No Queen Wants a Court Jester: A Response to a “Dating Expert”

Editor’s Note: “Relationship experts” have been preying on single Black American women. The sudden crop of Steve Harvey-esque experts that examine relationships and singledom through the lens of deviance and lack of respectability are harmful to Black women. This response to Evan F. Moore from Kelly Brown (a Black Feminist who happens to be my mother) is reflective of the women that sacrifice so much for Black men and receive criticism in response. Moore penned a piece titled “The Things that Keep a Black Woman Single.” Moore outlines 10 points that will be highlighted in this piece. This is one Black Feminist’s response.

I have a rhetorical question. Why is it that men, including Steve Harvey, write books, blogs, columns, etc. that always give women advice on how to pursue them or act like them but think like us?  These are my responses to Evan F. Moore’s list of don’ts.

1. Your friends and family are poisoning your love life.

Nothing makes a single man cringe like a woman who insists that her bff, mom, big sister take on an active role in their dating lives. Look, we want to date you. Not your FB friends list. No man wants to think about dating a woman long term who can’t take a dump without soliciting advice from the nearest member of the clique. When you invite people who don’t have to live with the consequences of their judgment into your love life, you only are inviting frustration. Their standards or desires are never aligned with yours. How many times has mom or the homegirl told you to stay away from a guy who eventually turned out to be great (for someone else) or loved the alcoholic, habitual liar who still writes you from prison? Be a big girl. Make decisions on people based on your best judgment.

Men and women are products of their circles of influence. These circles include mothers, fathers, crazy aunts, two-sided pastors, society and any other figures that had an input in your upbringing. Our thoughts and actions have a direct correlation to what we’ve seen, heard and been conditioned to believe all of our lives. It’s a wonder there are any successful relationships at all when all some young women hear growing up is “men ain’t sh*t” or “all men are dogs,” and have seen their daddies mistreat their mamas. Friends and families don’t poison love lives. Patriarchal societies do.

2. Get out of your momma’s house.

Look we get it. It’s a rough economy and plenty of guys are still under mom’s roof too. But really, how is that going to work long-term? No man wants to be picking you up from your mom’s house like its prom night. If you are not financially secure enough to have your own place, you are NOT ready to date, and you’re DAMN SURE not ready to be in a relationship.

We’re all struggling. The economy is bad and progresses toward worse every day. However, we must meet our partners where they are. There’s no problem seeking a “financially secure” spouse, as long as you are bringing to the table whatever you’ve asked for.

3. Get in shape.

We know, we know….we are shallow, misogynistic heathens. But guess what, we are men. We are visual creatures. We know what we like. For most of us sans a small segment of chubby chasers, some of us don’t like the biggens. It is what it is. You can’t realistically be pushing two spins and then wonder why the cute guy on your bus stop with the ripped up arms and flat stomach just doesn’t seem to be into you.

It’s funny how a man who has a dicky-do (stomach pokes out more than his dicky-do is always looking for a super model. Sometimes it’s best to stop looking on the superficial level and begin seeking a compatible partner. Shallowness gets a man nowhere. top

4. Tone down the God stuff, really.

Hey, we know some of you ladies love Jesus, but he will be the only man in your life if we think we have to compete with him for your attention. This is a touchy subject and we know faith plays a big part of many of your lives. However, if you go to church more than you go on dates then you are narrowing your pool of available men. We know for some of you that this is a deal breaker and we respect that. We also hope you enjoy your future dates with the closeted choir director.

I have to agree.  You don’t have to preach the Gospel to live it.

5. Shut up and get off the phone.

Women are social creatures. We understand your need to go on and on for hours about….nothing. However, like the rest of this list, we are telling you what a man is thinking when we see this kind of behavior. In this case, we are thinking,”Dear god, does she ever stop?” Much like our gripe with your friends, we want you to show the ability to disconnect from everyone and focus on us. The BFF will live if you don’t call her and complain about the b—h in the next cubicle over.

Why must relationship experts assume that women need to focus on men? Have these “experts” ever considered that a woman is on the phone because your ass is boring? A woman does not exist to be a man’s personal entertainment. Get a life. Take her on a walk in the park. Go to a wine tasting. Do something other than sitting on her couch waiting for her to focus on you.

6. Get out of the club…!

Look, you are not on campus anymore. Being in a club four or five nights per week is not a good look. No man wants a woman that he has to have the DUI lawyer on speed dial. There are many ways to meet men without dressing up like an extra from a Beyoncé video and partying like its 1999.

How do you know she’s in the club unless you were there too? It’s an assumption that women in the club aren’t marriage-material. Sometimes we like to unwind in a social environment. Clubs fits that category. A woman is not DUI material or a Prince fan if she puts on her shorts and heels to head to the club with her girls.

7. Your Facebook page is your worst enemy.

In the social media age, nothing will tell the tale about you as a woman more than your Facebook page. Here are three things that are an immediate deal breaker with the fellas. First, if you have 300 pictures on your profile, and 299 of them are of you, you are basically telling Mr. Right that YOU are the most important thing in your world; I mean damn, you don’t have a dog or something? Second, put some clothes on. That’s exactly what we as men want, a mate where all my bro’s have seen your asscrack. Third, control your emotions. Nothing says potential stalker/drama queen like a woman who lashes out constantly in frustration over the men she dates.

I agree, but not because women should live to appease the male gaze. Living on Facebook is dangerous because potential employers determine the character of candidates through their social networking sites.

8. Carry yourself like someone who actually likes men.

Attitude is everything. The last thing a man wants to add to his life is a woman who is mean, combative or bitter. If you have unresolved issues, get counseling. A man is not a punching bag or a psychologist. You say “He’s not strong enough for me!” No lady, Everclear is not strong enough for you. So many ladies out there have taken the “bad b—h” attitude. Some guys may gravitate to that for a one night fling. Most avoid it for legal reasons….I’m just saying.

Some women are combative and mean because of their past mistreatments by men. Young men that see their fathers as rolling stones that have no respect for their mothers and refuse to meet their child support obligations may develop issues with women. So, how could he assume a woman that’s had similar hurts should be walking around skinning and grinning like she lives in the Garden of Eden? Plus, feminism is sexy. Get hip.

9. Know your role.

One of the primary reasons the fellas will put your ass on waivers is because the woman cannot or will not play her position. I don’t mean be submissive or look the other way if he’s being shady. I mean be a friend if he wants a friend, be a great lover if that’s what it is, be a girlfriend if both of you decide that’s the right thing to do. Nothing will get you put into the “f–k buddy” file faster than demanding or taking privileges designed for someone you are not. If you are not his girlfriend, why are you checking his phone or asking where he was last night? You can’t force a man into anything he doesn’t want to do. Earn his trust and admiration before you earn his ire.

How can a woman know her role when she’s lied to from the beginning? If a woman doesn’t know she’s a side-chick, how can she “play the position?” Create a mutual playbook before forcing a woman into a position she never agreed to play.

10. Temper your expectations.

Let’s be very honest. Lots of men out here aint s–t. We know that. However, just like your flawed ass, men have imperfections that can change over time; maybe they won’t .But for you to demand that Mr. Right should be running a Fortune 500 company, benching 300 pounds, while making your mother giggle from jokes is just downright silly. Be realistic about what you want. Everybody has likes and dislikes, its human nature. But when you create unrealistic and in some cases, bizarre barriers to meeting men, you are only narrowing the pool of candidates. That guy that works for the streets and sanitation crew with a two-year-old son may not be the best option, but he IS an option. The guy living in the shady hood with the beater car that works at Target and goes to school at night may not be taking you to San Tropez anytime soon, but I’ll guarantee he’ll take you somewhere nice every year if you stick with him and build something together.

Relationship expectations are set from the beginning when both parties are honest about their wants and needs. Stop playing games. Stop changing the rules to manipulate women. And most importantly, stop lying.

No man can expect a queen when he’s behaving like a court jester.

Were You Ruined by Princess Culture?

Princess culture almost ruined me. I was reared in the “happily ever after” fables of Disney, so I wore the character-endorsed merchandise and zealously absorbed the fairytales. Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas and Belle were marketed as kid-tested, mother-approved characters.

Disney assured parents that there was no reason to be concerned with the images being peddled to their children. What harm could cartoons have on a kid who hadn’t even started kindergarten? I was often plopped in front of the television to watch a beloved princess sacrifice without complaint to snag her fated prince.

I was most intrigued with Ariel, star of “The Little Mermaid.” The redhead, mermaid-daughter of King Triton was the first fictional character I was ever drawn toward.

The “Little Mermaid” was released in 1989 – after a 30-year princess drought – and I was fixated with the movie from 1993 through 1995. I expressed my adoration for Arielle by donning clothing and shoes with her image stitched into them. My parents purchased books, pencils and even an expensive comforter-set to satiate my “Little Mermaid” obsession. I also owned the entire princess movie-collection and their accompanying books and Barbie dolls.

The innocence of childhood kept me from realizing how detrimental Ariel and her fellow princesses could be. I couldn’t fathom how their plots would factor into my understanding of femininity, relationships and overall contentment. Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White and the other doe-eyed, beautiful, passive women were my childhood pals. Their presence then still haunts me now.

All of the princesses were depicted as directionless, oppressed women that were incomplete without their prince. Ariel embodies these characteristics arguably more than her peers.

The mermaid-princess trades her beautiful voice for “a kiss of true love” from Eric, her human crush. She’s left mute and heartbroken. Ursula, the witch Arielle brokered the deal with, steals her voice and attempts to wed the man she loves.

Other princesses face similar obstacles before nabbing their loves. Jasmine, the Middle-Eastern princess in “Aladdin,” forgoes wealth and riches to pursue a burgeoning love with Aladdin. Her decision places them both in peril. Cinderella faces the wrath of her stepmother and stepsisters to get the glass slipper. Their sacrifices are rewarded in their films, but life doesn’t promise blissful endings.

Absorbing princess culture had an unforeseen impact on how I romanticized relationships.  I often envisioned the moment a man would place a glass slipper on my delicate foot. It would be the perfect fit and would solidify our love. We would traipse into our future together and never have a disagreement.

I twirled in the mirror in pink nightgowns that bore the faces of Ariel and Pochahantas and imagined meeting and falling in love with a handsome Prince Charming in knight’s gear.

The princess culture warped my expectations of love and romance. I’m still combing through the debris left behind. This impact is common for girls raised in the land of fairytales.

Princesses offer a narrow view of womanhood through the lens of virtue and innocence. Lyn Mikel Brown, co-author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, sees the marketing of princess culture as problematic.

“Playing princess is not the issue,” Brown argued. “The issue is 25,000 Princess products. When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”

Princesses are marketed without dimensions. All of the princesses are nipped, tucked and enhanced to reinforce the patriarchal image of womanhood that the brand should strive to subvert. Even defiant gems like Princess Merida of “Brave” undergo troubling transformations to suit Disney’s understanding of what constitutes princess-hood.

Cultural critic Peggy Orenstein examined the phenomenon of princess culture after her daughter became obsessed with personifying Cinderella. She published her observations in the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, and strives to use her experience to encourage parents to limit their children’s exposure to princess culture.

In her research, Orstein found idolizing princesses strips girls of their ability to create reasonable expectations of romance and sexuality. This defect follows them into adulthood, as it did for me.

“The way that prematurely sexualizing girls or play-acting at sexy for them from a young age disconnects them from healthy authentic sexual feeling,” she said. “So that they learn that sexuality is something that you perform, instead of something that you feel.”

“And that can have implications as they get older in the culture, both because of that, and because that’s increasingly what they’re going to be presented with – the idea that their sexuality is something to perform for others,” she added. “And so starting that at the age of 4, 5, or 6 is troubling for a whole set of reasons that I hadn’t anticipated when I started this.”

Additionally, princess culture perpetuates a performative aspect that dictates how womanhood should be constructed and performed. Princess movies and merchandise send girls messages about how to behave and what’s acceptable for a woman.

Cute dresses and handsome princes are par for the feminine course. Shooting bows-and-arrows and wearing a frizzy, red afro is unacceptable. These cues keep girls trapped in a world that defines their identities before they’ve ever had the chance to explore their own understandings of girlhood.

Orenstein found this problematic as well, especially as girls’ age. She explained, “Once they get a little older and they’re creating profiles online and kind of performing their teenage identity as kids always do anyway, but suddenly doing it in this really public way in front of 322 of their best friends forever, right, and in this kind of disconnected fashion that we don’t know the full implications of, but all of it, for girls in particular, reinforces this idea that who you are is how you perform, and who you are is how you look.”

The real world forced me to disavow from princess culture. Heartbreak made me question if I had unrealistic expectations of romance, relationships and love. I did and still do. I thought love was what the movies explained it to be. This was also reinforced by my parents. My father was my mother’s prince. He was her first love.

I wanted that and didn’t achieve it, so I felt inadequate. Most of this angst could be traced to Ariel and her fellow princesses. I now watch the movies that I loved in childhood with a critical lens. I see the fallacies of princess culture now and strive to renounce it.

However, my two-year-old niece is obsessed with Ariel. She has blankets, books and DVDs that eerily-resemble the adoration I had for the mermaid-princess. I encourage her to sing along with “The Little Mermaid” and revel in the tradition of Disney classics, but I do so with context in mind.

When the credits roll, I tell her fairytales don’t resemble real life. It bursts her perfect bubble, but I am determined to teach my niece that her success isn’t tethered to the princesses of her childhood.

Princesses were designed to be innocent and harmless. Disney excised the violence and cannibalism associated with fairytales, and transformed them into children’s classics. Their intentions were honorable, but the execution of princess culture can ruin a girl. It almost ruined me.

Originally published at Clutch Magazine.

Is It Time to Legalize Prostitution?

ImageThe trading of sexual services for cash is often called the world’s oldest profession. Prostitutes and the johns that love them are as engrained in the fabric of the American flag as apple pie, baseball and slavery. The Prostitutes’ Education Network estimates more than 100,000 American women sell their bodies on street corners and in illegal brothels, but law enforcement would rather incarcerate sex workers than keep them safer and healthier by legalizing prostitution.

There are proponents and dissenters on both sides of the argument. However, leading scholars and legal experts, including law professors and sociologists, claim legalizing prostitution will cut costs for law enforcement, lower the rates of transmitted diseases and keep sex workers safe from violent pimps and rapists.

Prostitution is a victimless crime, according to Sherry F. Colb, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Law. Colb argues prostitution is a one-to-one transaction that doesn’t cause greater societal harm.

“Prostitution should not be a crime,” she says. “Prostitutes are not committing an inherently harmful act. While the spread of disease and other detriments are possible in the practice of prostitution, criminalization is a sure way of exacerbating rather than addressing such effects. We saw this quite clearly in the time of alcohol prohibition in this country.”

Colb also sees a sexist double-standard that criminalizes prostitutes while ignoring the customers purchasing them.

“The prostitutes are harassed, arrested, and sometimes prosecuted, while the johns (and often the pimps, who are far more likely to be engaged in violent and master/slave-like treatment of the prostitutes) are ignored,” she says. “This reflects the view that men who traffic in women are not as bad as the women in whom they traffic. If people are honestly concerned about the wellbeing of women in this profession, then they must begin by removing the status of ‘outlaw’ from these women so that they can come forward and receive help if and when they feel they want to leave a profession that can otherwise be quite difficult to escape.”

More than 50 countries in the world, including Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Italy have legalized prostitution, setting perimeters for solicitation and regulating the industry.

Regulating prostitution by requiring standard testing for STD’s and HIV and establishing laws to protect them from violence can also keep sex workers in safe environments where assault won’t be prevalent.

Dr. Kirby R. Cundiff, an associate professor of finance at Northeastern State University, finds regulation will allow states to set prices for sexual favors. He approximates a decrease in 25,000 rapes each year if fixed prices are established.

“In the United States where prostitution is illegal, the low-end price for most prostitutes is about $200 and the monthly per capita income is $2,820,” he says. “In Amsterdam, Netherlands where prostitution is legal the price is $30. If prostitution were legalized in the United States it is rational to assume that prices would resemble those in the Netherlands, this would result in… a decrease in the rape rate of 10 per 100,000.”

Regulatory perimeters will also decrease STD’s by ensuring prostitutes don’t have to hide from police and can thus have access to medical care.

Priscilla Alexander, co-founder and coordinator of the National Task Force on Prostitution, says     “health problems associated with prostitution, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and violence, are commonly assumed to be ‘risks of the trade,” but regulation can prevent this.

“Individuals arrested on prostitution charges often modify their work behavior in an attempt to reduce their visibility to the police,” she says. “They may agree to acts carrying higher risks if it means more money, in order to reduce the time on the street, and thus the likelihood of being arrested. As a result, sex workers become more vulnerable to pressure to not use condoms, thereby increasing their risk of contracting STDs, including HIV.”

Regulation may not lessen HIV-exposure, however. Alexander thinks the destruction of stigma can prevent this.

“For HIV/AIDS prevention to succeed, the conditions of risk have to change,” she says. “The context – legal, social, economic – of sex work has to change, with repeal of criminal laws, access to visas and work permits, freedom of movement and association, and occupational safety and health regulations, to reduce the imposition of risk from above. Until then, it will be heroic, strong individuals that can insist on safe behaviors, leaving those who are less heroic, those who are more timid and afraid, to suffer the consequences of the context of risk.”

The legalizing of sex work is a controversial issue, especially for women’s rights advocates that equate prostitution with sexual, emotional and mental abuse. Prostitution has been linked to childhood sexual trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in several studies, including the “Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart” report in the Violence Against Women journal. However, other studies have shown that prostitution has no impact on the psychological well-being of sex workers.

Legalized prostitution may never reach consensus in the United States, but it is a cause worth considering.

Originally published at Clutch Magazine.

A Cultural Critic from the Millennium


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