The “It” Girl


Who would have thought that being a single black woman would be all the rage? If you’ve clued-in to the blogosphere over the past few weeks, you probably have noticed the trend. From Helena Andrews’ forthcoming book and film Bitch is the New Black to ABC’s Nightline segment on single black women, I am starting to feel like the “it” girl. Everybody seems to be talking about me and I’ve never been more ready for my close up. After all, there are serious issues at play that could really use the airtime.

As an underappreciated beautiful black woman, I hope that you would understand my trepidation over being haphazardly catapulted into stardom. For those of us who know, being single isn’t always cute and certainly isn’t something to exploit. It can be lonely and desperately painful but can be an unfortunate reality for so many black women.

Although it was not without flaw, I am comforted when I see television specials like that of the ABC segment. The largest blemish was Steve Harvey’s perpetuation of binary gender roles and antiquated irrelevant advice that only further contributed to the rhetoric of assault on women. The relationship advice in his book, which he predicates his comments on, encourages women to constantly be altering their physical and emotional selves to fit the male gaze. Apart from this disappointment and some problems with the numbers (the eligible numbers should have included black male college graduates, but I suppose they didn’t want us to hurl ourselves off of the Brooklyn Bridge and should have subtracted gay black men), I felt solace in hearing other black women facing what I am. It makes me feel as though I am part of a community grappling with a common struggle and ultimately as if I am not alone. However, not all black women share this sentiment. If Essence’s relationships editor Demetria L. Lucas could, “she would climb under a rock…to avoid the onslaught of articles, primetime TV segments, books, and countless blog discussions.” While Lucas very eloquently iterates her frustrations with the white constructed “Black Man Shortage” narrative, I don’t see what we have to gain from hiding from this reality. I do not deny that major networks do in fact pull out this story ever so often to sensationalize the issue but I wonder if we can start using these specials as a springboard to discuss what is really going on in our community. Many black women and men ask why we are still talking about this. To them I answer, because it continues to be a dire circumstance with no trace of getting any better.

Many of my black college educated male peers are disheartened and even angered by this discourse. It is almost as if they feel as though their masculinity is being challenged. I can’t tell anyone how to feel but I wish rather than get insulted, educated black men reflected on these reports as heavily as educated black women do. Admittedly, I am coming from a privileged perspective and I cannot speak for every community. I don’t know any black men in my age group who are not in college, even fewer who are not at the best institutions in the country, but I wonder why my peers and even some of my friends are, as the school counselor Chato Waters lamented, juggling four quality women in rotation. As blessed as I have been to be amongst what I perceive to be intelligent company, with it comes a sense of arrogance. My fear is that as young black men are patting themselves on the back and brushing their shoulders off, they are missing opportunities to codify healthy relationships with black women and even perhaps sleeping on the possibility to pull up even younger legions of black men. I would be foolish not to acknowledge that this is symptomatic of the behavior of many young men regardless of race but with a lot of things, black folks have to hold themselves to a higher standard. We don’t have time for games. Our community is hanging on by tiny threads of overworked black women. I appreciated a recent video I saw posted by Christopher Johnson but as one of my friends saliently noted; while he makes a plea for the good guys, he never really tackles the issues at hand. He never even addresses the numbers.

There are a host of problems that perpetuate this issue. Black women continue to have minimal representation in the media especially in all of our diverse hues, hair textures and body types. We all know that we very rarely see dark skinned women, full figured women and women who sport their God given hair. This contributes to a socialization that is hard to break yet we continue to watch and support the very mediums that do not reflect who we are. I just saw the preview for Jennifer Lopez’s next film The Back-Up Plan. I am always amazed at her ability to consistently attain romantic comedy movie roles where she plays opposite a white male lead—the subject of her race never being the focal point of the film. In fact, the same seems to be true for other women of color yet there continues to be black people who want to shy away from the specificity of our plight. Interracial dating is often suggested but for many black women, especially those who find themselves on the margins of celebrated beauty norms, this is not an easy task.

Additionally, young black men need mentors. I heard a young girl call into the WBGO Newark Today radio program to voice to her mayor, Cory Booker, her concerns about her brother who she feared was no longer attending high school but out on the street hustling. Over the course of the hour, Booker and other Newark residents made a plea, particularly to older black men, to become mentors. We need more black men teaching black young men the importance in loving black women.

I could go on and on about our problems as a community. We have lots of them. The fact that too many black women are single is only the tip of the iceberg but by engaging the issue rather than hiding under a rock, we could pick away at the glaciers. We could turn this single black woman talk into a discussion and ultimately a solution to the underlying issues.

Unfortunately you can’t really get over something that is still there. You cannot jump over a barrier that has not yet been knocked down. We can pretend but smacking that wall sure will hurt. What we can do and what we should do is use this ongoing hysteria to our benefit all the while highlighting the surrounding issues we face as a community. After all, Americans have a short attention span, being the “it” girl won’t last forever.

  • Goldenah

    If a young woman, in her 20-30′s, isn’t constantly dating (not hooking up with) decent men, her likelihood of marriage is minuscule to none.

    There’s no one to “blame” in this situation, they just need to think about what they desire, and work at it. It might require doing some research and leaving the neighborhood and relocating.

    Black women in this particular country have a harder life, that’s a fact. Know what’s going on around you and proceed accordingly.

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  • honee

    I agree with you and Michelle. Articles like this just reinforce to black men that they are the prize. They can play us and shuffle us as they please because they hold all the power. They can have any woman they want because we believe the myth that other men don’t want us.Other women become interested in them because they’re curious to know what it is that we’re so caught up in wanting. Not to mention its got to be gratifying that you were chosen over all these other women that are pratically throwing themselves at this man. To the statement that there aren’t as many interracial opportunities for black women, many times men of other races don’t approach certain black women because they’ve been turned down so much by others and all they ever hear is that black women only want black men. I have co-workers that when approached by men of other races are always amazed that he was interested in them but shoo them away because they must be strange.

    This problem of single black women is not going to go away. It didn’t just start yesterday and the problem is only going to get worse. You can go into any high school in America now and you will see black boys with other races and black girls are left without a boyfriend at higher rates then their peers.So girls are learning at a young age without the media even telling them that they will be alone. You have black mothers that devalue relationships when talking with their sons and reinforcing the idea that they are the prize. The reasons why this problem will only increase are too numerous to list. Black women need to wake up and face the facts.

    I’m single but I choose not to limit who I date or ultimately marry by race. I don’t belittle black men or complain about some shortage of good black men. I don’t believe that black men belong to me or that they have to date women that look like me. In sum, I choose to belong to the human race and be open to love all that are apart of it.

  • krianne

    stop the clock for a moment. my little brother and sister are mixed and guess what they look like? ima just let u kno that they sure dont look mixed OR black. they look straight up white. little sister has floppy wavy brown hair and white skin (very slightly tan in the summer cause she does not tan well) pointed nose, i wouldnt say thin lips but they arent medium either, and brown green eyes, and as tall and thin as a twig. the little brother has slightly curly brown hair, white skin, brown eyes, pointed nose, medium lips, and is tall but reel husky wit a ghetto booty (lol). u dont kno what ur kids will come out looking. same with black ppl. my friend was married to a dark skin black man and she was dark skinned herself… came out light skinned…he thought she cheated on him and denied the baby. after begging him to get a birth test…came out the baby was his and he was lookin reel stupid. so dont automatically assume that “oh jus because so and so is so and so the baby will look like this.”

  • krianne

    everyone has their own preferance. just because most black women prefer black men does NOT mean that they are closed minded. that is just their preferance. if i am a mixed woman that would only date and eventually marry a black man….does that make me closed minded? if i am a dominican woman that will only date and eventually marry a dominican man….does that make me closed minded?? No. that is just my preferance. If a person is not attracted to a certain thing you cant make them like it. same if a person IS attracted to something… cant make them not like it. thats like saying trying to make a woman suck a dick and she dont want to and then saying “You are so closed minded, you aint never even tried it before!”

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