This post discusses heterosexual-cissexual dating. Don’t forget to read Part I.
I have this moments that I call “my feminist reality checks.” They happen as I sit with some of my girlfriends and I realize that despite the fact that we attribute so much to feminist movements, some women’s expectations, aspirations and dreams have not changed that much since the 1950s. Whereas that’s not necessarily a problem, it becomes one when these same women find it awkward that you, a woman of colour, do not aspire to the white-middle-class-privileged standard. In many cases, that’s not even an option for you.
I have sat through countless dinners where friends discuss their desire for an engagement ring, a white dress and a traditional wedding party. They have all planned out, and they are just waiting for the guy to propose. Then, they turn to you and tell you how wonderful it will be to make him dinner every day, or how marvellous their white picket fence will be. Next, they discuss their partner’s salaries and brag about how the two combined incomes make enough for annual trips, big parties and luxury items. Later, they pause. They look at you and they ask you, “are you seeing anyone?”
You hesitate… How do you tell them that you are seeing a few people, nothing serious, but that you are really puzzled about gender/race/class relations within the dating world? And as you say no or maybe or nothing serious, you see some women become abrasive. They hold on to their partners (if present) and become nervous, as if you were threatening, broken, dangerous or all of those. Some others pity you and make that annoying sound of “awwwwww.” Then, they present you with a list of all the single men they know.
What it comes down to is the fact is that I make many of my friends uncomfortable; first, because I am single (no one likes the single friend when everyone else is coupled up), and then because I cannot help but analyze the dates and people I go out with. Why wouldn’t I? When a guy tells you that “Latinas are naughty” (and other stereotypes) you wonder where such a gendered, sexist and racist comment came from. But as soon as I get into the stories, they are all confused to say the least. Of course they find it amusing that I have so much to tell… some of them even say that they “live vicariously through me.” However, when it comes to the analysis, to the real juice of the issue, I am slapped with comments like, “you are too picky,” “you don’t know what you want” or “no guy is perfect.”
I am not looking for the perfect man. I don’t even know what “perfect” supposes to describe. Nonetheless, I am pretty clear about the fact that I can’t handle sexist and racist (and other “ists”) comments and attitudes. But apparently as a woman of colour and faith that’s too much to ask. Worse of all, it is not only the general society that abides by this idea, but many of the people who surrounds me at the personal level.
My feminist reality checks are those moments when I realize that despite centuries of feminist activism and all the options available to many privileged women, and less so to racialized women, I am still expected to fit the mould of heteronormative, monogamous and gendered relationships. I should see someone. I should understand him, overlook his flaws (no matter how big) and settle down, because I am almost in my 30s and the image of the spinster is still floating around.
What is more, I suppose to want what society thinks I should want: a husband, his last name, some kids, a job that is not too demanding because gee! I am a woman, and an overall comfortable life of monogamous heteronormativity. My aspirations, my questions, my desires and my concerns shall be secondary past the wedding…
I was educated in the tradition of the feminists that did not marry and critiqued such a model (not that such an approach is necessarily better), but now out and about in the dating world in 2015, I am told over and over again that there is no place for young feminists of colour. To be a little feminist is okay as long as it does not disturb the overall relationship/marriage structure and does not scare off potential dates. But the overall notion of transformation is just too radical for mainstream Western society.
So as I continue this process I engage again in the masochistic practice of dating and, more so, of sharing that process with those who surround me. Yes, it can be hard. Yes, it is often quite annoying. But my feminist reality checks are a reminder that the work is not done. That there are still so many ways in which women of colour (at different points of privilege) are regulated at the most personal levels such as in their personal relationships, their choices and their agency. And ultimately, it is a reminder that it will be extra hard for me to be single or to find someone because of what society expects of me (and what I actually want)… Thus, I better get comfortable as the ride will be long.