All the Single (Beige*) Ladies!

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that ABC New is running articles about the ills of single ladies, since they have several stories/videos about “crazy cat ladies,” but I am of two minds about this piece about single, black, successful ladies. The premise of the piece is an attempt to look at a potential racial divide between when black women get married and when white women get married.
From the video:

Forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married, double the number of white women who’ve never tied the knot.

and

For starters, there are 1.8 million more black women than black men. So even if every black man in America married a black woman today, one out of 12 black women still wouldn’t make it down the aisle if they hoped to marry a black man.

and

What “Nightline” looked at were the large numbers of professional black women who have groomed themselves for success with B.A.s, M.D.s and J.D.s. Seventy percent of them are still without the more elusive title: M-R-S.

Fear-mongering statistics aside, it is frustrating to read this. I realize that watching this through my feminist lens is frustrating because ABC News is reducing these women to letters and numbers, ignoring the role that socialization has on women to feel they need to get married. Where, after all, are the specials on panacea around single men? Those stories would look different, if produced at all, and I think reducing it to biology is too simple (aka the biological clock). The reality is many men want to be in stable relationships as well.
But if I am to look around at women I know including successful women of color, they do want to get married and while I don’t necessarily agree with that desire on their part, I am their friend and I too am on the mean dating circuit and can most certainly feel their pain. Factors such as racism and displacement have forced our communities apart in ways that are reflected in dating and marriage.
So how do we reconcile this tension? Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story is when Steve Harvey “relationship expert” chimes in about how all these ladies are “fine,” so it is crazy they are single. Get it, they look nice, it doesn’t matter if they are educated and successful. Oh and they are overlooking good guys, so it is probably their fault. And Harvey hits the nail on the head without realizing he does–irrelevant of your successes in life, you have to put that behind you if you want to find a man. Men don’t have this same pressure, they can be as choosy as they want if they are successful and even sometimes when they are not. This would be why heteronormativity sucks.


Wise Diva chimes in over at her blog,

Perhaps I am a bit oversensitive to this kind of thing because I obviously fit the single, black, female criteria. I just wonder why a person’s career success should automatically translate into success in finding a mate. Did I miss something?
I know there are friends of mine of many races and backgrounds that have a desire to marry, but I don’t get the sense that they feel entitled to it simply because they have achieved success.
Whenever I hear or read stories like this, I have to really wonder, what is the point of tossing out the “forty-two percent” have not married statistic. Then they take it further and highlight the difference as “double the number of white women”. Seriously?

Similarly, I think that is what frustrates me about the media constructed panics around single black women, a parallel I think that can be drawn for women of color, more generally. Historical reasons such as racism, colonization, migrations and culture have made the ways our lives form different. Becoming successful in America comes with it not only financial success, but white weddings and 2 kids and 2 cars and a dog and a cat. It comes with it assumptions about your sexuality which make illegible that fuzzy space where people that may not fit those molds exist. I realize my proposition is radical, but I think we really need to push past the idea that the only way to be a legitimate “woman” is to be married and allow people the cultural freedom to feel comfortable in the space they are in.
And just for reading all of that…go on and have a dance break.

*the origin of the single beige female.

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14 Comments

  1. Phenicks
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Ok 1) black women outnumber black men by almost 2 million.
    2) Not every black man is straight
    3) Not every black woman is straight
    4) Considering gay marriage isn’t legal everywhere there will be a significant number of teh population who will never get married regardless of gender but because women outnumber men, it isn’t hard to figure out that women are more likely to not get married.
    5) Straight black males are twice as likely as straight black female to date outside their race.
    I could go on and on but I don’t see where this is supposed to be some awful scary statistic about the horrors of being single. Unless one advocates forcing gay men straight, all men to date within their race, sex selection based abortion and ever black man and woman to desire marriage there will ALWAYS be single black women. there will ALWAYS be single people.

  2. Honeybee
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    One statement really confuses me: “Men don’t have this same pressure, they can be as choosy as they want if they are successful and even sometimes when they are not. ”
    Are you implying men get to be pickier then women when choosing a partner? Because I couldn’t disagree more if so.
    I think it’s much easier for women to find men who are interested in them then the reverse. Men are pretty crazy about trying to get with women and at the end of the day will sleep with just about anyone. I can wear a burqa and still get interest from guys. I can’t say the same is true for men looking for women.

  3. katemoore
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Really? The “women can get sex whenever they want” myth? I thought only MRAs used that one.

  4. Athenia
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    The problem of the post isn’t about getting laid or even finding a date, it’s about getting married or being in a stable relationship.

  5. aka spike the cat
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I think the article implies that men can be choosier about marriage and long-term relationships. The casual sex situation favors het women because apparently there is unlimited demand for casual sex (so we’re told) on the part of het men.
    I know people don’t like to break it down in terms of economics but everything that is predicted when there is a shortage of males has come to fruition in among US blacks. Those things are 1) high out of wedlock births 2) higher rates of STIs 3) lower rates of marriage.
    Even when correcting for poverty, the effect is dramatic.

  6. joaninha
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Honeybee said:
    “I think it’s much easier for women to find men who are interested in them then the reverse. Men are pretty crazy about trying to get with women and at the end of the day will sleep with just about anyone.”
    Whilst it may be true that the men you talk about will sleep with “just about anyone”, doesn’t mean they’re looking for a marriage/relationship, and my guess is that if you’re a woman of any colour looking for a husband you want a man with a bit more integrity than that.
    We’re pretty much taught from day one that women want long-term way more than men do and IF that’s true then from a supply/demand perspective men can be pickier when it comes to marriage. I mean, geez, if Beyonce the beautiful can’t get a bloke to put a ring on her finger, what hope do any of us have!!

  7. Phenicks
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Beyonce IS married and Jay-Z mentions in some of his songs that he’d wanted to marry her before but she wasn’t ready or willing to settle down a moment earlier than when she finally did.
    But even if most men don’t want to get married, why is that somethign that has to change? Why should people who DONT want to get married be pressured into pretending they do?

  8. paperispatient
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s much easier for women to find men who are interested in them then the reverse.
    I really don’t think we can generalize that way. Sure, there were a good amount of guys who wanted to date or fuck me in college, but many of them were kind of sketchy, known date-rapists, stereotypical frat boys, or guys that I just didn’t connect or have much in common with.
    So even if it is easier for women to find men who are interested in them, that provides no advantage to women and simply does no good at all if the women aren’t interested back. I think mutual interest and genuine connection is a hard thing to come by for many people regardless of sex.

  9. Emily H.
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    “But if I am to look around at women I know including successful women of color, they do want to get married and while I don’t necessarily agree with that desire on their part [....]” I’m not really sure it’s up to you to “agree” or disagree with someone’s desire to get married, unless that person thinks everyone else ought to get married, too.
    “Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story is when Steve Harvey ‘relationship expert’ chimes in about how all these ladies are ‘fine,’ so it is crazy they are single. Get it, they look nice, it doesn’t matter if they are educated and successful.” Taking note of women’s looks is sexist and irrelevant in a work context, pretty reasonable in a dating context. Both men and women notice a potential mate’s looks and date people they find attractive. Having brains and success is just as important, but Harvey didn’t say it wasn’t — he said the women were “fine” as well as successful.
    “I think we really need to push past the idea that the only way to be a legitimate ‘woman’ is to be married and allow people the cultural freedom to feel comfortable in the space they are in.” In some cases, maybe people want to get married because they just assume that’s what they want. In many other cases, maybe it IS what they really want. You don’t have to be brainwashed by the culture to desire true love and a lifelong connection. This article may be falsely assuming that all (black) women should or want to get married. But since a lot of them probably do, it is a legitimate problem if they’re having a hard time meeting guys they like.

  10. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, Beyonce DID get a man to “put a ring on it” in real life – Jay Z (it was a first marriage for both of them and neither one of them has kids).

  11. daytrippinariel
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    A highly attractive and desirable guy has no trouble getting women to sleep with him or to date him.

  12. AuntieMay
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    For women who want to follow the standard life script (dating, committed relationship, marriage, kids/house), finding a suitable partner can be a challenge.
    I watched the video and then about how I found my ex-husband and then thought about my dating experiences.
    Steve Harvey (relationship expert?! wtf!) mentioned it in the interview. Is it really necessary for women to find a man of equal or greater earner power/potential?
    There is actually a term for this – hypergamy.
    I realized that in my dating pursuits, I was always looking at men who earned more than me. It was almost a subconscious thing as if my biology was directing me towards a self-limiting number of guys I would be willing to date.
    The worst part was dating guys who were attractive (to me) and did earn more money. They never, ever wanted an exclusive relationship. They wanted to date other women while still seeing me. For awhile, I felt like I was sharing these men with other women and it felt so awful so I gave up dating for awhile.
    This might be a function of age (I’m definately over 40) or a function of a small number of men having their pick of a large number of women. I have no idea.
    When I decide to date again, I will make a very conscious effort to seek to enlarge the dating pool by NOT looking at earnings as a factor. I make my own money, thankyou very much, and chemistry with a person should have nothing to do with money.

  13. Kathleen6674
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I never cared about how much money a man made, but I did care about how educated he was – I went after highly educated men, and ran into the same problem of not being able to find a man who wanted to be exclusive.

  14. 0mnipotent0verlord
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Confusing:
    “For starters, there are 1.8 million more black women than black men. ”
    People don’t always marry within their race, do they?

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