said, introduce some anarchy, and upset the established order.
And watch everyone lose their minds.
Mumia Obsidian Ali is the Sunday columnist for the Negro Manosphere. He also hosts a daily podcast “talk radio show” called “Obsidian Radio” on YouTube. Follow him on Twitter @ObsidianFiles.