This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
When I step into a bar as a black woman I'm faced with a weird dilemma: I don't want to be ignored by men, but I'm also wary of being noticed.
It is exhausting, disappointing, and triggering, to date while being a black woman. Being black welcomes its own struggles—as racism does—but being a black woman I feel constantly dehumanized by the partners that pursue me. As black women we're understood as a group rather than as individuals, leading us to be defined through mainstream stereotypes that are then imposed on us in relationships. Society shows black women being catty and fighting on reality television shows like Bad Girls Club, or they portray the message that the same black features we have from birth are better appreciated on women of lighter skin tones. Magazines are guilty of this when they praise Lady Gaga for her dreadlocks but Giuliana Rancic thinks Zendaya's dreadlocks "smell like patchouli oil. Or weed." Let's not forget when Charlie Sheen called Rihanna the "village idiot." These comments and images put black women on the lower end on the scale of respect and humanity, sending a loud message to us and to our potential partners.
I began using Tinder about three years ago, and OkCupid and then Bumble starting this year. I was hopeful for love but soon found my hope replaced with sheer disgust towards my matches. The issue was not one rotten apple but a rotten barrel. One message I received from a white male had him talking at length about his barely suppressed desire to touch and tear at my body, telling me he "was craving some fine chocolate." Chocolate being a treat and a commodity, waiting to be unwrapped. To be compared to an item, especially to be exoticized based on my skin tone, had me feeling disillusioned and ashamed. Another message came from a male non-black person of colour. He was so happy that we matched because he "had never been with a black woman before." As if being with a black woman was a checklist or some game to be won. I matched with a black male and hoped to God that things would be different. Surely this black man must understand being black and how the world sees us. Of course, I was again disappointed. "I'm surprised at how you carry yourself. The other black chicks I've been with are loud and catty haha. Always looking for someone to fight." This experience reminded me that stereotypes about black women come from all colours and nationalities.
Read More: Women of Color Get No Love on Tinder
I now find myself jumping at the mere vibration of my phone, letting me know I have a new match. I'm disappointed by my matches before introductions are even made. As a black woman my pre-screening of my potential partners must be spearheaded by questions involving race. A topic so close and dear to me as it determines the outcome of my life, and those around me. I have been denied the fun and charm of asking questions about occupation and desires, devaluing those answers over whether or not my match believes, understands, and supports the movement and cause of Black Lives Matter. Do you care about it? Will you understand my pain and can I count on you not to add to it? I wonder if my partner will understand how neglected my wants and needs are by society. Will you understand why I feel devalued when a white woman is praised for having (often purchasing) predominant black features? Will you understand if I do not feel my prettiest in my natural hair? Will you speak for me and my sisters when we are slain in the streets? Will you remind me that black really is beautiful when I am made to forget? By the time I've hit the second question I am already disappointed and I logout and cry. I did not even get to ask him if he likes dogs or cats.
Dating while being a black woman is a constant realization and fear that you will be analyzed when an analysis doesn't need to be made. You'll be compared to women you've never met. But even after countless awful experiences I log in again in the hope that they are not all the same.
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