For the past few years, the media has seemed to be on a campaign to convince African-American women we are the unhealthiest, least educated, most undesirable, and least likely to get married women on the planet. And while the numbers don’t bear this out (we are kicking ass in college, and by 35, 75 percent of sistas are married), the media keeps harping on our supposed crisis.
Unfortunately, many, including a fair share of Black women, are buying into the false notion that we have a harder time finding love than other women.
To be clear, marriage rates are down for everyone. Folks are waiting longer to get married, instead choosing to focus on careers and attaining financially stability before saying, “I do.” Despite this, the media has played up the “woe is Black women” meme so long that some of us are starting to believe that Black American women need to go to drastic lengths to find a man.
Recently, Buzzfeed’s Anita Badejo penned an interesting article about several Black women who’ve found love and a newfound appreciation for their beauty after traveling (and moving) to Europe.
I first came across the encouragements to go to Europe and “swirl” when I was a junior in college preparing to study abroad in Sweden. Though I cringe to admit it now, I was excited by the possibility of a semester spent flirting with Swedes. As a painfully self-conscious biracial woman, I had struggled to date at an Ivy League school, and studying abroad was as much an escape as it was a necessary academic endeavor for an international relations major. But I am also a European Union citizen, born in Hungary to a Hungarian mother and Nigerian father, and my optimism was tempered by the reality of my experiences living and traveling in Europe, experiences that taught me I was both Other and object. As much as I wanted to believe in sites that told me differently — that men across the pond were just waiting for my arrival — I felt like I also knew better.
Badejo profiled several women who encourage Black women to head across the Pond to expand their dating opportunities. Many of the women, like Fleacé Weaver, founder of Black Girl Travel, found love with White European men, but despite this, Weaver says that is not the goal.
“That’s not what we’re saying,” Weaver said. “We say, ‘Date all men.’”
Tiya Miles, chair of African-American studies at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, has her doubts.
“Once those images are posted and once they’re permeating society, then a certain kind of picture is presented and reinforced about who black women should be with,” Miles said.
It’s hard to argue with Miles. While many women talk up the possibilities of going to Europe to meet a man, they don’t seem to encourage Black women partner with Black European men or travel to more diverse locations like Latin America, the Caribbean, or Africa to find a mate.
Weaver told Badejo that Europe may not be the Promised Land for Black women, but she’s felt more desirable in Italy than she did back home in Atlanta.
“I guess you could say my stock is up in Europe. I felt like Naomi [Campbell] when I got off the plane. When I walked through the airport, I felt like a supermodel.”
She added: “I can’t tell you how many times I’m on a date and all the guy’s doing is rubbing on my skin and telling me how much he loves the color of my skin. One friend of mine has been married to my friend for 17 years, he said that he still loves her like he did from day one and that he likes touching her skin because her skin feels like velvet.”
Kim Butler, who moved to Germany from California sees things differently.
“It’s just fingers in your hair all the time and ‘Oh, you have such nice black skin,’” she said. “It’s never really, ‘What is your name?’”
Weaver, who says she focuses on helping dark-skinned women during her tours, says she just loves finally being seen.
“Some of these girls in the States feel like they’re invisible. That no one has even seen them, let alone speak to them or flirt with them or even taken the time to try to seduce them.”
She continued: “That’s what they get out of it: knowing that they’re beautiful. That people find them attractive. It’s not about the actual hook-up, it’s about knowing that you’re pretty. It’s something that a lot of these girls haven’t experienced in a long time, if they’ve ever experienced it, period.”
While I’m a proponent of travel and finding happiness wherever you can, it’s hard to decipher whether African-American women have an easier time finding love abroad because, as Americans, they are seen as more privileged and more “exotic” than Europe’s own Black women, or if White European men are more open to partnering with Black women than their American counterparts.