Alison Reiheld, SIUE Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of SIUE Women’s Studies Program, brings us PART 4 in our series on gender, sexualization, and the media.
Every once in awhile, Wikipedia has a surprisingly well fleshed-out entry. One of these is the description of racial fetishism. This:
…involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped, and at times their cultural practices. This can include having strong racial preferences in dating…
Do you know someone who tends to only date people of their own race? What about someone who tends to date people of another particular race? What is the line between preference and fetish, between finding certain particular kinds of people beautiful and treating them particularly, out of all other groups, as sex objects?
The African-American online magazine, The Root, has an article called “5 signs you’re about to be racially fetishized.” It begins “So… What’s your type? Admit it. You probably have one. Most of us do.” The author goes on to describe her experiences with on-line dating and the dating app Tinder:
As a member of what is purportedly the least-pursued demographic online (smart, sexy and successful, yet single, black women), I was understandably leery about what—and whom—I’d encounter on an app best known for “hookups.” But in the interest of adventure, I braced myself for potential encounters with predators, grade-A creepers and flat-out racists.
I wasn’t prepared for the fetishists… my experiences dating “across the aisle” were no preparation for the highly racialized world of online dating.
Such fetishization of African-American women relies on stereotypes about black women’s sexuality such as those described by sociologist Patricia Hill Collins in her book Black Feminist Thought.