One thing about American culture that truly amazes me is the glorification of the “thug” or “bad boy” in music videos and entertainment in general. The “thug” is presented as the ideal mate, the man who is desired by extremely attractive women across the board. Although he views women as sex objects, curses them out and physically assaults them, he is still found to be appealing by them.
When I began attending Temple in 1997, I was 19-years-old and, for the most part, unable to watch music videos with a critical eye. Seven years later, I have had enough experiences with dating and relationships to persuade me that many of these videos do in fact reflect the sad reality of the American dating game in many respects.
Both my culture and family stress the importance of being polite and respectful, especially to those in authority, such as teachers and supervisors. My parents have been married for more than 33 years and my father treats my mother with the love and respect she deserves. I take my education seriously and don’t ruffle any feathers. I hold doors for people and always say “thank you.”
That makes me a “nice guy” by American dating standards. I am reserved and don’t seek attention. It is normal to expect that men and women with my personality traits would be appreciated in the dating game, but this is far from the truth for the most part.
From the perspective of many women here, men like me are viewed as doormats – too nice and not boyfriend material. We are the ones who usually end up being womens’ best friends; the first ones they come to when in trouble or when needing a shoulder to lean on.
Most of the time, they talk about the problems they have with their “thug” boyfriends. A few days later, most of these women end up reuniting with these men.
In my home country of Cameroon in central Africa, nice guys and nice girls finish first in the dating game. Both men and women appreciate mates who treat them with respect and with a sense of moral values. Cameroonian men are allowed to show emotion in public and yes, can cry if they need to. It doesn’t make them less masculine; neither is being nice perceived as a weakness.
But in the United States, there are a number of negative stereotypes American women seem to have of African men. Many seem to believe an overwhelming majority of African men are chauvinists who tend to have more than one wife and couldn’t even treat a woman right in the first place. These impressions are shaped by the media, which presents the entire African continent as a dark place inhabited by primitives, living in remote areas with wild animals.
It ends up being a no-win situation. I tend to experience the African male stereotype more with some African-American female students, while dealing with stereotypes of “savages” and “dangerous black males” when dating outside my race. That may be why, interestingly enough, many male and female students from my continent have adopted the “thug” aspect of American culture, and use the same narrow and superficial standards as many Americans in choosing mates.
When dating in America, the pursued have so much power over their pursuers. But the pursuers, for the most part, should be open to the possibility of being humiliated and bruised emotionally for expressing their feelings.
But there are still great men and women on college campuses and in the American dating scene in general, who accept people as they are, and treat others the way they would want to be treated. As for me, I maintain the hope I will someday find Miss Right. Some people say that you sometimes find true love when you’re not looking for it. I may take that into consideration.
Jackai M. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.