Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dating While Feminist, Part II: Last Words


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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.


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