Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Perspective: Navigating college dating scenes, women of color must remember their worth

In my first year at GW, I was excited about submerging myself into a new pool of people and had heard a lot about how “everyone” enters the college dating and hookup scenes. But the University turned out to be another place where racial biases made romance inaccessible to me and other people of color. 

I have often felt that I have to compromise certain aspects of myself to be more “palatable” to my peers. For example, code switching, or alternating between my actions, dressing to “fit in” and generally shrinking myself and my opinions to not stand out around people.

My first month at GW was full of teary phone calls with my parents, which included a constant stream of complaints like, “People here are so condescending” and attempts to explain why I felt the need to dress “nicer” and do my hair and makeup every day.

People’s attitudes and rationale for their disrespectful treatment of women of color, specifically Black women, have a historical foundation in racist laws and ideologies. Racism has a sinister habit of reimagining itself, following me my entire life, even in college — a place that’s supposed to be more progressive.

Social media has also created a culture where casual racism is the unquestioned status quo. Micro and macroaggressions fly with ease. People unapologetically write online that they would “never date Black women,” use filters on TikTok to “rank nationalities” and demean women of color for their non-Eurocentric features in comment sections.

This translates into real life. I, along with other women of color, have raised my guard to shield myself from the pain that comes with hearing these attitudes. I have often felt as though I exist on the fringes of casual intimacy and the larger dating culture. 

When men approach me, men often open by asking me about my racial background or by throwing out a compliment that blurs the lines between flattery and fetishization. Sometimes, they will go straight in with an incorrect guess: “You must be Middle Eastern” or “I know you’re Indian.”

Because of this, I’ve engaged in a phenomenon of “silent resignation.” I can’t pinpoint when this started, but I know I was much too young to be acutely aware of my undesirability in the eyes of certain people.

I don’t use dating apps. When I engage in nightlife, I typically expect no one will approach me romantically. I generally do not feel confident enough to approach people I’m attracted to — it’s not worth the potential rejection and subsequent humiliation based solely on my race, which is exacerbated by attending a predominantly white institution. I am steadfast in my self-worth, but I won’t put myself in a degrading situation.

I am not alone in this experience. I have seen many posts on social media along the lines of, “You’re not ugly, you just attended a PWI.” But I recognize the problematic nature of holding myself back in the name of protecting my self-esteem. When asked about my dating life, I often respond with, “It’s never been my prerogative to seek things out.”

I want to get to a place of comfortable neutrality where I am unafraid to make the first move. I want to have a college experience that does not include the construction of shields because of who I am. But I also hold space for the protection of my dignity as a woman of color since it seems no one is exempt from racial bias. My race is an intrinsic part of my being, and as such, it plays an undeniable role in how I operate in relationships and the dating world.

As a young woman of color, it is paramount to remember that the way others treat you does not define your worth or desirability. I’m still working toward the practice of unconditional self love so that when I feel compelled, I can put myself out there without fear.

Nyla Moxley, a first-year majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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