Racial Preferences in Dating

A White man leans into the ear of a Black woman who is laughing with he eyes closed

In October 2017, I was interviewed about racial preferences in dating for the Triple J show, “The Hook Up,” along with Dr Denton Callender, a research fellow at the Kirby Institute, and Dr Ian Stephen.

The podcast included calls from listeners who shared what it’s like to be fetishised on dating apps, as well as the racial biases that White people exercise.

I am featured at the beginning, when host Hannah Reilly asks me to comment on ethnic preferences. (Note that ethnicity is about culture, and race is about physical traits. To illustrate this distinction: there are Black Latin people – they’re classified as Black in terms of race, and Latin in terms of culture.)

Below is my transcription of the segment that features me.

[From 2.19 mins] Hannah: I asked sociologist, Zuleyka Zevallos, where these ethnic preferences might be coming from.

Zuleyka: It goes back to the way we think about beauty. We’re socialised from a really young age to be looking out for certain types of physical traits – and a lot of them are associated with Whiteness. It’s about: having very light skin; having a particular type of nose – various types of features that are more common amongst people who are White.

Hannah: So you think beauty is a cultural idea, not a physical one?

Zuleyka: It is very much shaped by culture. We know that because there are patterns. You talked about the patterns on dating apps. There are patterns in which people couple more generally, in marriage – those types of patterns. If it wasn’t culturally shaped, there wouldn’t be patterns because everyone would have an equal chance of hooking up with people, and having relationships with, people outside of their own racial group. Continue reading Racial Preferences in Dating

Here’s Why Your Criticisms of Intersectionality and “Identity Politics” Sound Ridiculous

I was interviewed by writer and social justice coordinator with the American Humanist Association, Sincere Kirabo, about misunderstandings of intersectionality and the problems with the term “identity politics.” He writes:

…White identity politics go “undetected,” as we’re socialised to regard the sustaining of dominant culture as “what is expected” or “the way things ought to be.”

Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, sociologist with Swinburne University, echoes this sentiment, stating:

‘If the phrase has any value at all — and it really doesn’t — “identity politics” calls attention to the ways that people from majority groups, especially White people, do not “see” how their identities are governed by politics.

This is how Whiteness works: White culture is embedded into all fields of public life, from education, to the media, to science, to religion and beyond. White culture is constructed as the norm, so it becomes the taken-for-granted ideal with which other cultures are judged against by White people.

‘Hence, White people do not recognise how their race shapes their understanding of politics, and their relationships with minority groups.’

Read more on Medium.

Here’s Why Your Criticisms of Intersectionality and “Identity Politics” Sound Ridiculous

“Where Are You From?” Racial Microaggressions

This is a question I routinely get from people I meet. When I say I’m from Melbourne (the city where I’ve lived most of my life), I get scoffed at and badgered: ‘No – where are you really from?’ People ask this question because I’m not White and I’m presumed to be not-Australian. Yes I was born in South America – but I have lived here for 24 years, since I was a child, and this is my home. I’ve devoted much of my adult life to researching and fighting this form of everyday racism. Almost everyday of my life, any time I meet new people. This has always made me feel as if my status as an Australian is continually being judged and categorised by people who feel they have more of a right to call themselves Australian because they are White and not obviously of migrant background. In a multicultural country in the year 2011 – this is astounding.

The above anonymous entry to Microaggressions.com is actually mine, from six years ago. I’ve lived in four cities since this submission. I still get this question routinely in all sorts of contexts, from professional meetings to social settings; whether I visit an art gallery, or if I’m a guest at a function.

Racial microaggressions are the brief and subtle daily insults that denigrate people of colour. This term was first conceptualised in 1977 by Chester Pierce and colleagues in a study of racism in television commercials.

“These are the subtle, stunning, often automatic, and non-verbal exchanges which are ‘put downs’ of Blacks by offenders. The offensive mechanisms used against Blacks often are innocuous. The cumulative weight of their never-ending burden is the major ingredient in Black-White interactions.”

Microaggression is a term that Dr Derald Wing Sue and colleagues reinvigorated in 2007, to describe racist dynamics between White therapists and their clients who are people of colour. They note that microaggressions occur because White people lack awareness of how race affects their biases, stereotypes, behaviour and attitudes, and also because they lack an understanding of the experiences of people of colour.

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of colour. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities”
Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities

Microaggressions can be delivered as an insult or an appeal for validation about White person’s beliefs. These may be verbal signs (words or tone) or physical cues (snubs, or dismissive looks, gestures). Racial microaggressions can also build up not by targeting a specific individual but through atmosphere, such as a hostile workplace, where a minority woman is excluded from social events.

Continue reading “Where Are You From?” Racial Microaggressions

Gender, Race, Power and The Beguiled

How do White women perpetuate gender and racial inequality in film? A new adaption of the 1966 novel and 1971 film, “The Beguiled,” is hitting the silver screen. The original story opens with a limping, dirtied White man, John (also nicknamed “Mr B”), played with relish by Clint Eastwood. The audience knows the violence and lies he’s capable of, as we see flashbacks that contradict his charm. He is an Unionist soldier injured in battle towards the end of the American Civil War. He staggers his way to a secluded boarding school for girls and young women, where he is nursed back to health by the older women, a mixed group of begrudging and bemused ladies who are stifled by their secret desires. The 2017 version has already built up high praise, with director Sofia Coppola being awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the first time the prestigious award has been given to a woman. Coppola explains why she chose to erase the character of Hallie, a slave woman who features prominently in the original. I emphasise Whiteness in her language below. Whiteness is a concept describing how White people don’t acknowledge how their race is central to their worldviews and contributes to racial oppression:

“I really thought it was interesting because it was a group of women all living together, all different ages with different stages of maturity, and how they interact. It’s a group of women kind of isolated in the world… I’m definitely attracted to stories about female characters, and characters that I can relate to. I’m interested in stories of groups of women together…  At the heart of the story, it’s really about the power dynamics between men and women that are universal, but that are sort of heightened in this kind of premise.”

Copolla makes two points in this interview:

  1. She loves women’s stories (read: White women’s stories).
  2. By saying she chooses stories that she relates to, and having omitted the only Black woman from her script, she is saying she only relates to White women.

This may seem “natural” to White people: why would a White woman relate to a Black woman character? This logic is how Whiteness works: by taking for granted the power dynamics of race. Continue reading Gender, Race, Power and The Beguiled



Panel 1: [Top – heading] Why Tone policing sucks. 

[Bottom – Person 1, the author,  talking to audience] I keep seeing posts on Tumblr getting loads of praise from “allies” and anti-sjw’s [social justice warriors] on how to confrot ignorance. It’s always some stupid gif of someone being super nice, getting a super nice response, or some “catching flies with honey” thing.

Panel 2: [Top – two people talking] Person 1: That’s offensive to me, man.

Person 2 [looking shocked]: Oh man- 

[Bottom] Person 2: I didn’t mean anything by that, but definitely won’t happen again.

Person 1: Great!

Panel 3: [Top – Person 1, talking to audience] But we don’t live in a fantasy land, peace and love world where every instance of kindness is met with equal kindness. Let’s check out the reality!

[Bottom – green writing for emphasis] REALITY

Panel 4: [Top – same two people, but Person 2 wears mocking facial expressions] Person 1: That’s pretty offensive man. 

Person 2: Oh no!

[Bottom] Person 2: You’re not going to make it in the real world with thin skin like that!

Panel 5: [Top – two lists as below, with the word “real” written to the side. Left-hand-side list] Other likely responses *Here’s why you’re wrong: * Stop pulling the race card! *I don’t like (unrelated trivial thing) but you don’t see me complaining! *There’s no proof that these bad things happen. *Freedom of speech.

[Right-hand-side list] *If (PoC [people of colour]) did this, it wouldn’t be racist, so. *I’m tired of this White hate! *You’re not special. *Let’s focus on “real” issues instead. *You’re an idiot race baiter.

[Bottom diagram with “A” and “B” drawn as a forked line leading to “C” and a hashed line to “D”]

D is the rare chance someone listens to protest.

So if both being nice and being angry towards ignorance end up in the same spot, what does that mean?

Panel 6: [Top – person talking to audience] It means ignorance will stay ignorant regardess of the delivery, Duh! But it also means, if your comfort is more important in equality than the lives and experiences of the oppressed, then –

[Bottom – writing against red background for emphasis] You’re part of the problem. The end.

Race and the Head Wrap in Brazil

Racism in Latin America is deep and complicated by the way in which colonialism is internalised in national narratives. In Brazil, the official discourse is one of perfect multicultural, multiracial togetherness, however, the fact is that race is intertwined with class inequality. Black and Indigenous Brazilians are treated like second class citizens and their cultures are appropriated and fetishised by the majority groups and elites.

In one example, a White Brazilian woman shared a story saying that Black women confronted her for wearing a head wrap, which is a cultural symbol of identity for many Black Brazilian women. The viral post was defended by thousands of White women who claim they are being discriminated against. They are angry at the claims of cultural appropriation. They used the hashtag: #WhiteWomenWillUseHeadWraps essentially forcing their perceived right to wear a head wrap even though Black women have been calling out this behaviour for decades. This is White supremacy: claiming the right to use parts of Other cultures without the meaningful cultural connection and the social stigma that follows.

Writer Ana Maria Gonçalves explains: “For you the head wrap is temporary housing, the kind that you may come and go from as you please and as style dictates, because you always have another place to go, which is the place of Whiteness.”

Photo & information: Remezcla.

[Photo: Young White woman holds hands with an older Black woman sitting on a bench. They both wear head wraps.]

The idea that science is not political leaves undisturbed the norm that White men’s interests are the default universal position that should remain unchallenged. It might seem counter-intuitive that women as well as men are equally likely to see that diversity was politicising science, but not so when considering that Whiteness was the distinguishing feature driving this logic. 

My analysis of March for Science supporters’ comments about inclusion and accessibility shows that  a weak commitment reinforces the existing discourse that science does not really have to change. It does.

Read more: Analyzing the March for Science Diversity Discourse, on DiverseScholar.

[A Black woman speaks at a podium as other women look up and smile at her. With quote from “a weak commitment…”]

Race and Gender in the Main Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery in London is beautiful and lavish, but at least three-quarters of the collection is by White men who painted rich White men.

Feminist history chronicles White women’s struggle for recognition in art. Much less is written on women of colour in the early art world; not because they were not creators but because their art and knowledge was not given attention by White historians.

The experience of visiting these types of galleries is especially alienating to women of colour, with wall after wall of White male subjects peering out the canvas. Galleries are White spaces, built around the expectation of White audiences and perpetuating inequalities of the past.

It doesn’t need to be this way; mainstream art galleries can, and should, rediscover the stories of underrepresented artists, rather than basking in the Whiteness of the past and present. Art is a way to re-imagine the world, including the stories that remain hidden from the public’s view.

Source: Other Sociologist.

The Gender Pay Gap and Race

Actress Natalie Portman is the latest White woman celebrity to talk about the gender pay gap in ways that demonstrate tunnel vision on the intersections between racism and gender inequity. From Patricia Arquette’s highly misguided attempt to discuss the wage disparity during her 2015 Oscars speech, to Jennifer Lawrence’s essay calling for equal pay, White actresses have a very skewed view of the inequities faced by “women” in the entertainment industry and in everyday life.

What does the gender pay gap look like when viewed through the intersections of gender, race and other social categories? What do we learn about mainstream feminism’s vision for equal pay, when we become more conscious of Whiteness?

Pay gap in Hollywood

Speaking with Marie Claire magazine, Portman described her pay relative to Ashton Kutcher, her co-star in the 2011 film, No Strings Attached:

“His [pay fee] was three times higher than mine, so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy. Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”

This pay discrepancy is not fair – both actors carry the film and they work equally as hard. The issue of pay, however, needs to be put into broader perspective. When White actresses talk about pay differences, they talk about “women” as a monolith group. For example, the figures Portman quotes are for White women. 

In 2015, White women earned 82 cents to every dollar earned by a White man, but Latin women earned 58 cents and Black women earned 56 cents. Racialised gender inequity persists with higher education. In recent years, the pay gap for White and Asian women has closed more than for Latin and Black women.

The fact is that race increases the gender pay gap, not just in Hollywood but in everyday life.

Whiteness is a concept describing how White culture dominates social institutions in “Western” societies to the point where it is so pervasive, so central, so familiar, that it becomes invisible to those who possess it. Whiteness is everywhere, taken for granted, and therefore not questioned by White people on a day-to-day basis, or in their feminist practices.  

White women who identify with dominant social groups (heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class) only confront their sense of difference (or “otherness”) in terms of gender. Even then, it is in relation to White men, not to women or men of other racial and social backgrounds. This means that White women are not used to thinking about how their experience of inequality is not as profound as it is for others.

The highest paid White women in Hollywood are paid less than White men but more than people of colour. In 2015, Robert Downey Jr was the highest paid man, earning $80 Million. Jennifer Lawrence was the highest paid actress, earning $52M; while Jackie Chan and Vin Diesel earned $50M and $47M respectively. The only woman of colour to crack the top 18 list was Chinese actress Bingbing Fan with $21M. 

Gender inequity matters and should be addressed at every opportunity. The fact is that the intersections of gender and race make gender inequity worse.

Intersectionality is a concept used to critically examine how gender discrimination is affected by race and other social disadvantages that include ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities), homophobia, transphobia, age and class. Intersectionality is the antithesis of feminist theory and practices that otherwise ignore how race further marginalises women from underrepresented groups.

The next time a White woman talks about gender equality without at the very least acknowledging race, rethink what they’re really saying. How can all women overcome the gender pay gap if White women don’t “see” racism and other forms of oppression?

See further analysis and resources on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2017/01/13/gender-pay-gap-and-race/


[Images: 1) Stylised, waist-line image of the of a woman of colour holding a designer  handbag. 2) Stylised photo of a street intersection with the phrase: My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit! – Flavia Dzodan.]

Source: The Other Sociologist.

The Gender Pay Gap and Race

Actress Natalie Portman is the latest White woman celebrity to talk about the gender pay gap in ways that demonstrate tunnel vision on the intersections between racism and gender inequity. From Patricia Arquette’s highly misguided attempt to discuss the wage disparity during her 2015 Oscars speech, to Jennifer Lawrence’s essay calling for equal pay, White actresses have a very skewed view of the inequities faced by “women” in the entertainment industry and in everyday life.

What does the gender pay gap look like when viewed through the intersections of gender, race and other social categories? What do we learn about mainstream feminism’s vision for equal pay, when we become more conscious of Whiteness and White privilege?

Continue reading The Gender Pay Gap and Race