Black Masculinity, Dating, and Twitter
I often come across tweets where men declare really annoying rules for their dating relationships. I don’t follow these particular men on Twitter; I see their tweets as retweets when Black women (that I do follow) retweet them and debate them. There really are men who demand that women cook, demand that women not wear makeup and demand silence* during sports etc. and similar intensely interpersonal controls. It seems like minutia from men who feel desperately powerless and seek to reclaim some form of power. (*I won’t even elaborate on the gendered myth that women like noise and chaos and men like silence; from K-12 classrooms, college classrooms, the workplace and the streets/public, it’s always seemed like Black men talk more, talk louder and were more theatrical/expressive than I or any of my female friends ever were.)
Recently on The Today Show, I saw Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer, giving tips for controlling and taking care of dogs and the dogs responded well to him. What made me uncomfortable is literally everything he was saying about humans and dogs sounded like what many Black men say about dating relationships about men and women, respectively. It honestly made me sick.
Some of the men tweeting such things are tweeting what they think they should desire, as they, just like the women they demand be this way, have been raised in a patriarchal society. Further, some are performing the act of these demands online as this is where they’ll get an audience. Patriarchal masculinity is just as much performance as it is gendered ideology and construct. It doesn’t mean their actual homes are like this or that they’re even in a relationship. Some will claim that the lack of subservience from women is why their relationships don’t work. Ironically, when some men get the “submission” that they’ve been socialized to believe they cannot live without, they’re still unsatisfied. I write “live without,” not “be happy without,” since for some men, being happy is not even on their radar or they conflate having domination with being happy. This intensifies for Black men since they’re rarely able to execute patriarchal power outside of the home in the way that White men can. The illusion that dominating a Black woman at home will make up for the racist oppression outside that denies them patriarchal power explodes in their faces, leaving rage, and often opening the door for emotional abuse, domestic violence and even murder for Black women.
Twitter has become a place where some men can perform a masculinity type that they do not even attempt to assert in real life. For others, it’s a place to reaffirm patriarchal masculinity as valid since in the age of social media, repetition alone is viewed as confirmation of validity. It’s their digital barber shop. When hundreds and thousands of Black men copy the patriarchal sayings of Steve Harvey (bad enough) and portray themselves as “counselors” for Black women (one man even made up a fake degree with a syllabus and everything…odd), defend Floyd Mayweather’s (or other male celebrities’) domestic violence, or laugh at violence against Black women, that patriarchal solidarity in real time, in 140 character bites of information, becomes confirmation of the tiny narrow space where racist persecution and male privilege collide to allow the performance of patriarchal masculinity by Black men.
In the same way that feminists (which includes some Black men; not all Black men identify with this patriarchal thinking that I am writing about, but they still of course benefit from male privilege), atheists and other cultural subgroups of Black people seek ideological solidarity and intellectual camaraderie via social media, as these groups are margins within margins, (within the margins, within the margins; for some people, there’s multiple intersections that they exist at), the ideologically hegemonic group (Black heterosexual able-bodied cisgender theist men; think about it—when Black men or women discuss “Black issues,” they primarily mean "what are Black heterosexual able-bodied cisgender theist men up to today?") amidst Black people ourselves (even though as a race we are rarely included in the midst of hegemonic power in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society), seek solidarity and affirmation of their views, no matter how destructive those views are to Black people as a whole. The communal nature of Black culture, as far as conversation, affirmation, and confirmation goes, is replicated in patriarchal spaces as well as feminist spaces.This becomes clearly evident when the topic at hand is dating.