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Should I just not talk about online dating with white people?
February 22, 2013 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Every once in a while, I (a minority) have a conversation with a white person about online dating in which it becomes clear that they do not and cannot understand that being a visibly non-white person on a predominantly white dating site is often a very different experience than being a white person on the same site. These conversations usually leave me completely frustrated and upset, and the person I'm talking to usually thinks I'm just bitter and negative (which is then, of course, the reason for my bad experience, and if I just "had a more positive attitude", then I would be having the same great experience that they've had). Should I just avoid talking about this with white people entirely?

To be specific, I've had multiple conversations with thin, white, often blonde and conventionally attractive women who are younger than me, who tend to insist that the reason they get so many positive responses from well-educated, age-appropriate men on Match/OKCupid/EHarmony/any predominantly white dating website, while I get none, *could not possibly* have anything to do with race. The most recent example of this was a woman I met tonight, who after admitting that *she is herself filtering out men of my race* on Match, was insistent that I "must not have hot enough pictures", or my profile "must not be interesting enough", but it just couldn't be possible that well-educated professional men (of many races, including my own) would filter me out on the basis of race (and, to some extent age).

I don't mean to suggest that all white people have this type of reaction, but probably 95% of the white people I've ever mentioned it to have reacted with shock, horror-- and then absolute denial (Statements like, "All my friends are completely open to interracial dating", as if the fact that their white friends are all dating other white people is just a giant coincidence, or "There are still people who care about race in this city? In 2013?", when it's pretty damn obvious just from reading people's profiles on Match that lots of people, even in big cities, have racial preferences and openly state them).

There are multiple reasons that I think this really *is* about race. Part of it is that I know literally dozens of non-white women who've had the same awful experiences in online dating (Ivy-league educated, successful women, who receive responses exclusively from men who are illiterate/ uneducated/ 15-20 years older, but never from their same-age peers). But another part of it is that I've tried posting my profile with an average-looking white woman's picture on it, and checking the Caucasian box, and lo and behold, suddenly there were way more (and higher quality) responses from guys I would actually go out with! I once even posted a profile with a picture of the back of a blonde woman's head-- and that profile, with no face, no body, and the written profile of a complete moron, received more (and better) replies than my real ethnicity/face/body/personality profile (and more responses from men of my ethnicity, sadly).

I'm not sure how to possibly explain results like that other than white privilege. But the fact that white people don't see this as privilege, or see it at all, is crazy-making. Should I just shut up about it completely? Is there any way to have this discussion with people that doesn't make me sound like a bitter old hag who blames race for all my problems?
posted by rhymeswithcheery to Human Relations (50 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
You could show the doubters this OKCupid data analysis.
posted by nacho fries at 9:48 PM on February 22, 2013 [18 favorites]


It seems like you might be falling into your own trap by focusing on whether you should exclude all white people from discussions of racial influence on dating.

While excluding all white people is probably safe, it would exclude the white people who are capable of having the discussion which you seem to be looking for. Instead of categorizing conversation partners on the basis of race, maybe you need to come up with some litmus test questions that will give you some perspective on whether a given person is likely to be able and willing to have an intelligent conversation about race with you. Then just exclude this topic from discussion with people who fail your test.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, don't talk to the people who don't get it. I hear you! Hang in there, and meet people in person doing activities you enjoy instead. Online dating is brutal, it just is.
posted by honey badger at 9:55 PM on February 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


The OKCupid blog is probably the best ammo to actually win an argument about it, but I'm not sure it's really going to do a ton of good. People who stick their fingers in their ears when hearing about issues minorities face are not usually all that susceptible to arguments using logic and data, or much of anything else, if my time on the internet is at all indicative.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


It sounds like you are having this conversation with people who are trying to be PC to the extent that they can't actually admit that there could be racial biases at work. I'm not sure I would classify it as white privilege. Those who have not been a minority seldom have any inkling of the subtle stuff that a non-majority experiences frequently.

I'm not sure discussing it with "thin, white, often blonde and conventionally attractive women who are younger than me" is a useful activity.
posted by cat_link at 9:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Racism-blindness is a particularly insidious form of racism, and racism is alive and well.

Find friends who are more aware. Some might be white! Some might not.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:03 PM on February 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


It sounds like they're buying in the just-world fallacy, after a fashion "You're a good person, so bad stuff can't actually be happening to you" and that they're also wishfully thinking that we now live in a post-racial society.

I'm not sure how to possibly explain results like that other than white privilege.

Yup.

But the fact that white people don't see this as privilege, or see it at all, is crazy-making. Should I just shut up about it completely? Is there any way to have this discussion with people that doesn't make me sound like a bitter old hag who blames race for all my problems?

Having personal data and OK cupid data may help, but is this hill worth dying on, conversationally speaking?

"All my friends are completely open to interracial dating", as if the fact that their white friends are all dating other white people is just a giant coincidence, or "There are still people who care about race in this city?

Read this partially as unconcious code: "I'm not a racist fuckhead! I don't think you're a bad person, even though you're visibly other! Etc!" and feel slightly reassured that while we're still a slightly racist society, the fact this chirping naifs say what they're saying indicates we're not as bad as it could be, and that your privileged acquaintances are basically good people, even if they're misguided?

Coming around to a more important problem, you need a better dating strategy. Get a puppy and hit the dogwalking circuit to usefully exploit the rich motherload of cute-pooch-liking men with lantern jaws and cute butts?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:09 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmm, the people you've been talking to remind me of the people who say they "don't see color." LOLZ.

I wouldn't avoid talking to white people about online dating, but it might be wise to bring the issue up exclusively with friends you suspect may understand your frustration. Because Privilege is a Thing, and it's frankly exhausting to have that conversation every day.

Also, I would explore additional ways to meet men -- ways in which they get to connect with you as a real live human.
posted by jessca84 at 10:20 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're looking for a filter question, try asking them if they've ever lived in a foreign country or studied abroad. It won't guarantee they'll know what you're talking about, but maybe they might get what you mean when they're the ones who've lived in a place where they're the minority.
posted by Qberting at 10:26 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a white person, yeah, you're correct, it's race. The data supports it. Your experience supports it. My observations support it. And you and I could probably have an interesting conversation about it. Arm yourself with the data, and gently firmly correct people who think it's in your head or something you must be doing wrong.

I will suggest however that your examples imply you may be misdirecting at white people - it's less whiteness that gets you lots of good options from online dating, so much as being a white young attractive women; that is the killer-combination that no other demographic comes close to matching. There are plenty of white people who end up banished into different filter purgatories (and are bitter about it). You might have more in common, conversationally, with them than with these people you describe who are heads-and-shoulders the most contacted demographic there is. I don't think privilege is an especially useful way to frame it in your mind. Any of those women could someday get a kid, or hit 50, or other things that could significantly affect their online dating experience.

It may be BS to suggest that the problem is you being bitter, but you're aware that bitter will work against you in dating. I have no idea if you are bitter about it, but I thought it might be worth agreeing that it's damn difficult in practice to not feel something that is natural to feel in your unfair situation. It's a real struggle to get past that drag. If you're also having to fight that on top of the racism problem, good luck, be strong. I wish you the best.
posted by anonymisc at 10:59 PM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sounds like you're talking to some uninformed caucasians. If you think facts would change their attitude, I'd link them to this OKCupid blog entry in which they take the response rate for messages sent between users and interpolate what the response rate should be ignoring the race variable. The results are shockingly deplorable. There might be other studies like this done somewhere else with more rigor.
posted by deathpanels at 11:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that privilege is playing a part here, but I'm not convinced it's as much of a factor as everyone here seems to think.

On the one hand, I have no doubt that not being white is hurting you in the online dating arena. The oft-cited OkCupid survey makes this pretty clear.

However, I don't think that's what's hurting you most on OKC. I think there's something else afoot:

I know literally dozens of non-white women who've had the same awful experiences in online dating (Ivy-league educated, successful women...

Regardless of how fair this is, the reality is that many men are intimidated by smart, successful women. And I imagine this effect is amplified online, where it's easier to reject someone with traits one finds intimidating. Your own test with the dumbed-down profile seems to confirm this hypothesis.

Not sure what can be done about this, but just wanted to call this to your attention.

Also, I'm curious how old you are and where you live when you mention how " their white friends are all dating other white people." I'm a 20-something that was raised in suburban Connecticut (which tends to be just a little racially divided) and attended a state university, and my life experience has not been that people only date within their own ethnic group. From my college years on, I've known countless people who are not only open to but actually in interracial relationships (author included). Could it be you're just in a particularly close-minded part of the country or in an older age group?

(None of this is to say we live in a post-race society, as your friends maintain. They're totally wrong about that one.)
posted by charlemangy at 11:22 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some white people acknowledge white privilege, just like some men acknowledge male privilege and some straight people acknowledge hetero privilege. I wouldn't say you need to stop talking to white people entirely about it, but I would say that it's probably not a conversation you can regularly expect to get much satisfaction out of at this point. You may meet and become friends with more white folks down the road who have a better handle on race/racism/privilege, and once you've established that those people are likely to get where you're coming from, then you can perhaps have this conversation with them.

It's like how, as a woman, I've come to realize that I can't assume every male in my life is automatically going to be on the same page about understanding their own privilege, even though most of the men around me are politically progressive (pro-choice, etc.) and even though it's easy to assume that they would (or should). Instead, I've learned to establish first if they're specifically the kind of guy who can participate in The Privilege Conversation without making me want to smash my head into a wall. If they are, great; if not, I have to look for someone else to have that conversation with. So the topic of online dating may turn out to require a similar dynamic for you.

Sorry it's so frustrating. Online dating is hard enough as it is!
posted by scody at 11:42 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the Okcupid blog data say that race is really the problem.

But on the individual level, it doesn't really matter. There are plenty of us who fail at online dating-- be it because we are older or heavier or not conventionally attractive or not good at hitting it off with people in that format. The correct thing to do is try another dating strategy. Online dating is soul sucking when you *are* getting responses-- well, I assume so, by talking with friends who do (I didn't really get much response myself). So, uh, try other things? People might be less likely to stupidly prejudge you by your race or age if they meet you in person, or meet you as "fun person doing activity X that I also like".

Of course on the global level it *does* matter, and it's infernally stupid that your race matters here, and yes, you should show any idiot who argues with you about it the data that says they are wrong, that is, when you're up for getting in an argument; maybe it'll make a few of them realize their own prejudices. (Your question made me think about my own).
posted by nat at 11:49 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hell yes, stop talking about it to them.

As a mixed-race guy who's done online dating, it's pretty amazing how many liberal, left-wing, tolerant, open minded people have that "not willing to date outside my own race" box ticked.

But don't be too hard on the people who are trying to minimize the issue to you. They probably have a mixture of reasons for doing so. Partly it's the racism-is-over myth. But it's probably also because they want you to be happy. They don't want to discourage you from dating, they don't want you to be depressed by horrible thoughts just because they're true. So, they'd rather focus on things you can change.

Just keep your mouth shut to them, but stay persistent with dating, it can take a lot of persistence.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:18 AM on February 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Should I just not talk about online dating with white people?

I think it depends on what you want out of these conversations. Usually when someone tells you about a shitty problem they have been having, if you are the person listening to it you want to offer some sympathy and think of a way to help.

But I think some of these people might be feeling awkward because how could they help, if the problem comes from you being the ethnicity that you are? Suggest that you change your appearance to look less like your ethnicity or check a different ethnicity box? That would be horrible.

So then they could just offer sympathy instead. But if the person does not spend a lot of time offering sympathy to people of other races for racism that they encounter (which is its own minefield of saying unintentionally condescending and offensive things), it seems like many things they would come up with would fall flat and sound phony. "I am sorry to hear that is happening to you, that sucks." They might feel awkward and insincere-sounding saying something like that.

So I'm saying part of it could be social awkwardness in talking about racial issues if they don't know you that well and are feeling on the spot. They could be really afraid of offending you if they don't know you well, and in that fear offend you anyway.

That's not to say you shouldn't talk about it. If you want to you should, I am just saying it will probably keep being awkward with some people. If you want a less awkward and more interesting conversation, I think you would have better luck with people who talk about racial issues all the time, aren't super duper afraid of offending people with any acknowledgment of reality, and people who know you better personally.

Finally... just to hopefully buck you up a little bit... even though I completely believe YOU about what your experience has been, I suspect those blonde women are lying about their amazing online dating success. I have never, ever, ever heard of a woman being avalanched by hordes of messages from great quality men. The mouth breathers make up most of the replies for all of us. This post from last year is my description of how online dating was for me.
posted by cairdeas at 12:29 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


"All my friends are completely open to interracial dating."
"Can you introduce me?"

"There are still people who care about race in this city? In 2013?"
"Weird, isn't it? I was surprised to see that, too."

I think you're imagining things.
"Well, the cool thing is that if you're interested in whether this is true or not, there's actually an easy way you can find out. You can just take your profile and replace the pictures with some pictures of someone of my race. Make sure they're really hot pictures! Then see what kind of guys respond to you. It's a pretty interesting experiment, isn't it? You're not interested in doing that? No problem. Then let's just drop the subject."

I think that part of the problem, aside from anything else, is that people in general like to believe that they can provide helpful solutions to any problem. If the problem is that people are filtering you out based on race, what solution can they give you? Where can the conversation even go? But picture quality and profile catchiness -- those are things they can advise about!

So at some level you have to separate out the people who are more interested in really understanding how the world is, and the people who are more concerned with carrying on a conversation that is satisfying for them. Overall, I think bringing up this issue is a good thing if only because it raises awareness (maybe they don't take you seriously at the moment, but later they might hear the same thing from someone else and it might ring a bell). But if they don't seem like the kind of people who can process what you're saying, then just drop the subject lightly.

It's frustrating when people don't see their own privilege, but instead of getting bitter about it it can be helpful to think about what privilege you have of your own that you don't see, and how natural it feels to not see it. I'm pretty sure it's universal.
posted by egg drop at 2:56 AM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, don't speak to white people about this. There was an extremely long thread on Racialicious a few years back. The comments unfortunately got lost in cyberspace, but it was basically hundreds and hundreds of people who have had extremely negative, racist experiences trying to date online. It basically put into perspective all the negative experiences I've had, and I was simultaneously horrified and relieved to know that I wasn't alone, but that all of us were going through that shit, and that yes, (some) white people don't want to understand, and simultaneously want to actively perpetuate that shit.

http://www.racialicious.com/2008/12/10/open-thread-dating-online-and-off/

That was the post, unfortunately the no loner existing comments were really the best part about it. But yes, white privilege is the root of people ignoring your experiences and telling you that it's "not about race" while they themselves discard people on the basis of race. (What the everloving fuck?)
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 3:02 AM on February 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


The most recent example of this was a woman I met tonight, who after admitting that *she is herself filtering out men of my race* on Match, was insistent that I "must not have hot enough pictures", or my profile "must not be interesting enough", but it just couldn't be possible that well-educated professional men (of many races, including my own) would filter me out on the basis of race (and, to some extent age).
I'm going to suggest that this woman knows damn well you're being filtered on race, but she's embarrassed by it, and is trying to be nice about it. Admitting, to your face, that you're being passed over based on race is tantamount to saying you're not desirable, and that would be insulting. The conversation would have taken the same path if you had any other property that caused a segment of men to skip over your profile.

So in short, you already know the truth, in their heart-of-hearts so do the people you're confronting, it makes you crazy, and it isn't gaining you anything. If you continue to fight the fight, then good for you, you're a more noble person than I. I wouldn't break myself on that wheel.
posted by Leon at 3:06 AM on February 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Your experiences would make a good article and there's a lot of blogs who would love that as a guest post.
posted by Melsky at 3:36 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming here, but are you by chance African-American? I ask, because this is a specific class - African-American women - that has particular and extraordinary difficulty dating in general for a lot of reasons, some of which it's impossible to be aware of unless you're very well read.

If so, your friend may not be understanding that you have a specific difficulty /above and beyond/ that of just "generic POC." I'm Hispanic - I have difficulty in many areas, but getting responses in online dating white guys has never been one of them. Neither have my Asian friends, or Native American friends. But this is not the case for my black friends. So your friend may be thinking, "I know lots of people who aren't white who are dating up a storm on OKCupid - what is HER problem?" without realizing why, and how, she is just plain wrong.

But yes, white privilege is the root of people ignoring your experiences and telling you that it's "not about race" while they themselves discard people on the basis of race. (What the everloving fuck?)

I think some of this may also be about the nebulous world of attraction. Someone can be the most fierce anti-racist in the world, and still find themselves not physically attracted to people of a specific race. Physical attraction is a weird and complex game. There are some people who prefer a physical type which is most often not found within a certain race. And so your friend may not think, "We all hate POC", but may think, "Man, I am really attracted to blondes." But she may not assume others share that preference, she may think it's a personal preference of hers that is not shared by others because she is not intentionally discriminating on the basis of race.

I will also note that worse than people who don't date based on race are the people who feel pressured to choose people of other races at least for a short period because they're worried about being perceived as racist.
posted by corb at 5:16 AM on February 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hm. My read is that you made this woman uncomfortable because you pointed out her own racism and the implications of it. She then defended herself by proxy, saying it wasn't really a problem and that she and her friends aren't really racist, no really, ignore all evidence to the contrary.

No wonder you feel marginalized and frustrated! Her behavior is gaslighting - she is attempting to convince you of the falsity of something you know to be true to make her look better.

I think the answer is to not talk to people who are unaware of racial privilege issues if you hope to get empathy and understanding. This probably means not discussing this with white people until they've shown they 'get it'.
posted by zug at 5:19 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a Black woman who is currently taking a stab at online dating. Being on OKC may give you better results. Although those professional, funny, well-educated men that my friends have fawned over on OKC all ultimately wanted nothing more than casual sex out of me (despite my very clear stance against it), so I've stopped actively using my profile. But you shouldn't give up; apparently it takes quite a while for POC to find a suitable date online.

Regarding those maddening conversations: what do you hope to accomplish from entering that segment of conversation? Are there others that you could potentially commiserate with instead, to avoid the potential headache? When conversations about white privilege or advantage start to go south, it's sometimes because people hit their internal "panic" button - which is when all that breathtakingly condescending stuff falls right out of their mouths. It's not personal; what they're saying is usually more about soothing any anxiety around the "resolved racism" myths than anything else.

Others haven't unlearned their internalized racism at all, so not *only* are they ignorant of their privilege and how racism affects you, but they also genuinely think they're teaching you something you haven't thought of. Your attempt to share your experience - which clashes significantly with how they see the dating world - gets read as bitterness, and they're quick to call you a spoil-sport. And I bet it feels as if you run into conversational partners from this particular group, right?

It's not much of an excuse, though. You are not the one responsible for guiding people into unlearning racist thought patterns via sharing your lived experience. Sure, you'd be depriving said people of an opportunity to see how racism affects others, but 1) your story is not an interactive learning tool that you have a moral obligation to implement, and 2) it seems as if the outcome of "oh, damn, racism sucks and I'm sorry this is happening to you" is in short supply with your conversational partners. I strongly recommend new ones.

In my experience, the white people who are most open to discussing racism in online dating will respond positively to mild prompts about the topic. If you want, use certain buzzwords that will catch their attention in conversation. If they don't bite, don't bother. It's okay to "miss out" on an unknown number of people who might listen in favor of "missing out" on the stress this currently has on you.

You are not alone in going through this.
posted by Ashen at 5:31 AM on February 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


White girl here. I agree with some of the others that you should come up with some questions to ask that will help you decide whether or not to talk to someone about this.

In the case of online dating, I think it's going to be hard for someone who has not had problems - someone who meets plenty of matches that she/he likes - to be able to have this conversation. Especially when you introduce race into the equation. That doesn't mean that ALL white people who are conventionally attractive/have had great online dating experiences are incapable of having this type of conversation, but in order to preserve your own sanity you will need to be able to gauge whether or not the conversation with some person is going to be productive or just frustrating. (I do the same thing because my experience with online dating has been...interesting...even if it hasn't involved racism.)

The people who are trying to brush you off, telling you you just need better pics or to sound "more interesting" in your profile are probably very uncomfortable with the topic and are trying to get out of the conversation. Either that or they're totally clueless, but I kind of doubt most of them are that clueless. I think it's more that they know they will not be able to provide any kind of useful advice which puts them in a vulnerable position - also not really being able to commiserate just makes some people uncomfortable. Some people are willing to work on being able to have that kind of conversation and some aren't - but it does take work to take off the blinders and attempt to see the world as it is, rather than through the lens of white privilege.
posted by fromageball at 6:14 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all the responses. I will try to avoid conversations like this in the future, but I feel like sometimes it's just not possible to avoid. In the example from last night, I was introduced to this woman over dinner, and she wanted to tell all of us about the great guy she met on Match... which then led to my mutual friends saying, "Rhymeswithcheery, don't you also do Match?" Which somehow led to me being forced to admit that I have spent a total of 10 months on Match (over several years, in different cities, currently in Washington DC, but also previously in NYC, which wasn't any better), and I have never gone on a date with anyone. And the immediate response I got from the woman who met her boyfriend on Match was, "Something's wrong. What kind of pictures are you using? Are you writing to guys? Maybe your messages are creepy," etc, etc.

Also, I'm not sure if this makes a difference, but my friends didn't think it was even slightly racist for this woman to filter her own dates by race... because she's Jewish. However, since I know several non-white Jews, whether due to intermarriage, adoption, conversion, or whatever, and they have generally had even worse experiences with online dating, I felt like that was just proving my point even more. Since I am also one of the very few minorities in a (different) overwhelmingly white religion, I think I am also filtered out of searches by people who can't imagine that someone of my race (Indian, BTW) might share their background (while also being filtered IN on the basis of race by guys who are searching for a conservative Hindu vegetarian who loves Bollywood movies and speaks Hindi, which I am not. At all).

I mean, I get it that she wants someone Jewish, and that's fine, but she wasn't willing to admit that she wants someone who is Jewish, but NOT Black or Indian or Asian, which is about race, not culture or religion or values. If you want someone who shares your religion, you can search for that on Match without filtering by race.
posted by rhymeswithcheery at 8:28 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not excusing your friends, because they sound like they're doing a particularly bad job of handling it, but a lot of white people are super awkward around issues of race. I think there's a sort of feeling that we're not supposed to acknowledge it because somehow admitting that racism exists makes us racist. I suspect they are trying to make you feel better by saying that it's a problem that can be fixed without realizing that they are basically saying "Oh, no, this isn't a societal problem, the problem is just you!"

So, if you can avoid talking about it, it would probably make things smoother. I'm not suggesting that so you can make them more comfortable -- awkward white people of the world would probably be a lot better off if we were made to feel uncomfortable about these issues regularly -- but because you yourself find these conversations upsetting.

If you do get into one of those discussions where they are making you feel bad, I can almost guarantee that if you say something like "Are you, as a white woman, really comfortable telling me as a person of color whether or not I am experiencing racism?" they will feel like total assholes and stop talking about it. You will still not be able to talk about online dating with them, but they won't even try after that.

Adding based on your recent post: I think her initial reaction, if you hadn't yet explained that there's racial bias in dating, was more cluelessness and the belief that the things that worked for her would be universal. If she persisted in that opinion even after you explained that you've done all the profile improvement stuff and it's just hard for non-white women to engage in online dating, then she's being kind of a jerk.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on February 23, 2013


I think that you couching it as a racial issue is what makes people uncomfortable, especially if the people you are saying this to are a part of the demographic you are comparing yourself to. The bottom line is that men who are attracted to a person with your qualities don't hang out on Match - they just don't. It's not just about race though. What about the over-weight person who is awesome in every other regard, don't you think they feel prejudice? Or the person who is too skinny? Or too short or too tall? Sure, they are frustrated that no one is interested in them because of those qualities, but you can't change what other people want or blame them for wanting it. The demographic questions and filters exist for a reason.

Dating is a very personal experience- we're not talking about hiring a housekeeper or finding a new plumber. People have a right to be picky about what they like and don't like: height, color, religion, race, weight, whatever - it's "love" you're looking for and you know what turns you on and off and frankly, most of us can't control that sometimes (Or I wouldn't have spent so much time on that "bad boy" who I knew wasn't any good for me, but geez, he made me swoon). And honestly if you're doing online dating, you're ready to cut through the shit and just get to those qualities you want - I was on Match for a bit and I was guilty of it...I'd see that a guy was "very religious" and I'll just click on to the next guy. That is a deal-breaker for me and I know that would be a waste of time. He might have been Mr. Right, but with online dating, damn, it wears you out, you just can't give everyone the chance you'd like to. I believe Match does give you the option to not answer questions ("I'll tell you later"), so you don't have to answer any questions you don't want to if you think that is how men are filtering.

If I was your friend and you told me this, I would tell you, "Damn, that sucks that that happens. Where do you think you could meet the kind of men who would appreciate your qualities? Where do those guys look to meet women?" In the same way, I, a woman in her 40's isn't going to have much luck at a young hip club, so I should try to look other places. I'd encourage you to try meeting men in other ways - why would you want to keep looking where it isn't working?

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah. A black female friend of mine (overweight and bi to boot) says the same damn thing about OKCupid.

It's not the same problem--I'm white--but when I was single, plenty of people said there was no way my prosthetic leg could possibly make a difference in the meat market. It was just my imagination. If I were only more self-confident. You know, people, try it for a month.

Hang in there. It's not your imagination. Maybe hang out with the naysayers less?
posted by skbw at 9:06 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was a question on here, too, from a Nigerian guy living in the US who was having trouble on OKC. Shockingly, what with being Nigerian and all, he's black. Some people, presumably not assholes, suggested that he take out the reference to Nigeria because of the scam association.

I don't want to sound like a self-righteous jerk, so I am not linking to my comment, but I said it's OK to use the word Nigeria in a dating profile if YOU ARE FROM THERE. (Back in my hometown, people would keel over if I uttered the words "I am a Jew.")

It's not his imagination either...and I somehow doubt that country of origin is his whole problem. Call me cynical.
posted by skbw at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


In a city like DC, it seems like there should be good opportunities for social activities that could lead to dating. It seems clear to me that dating websites are all about commodifying people into rather limited categories, and you don't fit neatly into the categories.

You can call it racism and not be wrong, but where does that leave you? It seems like your next step would be some kind of social action, or an effort to develop an online dating system that makes race filtering difficult, impossible, or counter productive. Along the way, you will probably meet some great people who are interested in dating you. But that seems like a long path to finding someone.

If social change isn't your thing, consider looking for social groups and activities that allow people to get to know the actual you rather than the abstraction of you that is a dating profile.


I have no idea how to solve your problem, but you make a clear, compelling and articulate argument that dating websites aren't working for you. So, believe in yourself! Dump the dating websites and look elsewhere. Nothing is wrong with you, everything is wrong with a matchmaking industry that turns humans into commodities.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:22 AM on February 23, 2013


Another dynamic at work here, maybe, is that it sounds like your friends are treating this as an opportunity to "problem-solve" when what you want is for them to listen to you, believe you when you say it's a problem, and sympathize. (Which is an eminently reasonable thing to want, especially if the problem is something intractable!)

If you're inclined to try to get them to change how they act in these discussions, this might be a way to frame it that doesn't touch on race, and so may get around some of their defensiveness?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:28 AM on February 23, 2013


To follow up on LobsterMitten's excellent answer, if what you're after is reducing that feeling of "I hate bottling this up inside but I also hate the way these conversations always go," I have had good luck with saying "I don't want you to try and solve this problem. I just want you to acknowledge that it IS a problem." If that still results in gaslighting douchebaggery, then yeah, you just need to not talk about it with them. Because they are gaslighting douchebags.
posted by KathrynT at 9:37 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I think they are trying to say is, "But you're so beautiful and amazing! Women of color are just as beautiful and amazing as white ladies! So it must be something other than the fact that you are a gorgeous woman of color! Maybe we try rewriting your profile so they can tell how brilliant and funny and awesome you are too!" (I've seen/heard white women argue that there is no such thing as discrimination against natural ethnic hair, or pressure to straighten/process/conk, because what they're really wanting to communicate is, "But natural hair is as much or more beautiful as "white"-looking hair!") They are operating at the level of friendship/subtext/emotional support and messaging; you are trying to discuss hard and fast factual issues. This is probably not the right crowd to do this with. (Just like I don't discuss certain issues with people who--very well-meaningly and lovingly--just react with assurance of how lovely, lovable, etc. I am.)
posted by availablelight at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nth-ing that I don't think they are all oblivious to the issue or naive, but that they are very uncomfortable talking about race and their privilege. This is their (awkward, insensitive) way of trying to avoid the topic.
posted by amaire at 9:55 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Should I just avoid talking about this with white people entirely?

What do you expect to accomplish by talking about this? Is it going to change things in the real world or is it going to make you feel acknowledged or better about being in the non-privileged position? Don't let your peace of mind depend on such superficial concerns.

I'm not sure how to possibly explain results like that other than white privilege. But the fact that white people don't see this as privilege, or see it at all, is crazy-making.


Are you doing a dissertation on online dating that you need to explain these results to someone? Some white people do see being white as a privilege. Check this out if you don't believe me. There is a reason for the number of views on that video, wouldn't you say? It doesn't matter if all those people are white or green or neon.

Look, there are all kinds of personalities within a population, or race. People are the same everywhere so you will find idiots in your race and idiot white people. Why stress over it? Focus on awesome people you can find in any country, race, religion and you will be so much happier.

Should I just shut up about it completely?

Yup. And then watch that video again.

Is there any way to have this discussion with people that doesn't make me sound like a bitter old hag who blames race for all my problems?


Probably not.

In fact, I think you are possibly at the point of dating burn out. You have tried hard and you want some results on these sites but you are not getting them. And that would drive anyone crazy and frustrated. We have all been there. Maybe its time to take a break, do something else, and come back to it when you are not so upset. You might have better chances if you are open and not expecting anything much anyway.

Dating sucks.
Online dating sucks.
Dating while being anything other than the average/norm (or whatever you want to call it) sucks.

So you have been dealt with these cards. What are you really going to do about it? That is the real question.
posted by xm at 9:57 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was introduced to this woman over dinner, and she wanted to tell all of us about the great guy she met on Match... which then led to my mutual friends saying, "Rhymeswithcheery, don't you also do Match?" Which somehow led to me being forced to admit that I have spent a total of 10 months on Match (over several years, in different cities, currently in Washington DC, but also previously in NYC, which wasn't any better), and I have never gone on a date with anyone. And the immediate response I got from the woman who met her boyfriend on Match was, "Something's wrong. What kind of pictures are you using? Are you writing to guys? Maybe your messages are creepy," etc, etc.

What are these women, 12? Nobody can force you to admit anything that you don't want to share. This seems like not just a getting-a-date-on-an-online-dating-site but also a case of growing up and being your own person. You may want to think about who you talk to about what and how much you want to divulge, and why. Dating, like anything else in life, is not a rat-race. If comparing your house, car and dates is what you live for then yeah, that explains the intensity of frustration and disappointment.
posted by xm at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2013


The Wayback Machine crawled the Racialicious post that Enchanting Grasshopper mentioned, and you can read 90 comments.
posted by ziggly at 10:51 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Part of it is privilege, but part of it is that people really want to help solve their friends' problems as well as believe that every problem is solvable. I've seen this same conversation happen involving friends that had other characteristics (not race) that were making online dating difficult. People like to believe that the world is basically a fair meritocracy and "confidence" is the go-to quality when you need to spackle the gap between that desire and reality.
posted by the jam at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


One other thing I thought of that might be one of the factors in play. A lot of the time when women tell each other about something shitty going on with them, as a woman you are supposed to say that it is shitty for you too. Like if someone complains about their boyfriend being a dick, you are not supposed to reply by saying, "That sucks for you, I really feel sorry for you and I am in a great relationship with an awesome guy." You are supposed to commiserate and complain about your boyfriend too. Or like, if your friend is feeling bloated and says something about how you look really slim that is not the time to go "Yes you are right, you are bloated and I am slim." You are supposed to feel bloated too, dammit!!

But when it comes to racial issues if you do this it kind of makes you an asshole. When someone is talking about the racism that they face in a certain situation, if you talk about how the situation sucks for you too then you will be failing to acknowledge the racism that is there. But at the same time if you say, "You're right, it sucks for you and not for me!" or "It sucks for both of us but definitely way more for you!!" -- even if that is the true answer, it can feel like an incredibly insensitive, rude, awkward, arrogant, and terrible thing to say. Because of other times in life where you have had it better than a friend or they have had it better than you but it is understood by both of you as women that acknowledging that would be insensitive bragging.

Sooo.... if you think this might be a factor in play at all, it might be easier to talk about this stuff with men or with women who haven't been socialized to deny that they ever have it better than someone.
posted by cairdeas at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Since several people have asked me what I hope to get out of talking about this, I wanted to share a sampling of the reactions I've gotten from a few white people who didn't deny that this was A Thing. One friend of mine, while expressing mild surprise that this would happen in DC, told me that her black female friend had the same awful experience online, in which no one wanted to date her because of her race, not even the black guys. Another friend also said, "Oh, my friend so-and-so had exactly the same experience, if it makes you feel any better." And another white friend said, "I think no one wants to admit that that's an issue, but it really is for a lot of people, if they're honest." They get to express their sympathy, I feel like they're not dismissing my experiences, everyone wins.

And the best response (not really a response at all, since she brought up the topic) I ever got was from a white friend of mine who spent years dating on Match. She's one of those thin, young, white, blonde women who a lot of men on dating sites have been socialized to find attractive. While discussing her experience on Match, unprompted by me, she said, "I can't believe how many guys on Match only want to date someone who's white, or maybe white and Asian. I'm not sure those guys realize that they're also turning off the women they actually *do* want to date." She absolutely refused to date guys who stated those kinds of preferences-- and she's now married to a guy she met on Match.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that, while I understand that a lot of times your friends just want to solve your problems or offer a solution, it's possible, as a white person, to acknowledge racial issues and act towards solving them in some small way, as opposed to just telling someone to stop looking ugly in her pictures.
posted by rhymeswithcheery at 11:53 AM on February 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's difficult to put yourself into someone else's position and understand what they're going through. Some people are better at it than others, and some people enjoy it more than others. I know a lot of folks who are part of different majority groups who don't seem to have any understanding of what it's like for folks in minority groups--but I also know a lot of folks in minority groups who don't understand what it's like to be part of the majority. I'm gay and white, btw, so i know what it's like to be on both sides.

Personally, I think this difficulty of understanding is just part of the human experience, and you can talk and talk and talk all day, but you're never going to fully bridge the psychological gulf that seperates yourself from others--and that includes the gulf between you and other people that society would consider just like you (i.e. straight, educated, middle-class indian women).

Should I just shut up about it completely?

That depends on how much you enjoy talking about these subjects, I think. If you want to continue, then I'd say a good first step is to practice seeing the world from, say, a poor person's perspective, or a non-straight person's perspective. Getting a sense of the difficulties inherent in understanding someone very different from you might give you a better understand of the hurdles your friends have to jump before they understand your's. It might improve your rhetoric, and make your arguments more effective.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 11:55 AM on February 23, 2013


I get very frustrated talking about privilege with people who simply do. not. get. it. I've found that shutting up is often the best response if I don't see any traction happening, though I've also found that asking questions rather than making statements seems to work pretty well.

I also think about this essay on The Distress of the Privilege a lot when starting these conversations.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:29 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get really frustrated talking about privilege with people who don't get it. It seems, as a POC who is also disabled/fat/& chronically mentally ill, I can easily end up teaching some fucking 'Privilege 101' class just from random conversation, when all I ever wanted was to spend time with my friends.

I simply remind myself now: It's not my responsibility to hold this person's goddamn hand and gently massage them into being a decent human being.

Flag them (mentally) and move on.
posted by saveyoursanity at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2013


I understand the privilege thing related to seeking jobs, being respected, etc., but I have trouble with the concept of privilege related to dating because dating is highly personal and there's no right or wrong or fair or unfair, it's just about preferences. Is it unfair to a gay person that I am not gay? Is it unfair to a white woman that I prefer non-white women? (Yes, not all white people prefer to date white people). Is it unfair to an Asian woman if someone prefers her because she IS Asian? (People also don't like this kind of "reverse-privilege" thing either!) Is it unfair to short men that women overwhelmingly prefer tall men? No, it's just reality. The fact is, you can't dictate whom people should be attracted to, whether it's race or any other component of their makeup. You just have to live with whatever deviation you have from being the perfect dating candidate.
posted by Dansaman at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2013


I understand the privilege thing related to seeking jobs, being respected, etc., but I have trouble with the concept of privilege related to dating because dating is highly personal and there's no right or wrong or fair or unfair, it's just about preferences. Is it unfair to a gay person that I am not gay? Is it unfair to a white woman that I prefer non-white women? (Yes, not all white people prefer to date white people). Is it unfair to an Asian woman if someone prefers her because she IS Asian? (People also don't like this kind of "reverse-privilege" thing either!) Is it unfair to short men that women overwhelmingly prefer tall men? No, it's just reality. The fact is, you can't dictate whom people should be attracted to, whether it's race or any other component of their makeup. You just have to live with whatever deviation you have from being the perfect dating candidate.
posted by Dansaman at 8:17 PM on February 23 [+] [!]


I don't know, if my online dating experience was that a majority of men my own race, only wanted to date women of other races, and men outside my race expressed a majority preference to not date women of my race either, and so therefore I was receiving hundreds fewer responses/invitations than similarly attractive women in my age cohort, I would find that qualitatively more upsetting--and remarkable--then being looked over because some men don't like freckles, and I might want to be able to bring that up with my girlfriends when they want to discuss how the whole match.com thing is going for me.
posted by availablelight at 6:28 PM on February 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't know, if my online dating experience was that a majority of men my own race, only wanted to date women of other races, and men outside my race expressed a majority preference to not date women of my race either

Yes, this. I get irritated when people bring up the "preferences" thing because for the most part the preferences in our Western culture drive us, every one of us, regardless of skin color, to think of white as the "ideal." It's hammered into us by media, by people in social situations, and for many minorities who grow up surrounded by white people (which is a lot, especially in upper middle class/wealthy areas) it's kind of hammered into you that white=the most attractive. It's something I have challenged in myself (Indian American woman) and something I challenged in an Asian friend who insisted that her born-with preference was for white guys, preferably Irish. What? A Korean woman born in Queens has a genetic preference for Irish guys? Does not compute. Of course there are many exceptions, and there are also a lot of people who challenge this cultural conditioning within themselves. But this really is an issue, to the point that Jezebel had an article recently calling out GQ or some other mag for a "hotness list" that featured a bunch of mostly white women, and then had a separate section for "hottest Indian woman" and "hottest Asian" or whatever.

It's basically saying "you're hot for a..." you know, with a qualifier. It makes you feel less than and other and weird, and it's not right.

OP, personally I don't talk to that many people about dating woes, mostly because I've been single for a long time and they want to give me a pity party which is kind of depressing to me. I try to be selective about whom I talk to about it, but I don't select by race, just by people who will just accept it as I intend it, as a snippet about something that's a bummer in my life, like they might have something that's a bummer in their life, not something that needs to Be Fixed.

I basically quit online dating, but I didn't have too bad of a time finding guys to date on it, I just found it a bit tedious after a while and I wasn't enjoying myself so I quit, at least for a little while. I have found that somehow my real life karma has picked up a bit since I quit, like I opened up to the real world a little by quitting online.

I don't really see the point of caring what the OKCupid statistics say or whatever. I know what they say. Why should I think about it so much? It's not going to change the statistics. Like I said, our culture shines a light on whiteness as The Ultimate and I understand that, but if someone thinks I'm ugly because I'm not white...um, ok. Many people disagree?
posted by sweetkid at 10:04 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also a minority, and I used to worry about the same things, so I do know how that feels. But over time, I realized that focussing and dwelling on social problems like racism (which do certainly exist) actually pull me away from being more active socially, whether I was consciously aware of it or not. I'm not saying you should not be aware of them - you should certainly know them and understand them, but there isn't really a point of dwelling over the fact that you get less replies while online dating because you are a minority. Doing this puts you in a passive position, not an active one, and this will be disadvantageous to you in all aspects of your life, because in consequence you might avoid doing new things that you might not have avoided if you didn't think you were disadvantaged.

Focus on things you CAN fix and have control over (as everyone has things to improve upon), not things you cannot such as your race, because you will just stress yourself out from the helplessness.

However, of course, this is not to say it was ok for your friends to dismiss your concerns.
posted by sedulous at 10:25 AM on February 25, 2013


When I read your follow-ups, I'll admit I was a bit surprised. I have black friends who have difficulty with online dating, but my Asian and Hispanic friends usually complain they get too much attention that is rooted in an exotic fetish. Which is problematic, but a different issue than the one you're finding.

I would wager that your problem is the East Coast. I haven't spent much time there, but I have had friends tell me they're surprised at how self-segregated the North East is. I'm from the South and always grew up thinking that we were decades behind the rest of the United States, so we must be making good progress.

Now I'm convinced that the South is sadly leading race relations, because it's where we have the contentious arguments, it's where racism is being dealt with openly, it's where integration is actually happening on a regular basis. When I lived there, it was fairly easy to fall into a relationship outside my race. Hell, I'm very much white because my Hispanic grandmother and mother married white men with minimal fuss.

On the West Coast, I still see a lot of quiet segregation. San Francisco is very diverse, but I would only get messaged by white guys, and that is certainly the main reason I'm dating a white guy now. I'll easily look around and realize that the room has gotten a whole lot whiter than I'm used to. There's a lot of discussion of race relations. But it's mostly white folks sitting around trying to come up with solutions that make them feel less guilty about the privilege they still have.
posted by politikitty at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2013


Rereading the thread I am glad to see that you, OP, mention that you're Indian (I saw it in your history but for some reason didn't in the thread, and didn't want to bring it up earlier).

First point. Speaking as a native-born white American WHO HAS MADE THE SAME MISTAKES over the life course, I think a lot of white people don't automatically see east and south Asians as "minorities." Let's say a non-asshole white person went to a fancy private high school and generally tries not to be a jerk. I mention HS specifically because those years are still REALLY formative. In my high school class, there were around 60 people. Let's say 25 white, 15 Latino, 7 east Asian, 5 south Asian, 1 black American, 0 Afro-Caribbean or black Africans.

So. 5 south Asians is not a lot, but it's 5 times as many as there are black students there. A half-normal white person is taught from time 1, good Lord, don't do anything to discriminate against or insult black people, what are you, some kind of monster? But it would take a pretty progressive upbringing for parents to say, "listen, M.'s parents are both doctors, their household runs a lot like ours, blah, blah, blah, but listen, she is NOT WHITE, and her differences from you don't begin and end with fantastic home cooking." So I think most white people do NOT get that kind of orientation from the cradle.

About dating specifically, though I never have gotten out much, I can say honestly that from ages 17-30, if I had been on the standard normal dating scene (I was too nerdy to date), there were definitely Indian or Pakistani guys I knew that I could have dated. It is only in the past 5 years, though, ages 30-35, that I have known a critical mass of black guys socially, such that if I were single, I would go out for a beer with one of them.

My point: at age 25, say, if an Indian guy had asked me about some issue with women, I would probably not have answered with that much care, because what could I possibly say that would offend him all that much? Whereas if, when I was 25, your Average Black Man had asked me about some romantic problem, I would have been super-careful not to say anything that might offend, because, geez, how often am I talking to a black guy about love and sex? (Now it happens all the time, but my surroundings have changed.)

Second point: I find the eastern seaboard to be a ton worse on matters of race, across the board. (I am from the South.) Northerners for some reason, and I can specifically pick on overeducated progressive Jews because that is my own community, think they have transcended racism. For example, I don't even want to repeat the joke, I spent hours in college explaining why a group of white students COULD NOT POSSIBLY make a particular reference to Reconstruction at a public event. Now. I don't want to say that Southern college students are a bunch of freethinker leftists. But if you're at the Young Democrats' monthly meeting at some state school in the south, NO SANE PERSON is going to question why a Reconstruction-related one-liner is a no-no. I would RATHER reeducate someone from a farm town than someone from, say, a private college in the Berkshires, who should know better but doesn't. So I can understand where you're coming from in that regard.
posted by skbw at 12:50 PM on March 2, 2013


LOL...rereading my comment, I see that 25-year-old me is talking to hypothetical men, not women, about dating problems (I'm a woman). This is a function of my actual friend group being almost all male, not an attempt to add a gender angle in there!
posted by skbw at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2013


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