Debate: To Interracially Date or Not?

I’m going to tackle an issue that never will die, interracial dating and whether or not people should.  I’ll be specifically tackling the issue from the African-American perspective, with whites dating blacks.  I damn sure don’t want to try to do global interracial dating, and definitely not from a perspective I’m not familiar with (white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) so let’s see if I can narrow down some issues in the African-American community that always seem to bring up problems for interracial dating.

Firstly, there’s two types of interracial dating – black man/white woman (BM/WW) and white man/black woman (WM/BW).  Both are met with resistance, and I’ll briefly describe the resistances that are common for both.  If a BM/WW relationship is going on: black women feel slighted and some outright disrespected; many black women also think the black man is just going for something easy because white women are easier to deal with than black women and only a real black man can handle the black woman; he’s a sellout and not in tune with his people; he’s only with her because she’s “exotic” (AKA non-black); and black families, mothers especially, get worried because their son might get “Genarlowed” and end up in prison due to false allegations.

For WM/BW relationships: the black woman just couldn’t handle a black man so she ran to a white guy; the white guy isn’t man enough to handle a black women; she’s a sellout and not in tune with her people; she doesn’t care about keeping the black family together; she’s weird/stupid; she must come from money…

On both sides I could do a laundry list of stereotypes attributed to Black people who opt to date white people.  When I originally started this post I was going to do something about the debate, but let me get a few things off of my chest first.  1) I’ve never dated a white woman (or non-Black woman).  This could be for a bunch of reasons, but it’s never been because I have an overwhelming desire NOT to – it’s just never happened like that.  So if I end up being pro-interracial dating (which in most instances I am, and I’ll explain what I mean by that later), there’s nothing directly that I gain by being at the very least neutral towards interracial dating.  2) The major impetus for this is a very hypocritical position a friend of mine took towards interracial dating.  She, a Black woman, will be absolutely furious if a black man dates a white woman.  She sees a clear moral duty, but can’t articulate why (and subsequently refuses to talk to me about this situation, holding close to her dogma and not critically engaging her moral impetus).  On the other hand, she has absolutely no problem with Black women dating white men – herself having dated a couple and been in serious relationships with them.  I’m not going to make her argument for her (last I remember it’s pretty shitty), but it did prompt me then to do a small examination on this issue.  Then I read Mills’ essay, “Do Black Men Have A Moral Duty To Marry Black Women,” and after reading and evaluating the arguments given (which he gives a very good account of the 6 arguments given and where their strengths and weaknesses are), I can’t say that there’s a moral duty on that end.  Instead, I’d like to make the point that in the search for love, it might not be the best move to limit yourself.

Listen, I’m a fan of people finding real love.  I haven’t found it, but I’ve seen people who find it and they appear legitimately happy.  I’m a fan of that.  I’m a fan of Black love also, but really insofar as it’s a subset of love.  The fact is that it’s hard enough to find love.  Half the people you date will be crazy, at least one will be gay, another 25% will be good but not quite good enough…it’s an uphill battle.  To me, it makes the most sense to try to cast your net far and wide and hope that a good fish comes up.

But I’d be naive to even posit anything without recognizing the many social issues surrounding miscegenation.  There’s still a litany of racists out here, bigots and racially prejudiced people.  There are plenty of communities that don’t like to see mixing up going on; I remember a recent report on a couple in perhaps Mississippi who weren’t allowed to get married because they were of different races.  The stuff is real – the problems are out there.  And truthfully, I can’t get mad at someone who chooses to date within his/her race because s/he wants to avoid the social problems.  I can only hope those people find love, but if they don’t and settle for something less than love it might come back as a bad decision.  Or perhaps a decision they can live with.  The people I do get mad at (beware, I might rant here), are the people who have fetishized the other race to the point that they only date outside their race because of the fetishism attached.

This, to me, is a problem.  I understand choosing different people and that those different people might be of different races, but honing in on one race that’s specifically not yours appears to really be a problem.  To me, it fetishizes the members of that race.  And my gut instinct tells me that if you go back up to that above list – you’ll see some of the reasons why that person dates only that race is couched in one of those stereotypes – why would someone go out of their way to ONLY date outside of their race?  Granted, if you’re Black but you listen to primarily alternative music, classic and contemporary rock, enjoy the comedy of Eric Schwartz and grew up in a primarily white environment – yeah, you’ll probably be interested in white people for dating, if for no other reason than it might be kind of tough for that specific Black person to find another Black person with similar interests AND a romantic connection.  I’m sympathetic to that circumstance, but I really, really hate when people adhere to a stereotype as their primary reason for dating that race.

You might ask, well why doesn’t it apply to Blacks dating each other?  Surely, you might inquire, there are stereotypes at play that make Blacks want to date Blacks?  You’re very right – but Blacks dating Blacks doesn’t create a problem.  It’s the expectation.  But, as I think about it (and if you all find any good ones, please post them here), I don’t have any real stereotypes that Blacks use as the rationale for dating Blacks other than, “White people don’t want us,” or “It’s what we’re supposed to do.”  There aren’t any stereotypes coming to mind that drive Blacks to Blacks except for maybe the large scale desire to improve the Black family.  But I could definitely be missing some.

I’m running out of steam so I’ll wrap it up by saying this – it’s hard enough to find love, so to me there’s no sense in cutting off a section of the populous due to them not having pigmentation.  Moreover, I don’t see any good moral arguments that demand Blacks to date Blacks – the pitfalls in each outweigh the prudence in the argument.  Again, I’ve never dated a white woman, and truth be told – I see it as something very difficult for me to do following my 4 year inculcation at a HBCU.  Admittedly, I miss hanging out with Black people primarily because as a group, there’s just more I can identify with.  But, that’s not to say that I’m not open to the possibility of dating a white woman, or a non-Black woman.  Fact is, if she and I vibe, I’m going to look into it.  And no, I’m not doing anything wrong – I’d like to see someone point out how I would be, honestly.  But, as I said, it’s hard to find love.  It’s harder to find Black love (in the US chalk it up to many, many different reasons including the numbers game in total).  But as long as the intentions of the dater are pure (that is, not a fetishism of the other race for some personal benefit or something), I have no qualms with interracial dating.  I’m not going to push my views on you, but I must also say in this conclusion that if you allow for one subset of the race the “freedom” to date interracially, then that same freedom must be extended to the whole of the race.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s an argument defending hypocrisy.  Anyways, those are my jumbled up thoughts on interracial dating.

On The Long Distance Relationship

In my first suggested topic, one of my best friend’s girlfriend (she’s a friend in her own right) wanted to know my thoughts on the long distance relationship and more importantly, on its ability to work.  While I can’t give any sort of logical proof for the fundamental ability of the long distance relationship to function, I can make an allusion to the fundamental aspects of the relationship as an indicator for the potential success of the long distance relationship.  But, (and though she didn’t want this), I will address both sides of the issue and discuss the potential pitfalls of the long distance relationship.

At its core, the long distance relationship is exactly what it says it is – a regular relationship between a two people that don’t live in the same city/area.  On its face, a long distance relationship isn’t difficult.  In reality, it comes with a myriad of potential and probable issues due to the distance and what it can do to people’s psyches.  The first potential issue is that we focus so much attention on spending time with the partner and being around the partner, it becomes very difficult to picture, or more importantly, experience life without the partner around.  This is assuming the “traditional” method of meeting and developing a relationship – two people meet, date, eventually get monogamous (or something like monogamous), and then go into full-blown boyfriend/girlfriend (this would include any homosexual variant – same deal here, I imagine).  The more recent explosion of internet dating, however, adds in a wrinkle – if you’re used to not having the person physically around you, one would think the long distance relationship wouldn’t be as big of an issue.  But therein lies the rub – the concept of the long distance relationship is that it’s temporary in some manner.  But I’ll return to that point later.

Another easy to identify problem is the paranoia of not having your partner in the same area as you.  As much as every successful couple proclaims an unwavering trust in their partner, the reality sets in inevitably – “This mothafucka might step out on me.  That’s why s/he isn’t answering my calls or texts!”  Under normal circumstances, one could presumably attempt to do the traditional snooping maneuvers, such as checking one’s phone, looking through one’s computer, trying to get a handle on his or her schedule to verify for yourself, or ultimately trying to catch the person in the act.  While I don’t condone these moves much at all (hey, if you trust ’em, let your trust do the work), these are able to be done and one can be pretty well sure if something’s going on or not (barring a very smart and sneaky partner).  Those same fears cannot be easily assuaged while in a long distance relationship.  The psyche becomes one hell of an enemy, as it’s very quick to assume the worst and convince you of it.  I had a friend bring up this same issue to me very recently – she wasn’t sure if the guy she liked was seriously stepping out on her while she was away.  Other issues, however, were coming into play (she stepped out on him while she was away), and ultimately she was green with envy that this other girl got to spend physical time near him (I’m not certain of anything actually happening other than the two hanging out), and her jealousy combined with her conscience nagging her about what she’d done made what was a non-issue a full blown major problem for her.  So one’s psyche can go into overdrive.

I imagine the psyche goes into overdrive about assuming the worst because a long-distance relationship reminds me of someone who is coming down off of a high and going cold turkey; or at best pulling a Ben Stiller from Dodgeball with the pizza.  There’s an addiction to the other person – s/he makes you feel good, you love being around him/her, and you can’t imagine going without him/her for an extended period of time.  Then it hits you – you won’t see this person for a few months.  Luckily, for some, the whole Skype thing helps you to at least have a virtually physical interaction, but there’s something to be said for having the person you care deeply for physically near you.  Perhaps a synergy of sorts, but there’s something to be said.  And, much like an addict coming off of heroin or cocaine or opiates, you find that they drop down to something not nearly as powerful but as a replacement for their drug of choice.  This would be, in my estimation, what leads to the potential for cheating while in a long-distance relationship.

People have sexual needs.  Both men and women.  I’m not going to go into men tend to be assumed to be the one with the overwhelming sexual needs (I did that already), but men and women both enjoy some sort of sexual action.  When in a monogamous relationship, the trouble lies in that you have this physical (and possibly emotional and spiritual and what have you) connection to your partner.  That’s who you’ve been having sexual gratification from (and possibly yourself, for those who are masturbatorily inclined), and now your vessel for sexual pleasure has gone.  One thing that may have kept you addicted was that sexual chemistry, and now that person is gone – but you’re still horny.  That fact doesn’t go away even though your partner does – the sex drive, the libido, the carnal urges don’t disappear.  So you’re coming down off of the high that is your partner, your drug of choice is gone, and you crave a replacement because withdrawal is a bitch (ask the people on Celebrity Rehab if it’s easy).  Enter the new person.  There’s a saying that I’ve heard many times over, “The only thing better than pussy is new pussy.”  And lo and behold, the newness just walked into the room!  Will the newness have that same synergy as your partner?  No, probably not.  But will you feel great?  Yes, because you got to avoid withdrawal but if only for a moment.  The avoidance of the withdrawal is, in my estimation, one of the major reasons for the potential for cheating; which is a commonly cited reason for not even entering into a long-distance (monogamous) relationship.

So we’ve got a few of the major pitfalls on the table – but I was asked to explain why they can work.  Simply enough, they can work because it takes just that, work.  Not using the internet daters as the prime example, but earlier I mentioned that the long distance relationship is generally viewed as a temporary bump in the road in the relationship – it’s something to fight through, not how the relationship will actually be.  So for many who successfully get through the long distance relationship, they might have something greater in mind and consider this section of their relationship just a stepping stone to greatness, so to speak.  For some, it strengthens the relationship – to know that you and your partner can be physically apart, with all those possible problems, and still be together is a powerful and affirming experience.  For some, they find out that they cannot stay faithful to their partner unless that person is in the same city as them, for whatever reason.

(A quick aside: I know a woman now who found that out the hard way – she continually cheated on her boyfriend while the two were in the long-distance aspect of their relationships.  Some might chalk it up to it being a regular college romance, but the shocking thing was how deep her love ran for this man.  She just literally could not control those urges or re-direct them or whatever it takes.)

But it takes a few things for a successful monogamous relationship to last through the long distance phase –

1) A literal trust that your partner will be true to you;

2) A knowledge that you’ll be true to your partner;

3) A little bit of luck;

4) The patience of Job.

That’s all it takes.  My mindset is such that I’m pretty sure that a great bond between two people won’t be broken by distance alone – possibly the individual changes that come from their time apart, but the distance won’t break a bond.  If you want it to last, one must be patient and be honest.  And if you don’t think you can, perhaps a re-thinking of why you’re with that person in the first place might be in order.

Since I’m pretty sure I missed something, comment away.

What Do You Want Me To Talk About?

I tweeted recently that I’m running out of steam on topics to blog on that have philosophical merit, personal and public importance, and that I can make fun (this is, indeed, supposed to be for fun).  So a friend of mine Facebook’d me a few things and from that I decided to make March the month for my readers to tell me what to write.  On tap I have a few large projects that may trickle into the blog, but expect the following to DEFINITELY hit –

-My Baseball Analogy on Relationships (descriptive, not prescriptive…though it’ll be with some tweaking that it’s prescriptive),

-a World Premiere section of the World Famous “The Chronicles of The Black Pack,”

-“On The Boo,” and of course getting into philosophy of sex;

-wrapping up Part 2 of “On Head.”

But those are the bigger projects – and I can do those once a week.  I’m running out of smaller projects though.  So this upcoming month, the Ignorant Intellectual himself will ONLY post on topics that you, the people, want to see me post on.  Earlier today, a friend wanted me to post on long distance relationships – that’ll be forthcoming tonight.  But the rest of this month and the whole of March, except for the aforementioned projects, will depend on you!!

Comment on this post, email me (, or even tweet it to me @mrphilosopher3!

So, what do you want to read?

-Mr. P aka Capt. Ignant aka D/TNT aka The Ignorant Intellectual

Unofficial Intro to Love

On this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d start the introduction to my (one day) forthcoming book on love.  This idea is something I had back when I was 17, and I’ve been compiling information for 5 years about love and relationships since then.  The initial theoretical piece was a 25 page essay I still have that began as a bunch of journal type reflections and developed into a full blown philosophical introspection on relationships and love.  When looking back on the essay, I pulled on psychoanalysis long before I even knew what that was, and even Freudian concepts of envy (though it was actually a different kind of envy I conceptualized but it’s been done before).  I’m still quite proud of the piece, and will one day edit it and ultimately get it published as a work on trust with relationships and love being the foundation for any claims I make on trust.  All of this is to say that love as a concept is something I’ve been grappling with for years.

So this untitled Book on Love is something I wanted to do in an old-school Platonic dialectic format; interlocutor and response included.  I originally wanted to do a very general analysis, using the big branches of philosophy – metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, and the political.  Years later, I recognized that I just don’t know enough about the branches themselves to even make it work as a true academic work, but I do know enough to make it a popular work.  I don’t anticipate the essays and conversations that follow in these pages to become academic canon; I anticipate (or at least hope) that the masses at large will have their conceptions of love challenged and their norms questioned and questions introduced that had never touched their minds, for whatever reason.  In fact, my ultimate hope is a flood of responses that tell me that I’ve not covered all of what the audience is after, giving me a dual pleasure – the audience is aware, alive and active, and I get to write another piece for their consumption.

With that said, the original and most fundamental (and yes, philosophical) question surrounding love is the simple, “What is love?”  From here, EVERYBODY spits out their “philosophy” of what love is, ultimately jumping behind the thin veil of “well it’s my opinion” if their “philosophy” ends up running into a few walls.  My goal is to flesh out many of the popular answers to this question and ultimately try to analyze the many different arguments provided for the many ways love interacts with the universe.  Will I give what I believe love to be?  Possibly – but my more important aim is to evaluate these arguments and put them into a form that make them able to be evaluated.  In this, I owe a debt in my methodology to Charles Mills’ essay, “Do Black Men Have a Moral Duty to Marry Black Women?”  The entire essay was just an exposition and evaluation of the different arguments given for why black men have a duty to marry black women – and in his methodology I found something very notable.  Nobody actually evaluates the popular arguments given for various things.  And if there’s anything more nebulous than love in its many creation myths and stories, then hopefully this work will give someone the impetus to try to address that topic in their own work.  But for now, the most basic thing I will begin with is “What is love?”

Love has a long and storied history, but the romantic notion of love might have created something irreversible for the current popular interpretation of love.  More than the romantic notion (the kind of love we think of in relationships), the romanticization of the concept of love has radically altered how we teach each other about love and how we expect love to play out in our lives.  Love has a persona, a salesman (Cupid), and its been anthropomorphized in a ridiculous number of ways.  But the question of “What is love?” possess a presupposition that love exists.  That assumption that love exists has to be the first piece addressed.  Can I prove that love exists, or perhaps worse, that it doesn’t exist?  If this project has foolish intentions in any way, it would be the assumption that I can prove anything throughout this project.  I can only posit the common theories given and some of the not so common theories, and hope that something sticks, so to speak.  But the first dialogue will ultimately evaluate the simplest, and yet most complex of the philosophical questions – before we can speak of the qualities of a thing, we must address its existence – particularly because love has reached, in its mythos, the level of God in many ways – a being/force that many assume to exist for a multitude of reasons and attribute a plenitude or lack of characteristics to it.  So to begin, the question of existence will be addressed.

The following dialogue will carry on the assumption that love does exist, and ask the next fundamental question – if love does exist, what exactly is it?  An emotion?  A feeling?  A force?  A universal medium?  It’s here where the questions of romanticism will begin to be addressed, as fundamentally if love exists, it is of a particular kind of thing, and if it is of a kind of thing, we should be able to address that thing.  If it’s an emotion, for example, what about it gives it emotional characteristics?  What are its emotional characteristics?  If it is only a feeling, what does that even mean?  This will be the dialogue that begins argument addressing, and it will lead into the following dialogue – the epistemology of love.

By epistemology, the simple question (if you can’t tell, I like simple questions) is, “How do you know you’re feeling this feeling of love?”  A question that runs concurrent to that question is, “How do you know you’re even capable of love?”  Is it that many of us are sociopaths in lovers clothing?  Is love something we’re all capable of?  Is it a natural, innate emotion or one that must be taught (assuming it’s even an emotion)?  Having interviewed many successful couples who claim to be in love, these interviews will be combined with my research into love to see if there are ways to know we’re in love or if we’re grasping at straws (possibly due to societal pressures TO love).  For example, one man I interviewed clearly expressed when he knew he was in love with his current girlfriend.  For him, it was after they spent a lot of time together, nearly everyday, as a college student, and then they went back home for Thanksgiving.  For him, the emotional withdrawal that hit him was something he had never felt before – he missed this woman dearly.  And for him, the recognition of how badly he missed his girlfriend and spending time with her, was his “aha!” moment, and he says that’s when he realized he was in love.  While a very touching story, it provokes many questions about our epistemic recognition of the feeling of love.  It seems foreign to us, whereas if you ask someone about when they were angry about something or the recognition of anger, there’s no elaborate backstory – you’ve been angry plenty of times before, so many that you don’t recall when you got mad at something for the first time.  So this will be the kinds of queries introduced and evaluated in that section.


What you read above is the unofficial introduction to my Book on Love (it’s been called that for so long, I might make that the title).  Does this intrigue you?  How about the old school Platonic dialogue method, does that intrigue you?  At the very least, would you want to continue to read this project based on what’s been written here?  Why or why not?  But I recognize this is Valentine’s Day – many of you all will be busy trying to have some wild jungle freaky sex tonight.  So Happy Valentine’s Day everybody, and when you read this just try to find time to respond to these questions, or see if any come to your mind – this book is for the public, not the academy.  So I’m writing it for you all.

On Why I Don’t Call People

Historically, I’ve been a recluse of sorts.  I tend to keep to myself and only call a select few people regularly to talk.  I talk to myself more often than not, and recently I decided I’d address why I don’t really call people to talk much.  I’ll text you, but call and talk?  Nah, won’t do that too much.  It could be due to the heavy level of psychoanalysis I’ve been receiving in class combined with my natural introspective prowess, but I thought I’d try to figure out why I don’t really communicate with many people.

If I went back to my childhood, I’d find that I kept to myself then – but I really only knew my family.  It was kind of how we grew up; very “clannish,” as my grandmother told my mom once.  You might know the folks in your neighborhoods, but you rode with your family.  Even now, my cousins stick tightly and the cousins my age are a deep part of my rideout crew.  But when phones got introduced to me and I learned phone numbers, I don’t remember calling people to talk.  I played with my action figures, read Calvin & Hobbes, and tended to keep to myself.  I had friends at school, and I’d go to their houses and stuff, but no, I don’t really remember talking on the phone to people much.  Then came middle and high school, and something happened – I did talk to people on the phone.  But I think those experiences might have shaped my phone use now.

I only called people if I wanted to talk to them or felt like I should call them for some reason or another.  So I’d call aunts, cousins, friends to either keep up with them or because I had a question.  But alas, enter the female into the equation.  Phone conversations became something…more important all of a sudden.  They gained an extra meaning.  No longer was I calling to see how you were doing; now I called to flirt and show interest and the like.  When I called my friends (this is prior to the text message), we would shoot the breeze and whatnot.  But when I called girls, everything flipped.  Words had to be chosen carefully.  Conversations needed to be interesting.  Always a salesman.  I can remember once having a buddy of mine on the 3 way on mute while I talked to this girl I liked and every so often I’d tell her, “Hold on,” mute her and quickly talk to him to see how I was doing.  Perhaps all of this just expresses my sheer awkwardness as a teen, but there’s something about those phone conversations.  The nervousness of it all.  The fear of saying the wrong thing.  You’ve really got to be comfortable to just TALK on the phone.

So high school happens, and my phone conversations become less and less.  I still really call my family and then my close friends…but talking?  No, there’s usually a reason to call somebody, right?  And at that point in time the instant messaging systems were REALLY booming, also lessening my need to open my mouth and use my voice to communicate.  Alas, this problem has only gotten worse with the advent of as many ways possible to NOT call people.  As the ability to text grew, along with social networking sites like Facebook, the need to call people lessened and lessened.  Still, the only constants were my family and close friends were the ones I called and who called me mostly – if someone else called, it was usually for a quick question or a meeting up or something along those lines.  As I write this, it dawns on me just how socially awkward I was (and probably still am).  Nevertheless, this little reflective piece is designed for information, and information indeed I am gaining.

So I get to college and the wonderful world of texting and Facebooking and instant messaging really hits.  I called now to contact people, not to communicate with people.  And the more phone calls became for contacting and not communicating, the bigger my personal thing with phone calls became.  It’s like an obsolete technology, reserved for emergencies or necessity.  But if people had their druthers, they’d just as soon text you/tweet you/Skype you…everything but call you.  I feel weird calling the vast majority of the people in my phone, because I don’t have anything to say to them.  Now, as I live alone, I find that those few people I call tend to get more phone calls than before.  But in college, I still had no real reason to call people unless there was a “conversation” to be had.

And there it is – conversation.  The only reason I would engage in a phone call is for a conversation.  But perhaps I’m not as confident in my conversational abilities, so I resort to the text.  But the phone call is designed for two people to converse now.  At least, my conception of the phone call is such that we talk.  Not like the obvious (if you use the phone, clearly you’ll be talking), but more like there’s a purpose to a phone call.  You can mass text people to see what’s going on on a larger scale, but if you want to see what’s happening with this one person, you give them a phone call.  It shows a type of intentionality.  You’ve expressed, by dialing their number or pulling it up out of your phonebook, that YOU want to talk to THIS SPECIFIC PERSON at that specific time.  The downside is…

I tell stories.  I firmly believe all conversations are nothing more than stories, and the good storytellers make great conversations.  I’m not the best storyteller though, because I ramble incessently while I talk, generally.  One story reminds me of another story so I jump to that story but end up forgetting why I jumped to that story…and many times I just don’t want to waste people’s time with my rambling.  I’ve been home for a couple of hours now and the only words that have come out of my mouth were the ones I left on a voicemail because I just needed to tell somebody something important.  Either way, many times I don’t value my phone call unless it goes to a close friend or a family member.  I’ve got friends who I should have called but now, I feel like I’m imposing on them if I do call them.

In the end, my reluctance to call people shows up even now – when trying to let someone know something I text much quicker than I think to pick up the phone.  Perhaps I’ve been caught up in the “now, now, now” action of the 21st century.  Either way, I’ll still be calling my family and close friends.  This was a fun reflection to do.  Maybe you all should try it.

My First Feminist Theory Class

While this may be a bit more of a personal piece, I think it’s got a few things to think about in it.  This semester I TA for the Feminist Theory course offered at U of Memphis in the philosophy department.  I specifically requested TAing for either this course or the African-American philosophy course offered.  Since I have interests in African-American philosophy, it’d make sense to continue boning up on it as I progressed, but for many people they might ask, “Why feminist theory?”  There are a few reasons for this.  First, one of the big draws for Memphis was that I could learn about feminism.  Not really 3rd wave, but definitely 1st and 2nd wave feminism.  In my undergrad career, I never formally learned about feminism, but was slightly intrigued, especially after the first formal introduction I had to a group of feminists was the impromptu rape rally held by Spelman College’s FMLA that took them around the AUC and finished in the middle of Morehouse’s campus due to the allegations that a Spelmanite got raped by a Morehouse student.  That particular issue aside, I’d wondered what it meant to be a feminist, or more accurately, what feminism is.

I asked this to a (then) friend of mine, and she replied, “Why don’t you tell me what you think it is?”  I genuinely had no overarching idea, (not to mention, I think she just wanted to feel like she knew more than me about something) so I said something along the line of “a movement trying to create an egalitarian society rather than male-dominated.”  She promptly gave me a, “No, that’s not it.”  So I asked her, “Well, what is it?  Enlighten me, please.”  She offered a simple and very telling response – “No, you go research it.”  That conversation let me know a few things – A) She didn’t really know what feminism is.  B) Nailing down a single definition for it is very difficult if not impossible.  C) I don’t need to ask this person any more questions.

Having had the two above experiences, I set out using trusty Wikipedia to at least get an idea as to what this feminism monster is.  Wikipedia, like with any major topic, is exhaustive in the history of feminism and in its feminism portal, to its credit.  But it exhausted me reading.  So I set out, when choosing graduate school, to find a place where I could at least learn something about feminism.  Particularly, of course, feminist philosophy and what these women (and as I’d find out, men) felt being a feminist means.

A quick preface – I’m an egalitarian.  Feminism is not egalitarianism, as there are pitfalls in egalitarianism.  But the ideals of all being equal is what I’m for (hence why I’m also a Marxist, but that’s for another time – down with classes!  Down with the bourgeoisie!  Everybody equal across the board!)

So with that as a quick background, I figured what the hell – let’s learn us some feminist theory.  But the classroom experience alone is very, VERY different from what I’d been dealing with for the past few years.  Morehouse is an all male college.  And that’s where I took the bulk of my classes.  In fact, except for 3 classes, I think, I took them all at Morehouse.  Of those 3 classes, only the one I took at Spelman had more women than men – but only by a couple (5 to 3 I think).  So when I stepped into this class, one that’s very emotional in many respects, I had no expectations for how the class would be – I figured we’d have just 20-30 people in the room.  But for the first time since my senior year of high school, there were a bunch of women in the classroom.  And for the first time in my academic experience that I can remember, the number of women dwarfed the numbed of men in the room.  I’m not intimidated by it; it’s rather interesting as an experience for anybody to be the minority in number in the room.  But for a feminist theory course, it’s evident that between the 6 guys in the class (not including myself), there’s a lot of silence because of the combustibility of the course material.  Women are reading historical accounts of what a woman is and getting upset.  Men wrote these accounts and made these theories.  You’re a man – the face of the oppression.  You’re now the enemy.  It happens in race theory classes also, the white person in the room is the face of the racism – the white person in the room is the enemy.

So I’m sitting in here, the black male TA, with 20 young women of various ages and various levels of excitement regarding the material, but each appears to have an emotional investment in the subject (gee, wonder why).  It’s just a very peculiar environment to see a whole lot of women dealing with the historical creation of a woman, and how some of them cannot get past the “clearly it’s wrong” stage with a guy like Aristotle and how some have breezed into the bigger issue of “how has this stuff gone on for so long?”  And it’s even more interesting to see how some male students react.  The first day, for example, a young man came up to the professor and said that he didn’t understand Simone de Beauvoir’s stuff at all and that she was very incomprehensible.  The professor calmed all that racket down, and after class she told me, “He’s the type of guy who takes this class just to piss the women off.”  And last Thursday, after class, the guy came up to the professor again and tried to reason that Aristotle’s conception of the woman leaves women as soulless (not true, women have the form of human and anything with a form has a soul – but that might be wrong, either way…) the student was wrong about that and this time I had to step in and explain that women have souls for Aristotle.  Today after class, the same guy walks up to the professor and says that he didn’t think these older philosophers were putting in a lot of effort in their gender theories and that they didn’t believe them and had societal pressures to make these theories (also far from the truth, Aristotle believed every single thing he wrote – the only societal pressures might’ve been don’t be blasphemous towards the gods).  But during class, he won’t say a word.

He feels the pressure in the room – that if you say the wrong thing, all of these women might jump clean down your throat for real.  But, he probably would say that wrong thing, so he keeps quiet.  Me?  I’m sitting back, observing and taking stock of this experience.  There’s definitely a different classroom vibe with so many women in the room, and it’s palpable.  There’s definitely a different classroom vibe with so many women in the room and knowing the reason all the women are in the room is due to the subject matter of the course.  And it’s a very interesting vibe to be in for the first time.  When I told my professor that this is the easily the largest number of women I’ve ever had a class with in my life and the first time I had more than like 6 in a class since high school, she was kind of shocked but recognized just how unique an experience this is for me.  We haven’t even gotten into the more recent stuff yet, too.  Here’s hoping none of the guys set off any of the women in the room – there’s just enough intense people in the class that there’s a possibility of a bigtime intellectual brawl spilling out.

On the Usage of Love

I did some thinking awhile ago about how I use the word “love” and how it colloquially gets used and, in my opinion, abused.  When I was in high school, I found a classmate’s binder that she left, took it home so it wouldn’t get lost, and returned it to her the next morning.  In her happiness upon having received her binder, she gave me a big hug and exclaimed, “Oh my God, thank you, I love you!”  I stammered out a “you’re welcome,” but was presented with possibly the first time (or at least one of the first times in my memory) where I was presented with the colloquial usage of “love.”  In some ways, I was truly flummoxed.  Now, I knew she in fact DIDN’T love me – so why say it?  I shrugged it off, chalking it up to me being socially inept at that young age and just not having dealt with the colloquial use of “love.”  But now, nearly a decade later, I can revisit that instance and wonder about the use of the word and wonder about its implications.

I suppose the original problem with my young interpretation was that, growing up, I only told my family I loved them.  As some of us are familiar with, the Greeks had a multi-tiered conception of “love,” and I really only knew familial love.  I didn’t have a conception of loving someone outside of my family – just liking them.  I made that decision early on that the word “love” wasn’t something to be tossed around all willy-nilly.  I observed how important it was in my family to let family members know that we loved one another, though I’m not entirely sure I knew what that meant (probably still don’t, to be honest).  But I did know that love was something special you felt for someone.

Certainly, some people might say, “Well I love everybody, don’t you?”  No, I don’t love everybody.  I harbor no ill will towards everybody (though I must admit of my misanthropic tendencies at times), but I never felt comfortable saying that I love everybody.  This gets back to my most popular piece on this blog, On The Subject of Love,” in which I address the concept itself.  Frankly, I’ll tell those who I care about deeply that I love ’em.  But I won’t do that for those who I don’t care about that deeply.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you – it means I don’t love you.

Having written that, it’s apparent to me that I hold a very distinct viewpoint regarding the employment of the term, “love.”  I didn’t like how freely it got used when, to me, it’s such a powerful term.  So perhaps (and this comes from my personal identity seminar), there’s a hard and strict use of “love,” and a colloquial use of it also.  Let’s explore this.

The strict use of the word stems from our familial love, love of our offspring, and love for our spouse.  How we qualify the definition may differ, but ultimately when we say we love our parents, there’s probably a mixture of gratitude and appreciation for giving us life, a loyalty to them, a trust that they will not lead you astray, and a type of reverence towards them that makes us protective of them as we get older.  When we say we love our spouse, there’s a loyalty to them, an attraction to them, and a forged bond and link between them.  Where’s “friend love” at?  Well, I think it’s in the conception of the love of a friend that the stretch between strict love and colloquial love might have begun.

We develop the “love” emotion for other people.  Everybody who’s not a sociopath, I believe is born with the ability to love.  This doesn’t mean they will love – it means they can.  Either way, this emotion is developed through plenty of other factors, but is based primarily in its reciprocity.  Without doing too much more on the concept of love itself, the love of a friend is wholly different from the love of a family member or a spouse or a child.  Well, wholly might be a bit heavy, but I assure you the love you feel is different.  With family, often there’s a…need of sorts.  You reciprocate the love shown you as a child, for example.  With a child, you have a love for your offspring.  With a spouse, you have a deep rooted love that touches in the metaphysical realm.  But with a friend…it’s not quite reciprocal, it’s not quite metaphysical (I don’t mean this in the philosophical sense, but the common use), and it’s not necessary with the job like it is for raising a child.  In this cloud of ambiguity, in comes the vagueness of the second sense of love.

Love of a friend brings about the second, vague sense in which the word is used.  And from there, we see it applied in an exhaustive manner with people.  I’m not so much concerned with when people use love with objects – generally it’s just a way of expressing how much they like it, but on a different level.  That probably sums up the “love for a friend” use, however – there’s an extreme, platonic like of this individual such that it goes beyond the normal realm of just liking someone.  But again, look at how that use or etymology of this use differs from “family,” “spouse,” or “child” love.  It’s this version of love that opened the doors to the ridiculous amount of times “love” gets used.  “I love this celebrity,” for example.  If you love Halle Berry or Denzel Washington, you only know what you see in the movies or read the tabloids – you don’t actually know them.  They aren’t your child, and they probably won’t be your spouse.  They aren’t even your friend.  So in what manner do you “love” them?  You just really, really like them and are expressing that your like for them is on another level.

But back to my original story – the girl tells me she loves me, but she and I weren’t cool like that.  We were acquaintances at best at that time, so I was taken aback that she’d say “I love you!”  I figured a “thanks” was plenty.  I suppose I still haven’t unraveled the mystery here, as her use isn’t like a celebrity, or a friend, or a spouse, or a child, or a family member.  So there’s a new use that I haven’t pinpointed.  I blame all of this on how we tell friends we love them.  Aporia has been reached, and I’m going to go ahead and stop now.