Over the past several years, the phenomenon of Brown men preferring to date white women has been on the rise. As someone who has dated white women and is currently in a long-term relationship with one, I wanted to see how my experiences related to this idea.
Writer and filmmaker Imran Siddiquee originally pointed this out in his article, “Why Are Brown Men So Infatuated With White Women Onscreen?” To be clear, however, this phenomenon exists in real life too, as film and television are sometimes representations of real life and I’ve also recognized it living here in Canada.
Siddiquee discussed how Brown women are presented in the U.S. film and television industries as footnotes in the lives of Brown men who will eventually end up with white women.
Nadya Agrawal wrote an article based off Siddiquee’s, providing the perspective of a Brown woman. She wrote of several reasons explaining this phenomenon and the politics behind it, most of which I agree with.
Agrawal cited her personal experiences, as well as examples of onscreen relationships between Brown men and white women, in which she says Brown women are “reduced to a punchline.” She specifically mentioned Master of None (Aziz Ansari), Homecoming King (Hasan Minhaj), and The Big Sick (Kumail Nanjiani) as examples.
One of the most notable reasons she listed was that Brown men often use white women to escape the expectations their parents have for them.
Agrawal finished with the point that by Brown men trying to break free from the stereotype of only dating people from the same background as them, “they are, in fact, reaffirming a new one—that all Brown men hate Brown women and aspire to whiteness.”
Although my life experiences partly resonate with the idea of escaping expectations, I object to the use of the term “use” here, I don’t hate Brown women, and I don’t aspire to whiteness.
I wrote about my experiences recently, but to recap, I’m a Punjabi Indo-Canadian cis-man and I’m in a long-term relationship with a white woman.
Do I want my life to follow completely as my parents imagined it to be? No. Does dating a white woman mean I can escape these expectations? Yes.
Does that mean I use white women as a way to fulfil that goal? No, because the answer is more nuanced than that.
Dating a white woman, or simply a non-Punjabi woman, makes me happier because doing so allows me to escape the restrictive expectations of my parents and my culture. I’m not against dating Brown women, I just don’t choose my partners based on my parent’s ideals or expectations.
Dating a white woman doesn’t necessarily mean I aspire to whiteness, but living in Canada and working in predominantly white spaces means I am exposed to whiteness and therefore more likely to date white person than a person who is in the opposite of my circumstances.
But also, these expectations I keep mentioning would not just impact me.
Despite the times and my family evolving over time, if I were to date a Brown woman, my family would still expect her to take care of a home and children in a way that they wouldn’t expect from a white woman. To them, a Brown woman is more mouldable to become what they want from a daughter-in-law compared to a white woman, because they are aware of the ‘cultural expectations’ from a young age.
Even though I would try to prevent my family from having these patriarchal expectations of my hypothetical Brown partner, there’s only so much I can do in changing their beliefs. More importantly, I wouldn’t want my partner to have to deal with this type of pressure to begin with. It’s unfair.
Not to mention, there would be a heavier pressure for us to marry and the marriage to work out than if I were to date and eventually marry a white woman. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be pressure from my family to marry if I was dating a white woman (believe me, there is); the pressure just wouldn’t be the same as if I were dating a Brown woman.
However, these patriarchal expectations are also a reason why Brown women may prefer to date white or non-Brown men, as Agrawal discussed. Still, it’s important to note that even if they do date white or non-Brown men, Brown women can’t escape these expectations to the same extent Brown men can.
Our patriarchal culture (and world) expects more of women than it does men, regardless of the actions women take to escape this burden. Unfortunately, all of this means that Brown women (Punjabi women in my case) get caught in the crossfire of Brown men trying to defy cultural expectations (and vice versa).
I say unfortunately because I know it’s not fair on them and I wish I didn’t feel that dating a Brown woman means feeling bound by cultural expectations.
I can’t speak for every Brown man, but I believe that me being happier with a non-Brown woman speaks more to issues within the culture and how I was raised than an indictment on myself.
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