“Dumb Ass Hoes.” I found it hard to believe these were the words used to describe women who were invited to participate in a networking event in my city; women who had been under the assumption that they were invited because they were recognized as a mover and shakers not as booty calls. I supported the event’s hosts (who happened to be all males) because I was excited. I was excited to participate and support what I thought to be an up-and-coming network of young professionals who looked like me. I was excited because after hours upon hours of exercising my double consciousness (c. Du Bois), I could have a conversation over drinks and be myself. I was excited because I knew a small number of us had existed and I wanted to take part in something that could be greater than me, something that could really impact the way employers saw Young Black Professionals (“YBPs”) – but “Dumb Ass Hoes.”
I wondered how we could be seen as anything more if were not thought of as such? At the dinner table growing up, my family would laugh and cry at stories of those with much lighter skin than mine, and I knew that I would always be different, that I would never be viewed or spoken of the same way as my white peers. I had not imagined that someone made in the same image as my Father, men who would someday raise the very women who could very well benefit from a networking event, could only see us, their equals, as “Dumb Ass Hoes.”
I had learned of this “title” after one of the hosts shared a situation, via social media, in which he once courted a woman after an event, only to find out months later (and cut ties) that one of his friend had swooped in where he left off. I sensed a bit of bitterness. Upon recognizing that he was no long a thought or an option, instead of moving on, he added in distress that he “didn’t care” and he would continue to “(explicit) these dumb ass hoes.” His friends chimed in agreement. I immediately thought of a quote from Melissa Harris Perry, “Loss of social standing is an ever-present threat for individuals whose social acceptance is based on behavioral traits rather than unconditional human value.” He did not value this women and his lack of haste to name call, proved he had little respect for other women he would meet/had met, as well.
I had no idea why he cared (or “didn’t care”), but above anything, I was not sure why it mattered whom this young women decided to talk too, when his friend had clearly given the okay. Why was it okay for a group of men to court whoever, and whenever they wanted, yet frowned upon when women wanted to do the same? Who decided who women could and could not talk to? Whether they decided to network for professional gain, personal gain or both, who’s to say they’re right or wrong for whichever box they decide to place their contacts in? Above all, why, as an example and leader in the YBP community did he believe that it was okay to behave promiscuously only to shame someone it didn’t work out with in the end?
There were no consequences for men that behave in this manner. He knew this, his friends knew this. It was easier to place the blame on women because so many had done it before. Women are often told to be modest, quite, and prude. It wasn’t until the women I knew began speaking up after the young man’s declaration that I realized these networking events were no longer for all of us, but for them. It was a way to use the aspirations of women to lure them in as bait. It disgusts me, I then declared. His argument: “Women know what they’re getting themselves into, it’s their fault –they should know men are going to be ‘checking’ for them.” No respect. It had been the same argument I seen used to justify arguments on why wearing a skirt to work could hurt a woman’s careers or even lead to them being date raped. They had gotten away from the purpose of unifying, shaping, strengthening the YBP community, when the purpose had no longer applied to the entire community, but half of it – I would even go as far to say more than half . Let me drop some knowledge: You can NOT unify, shape, or strengthen anything, when only half of its foundation is supported.
I had hoped that the argument would inspire change but I know change must first start mentally before it can manifest itself physically. We have the intellect and power to shape how other’s view us as YBPs, but we have to love one another first. We must be willing to challenge the idea that it’s okay to see women as commodities and not as prominent and influential members of our community. We must frown upon those who say they are for the people, but tear them down behind closed doors. Finally, we must be willing to work through our differences to learn from one another as a means of teaching ourselves and the next generations of YBPs. This is good leadership. This is how we grow. This is a call to action to do better.