Thursday, January 21, 2010

So A Black Woman Goes on an Internet Dating Site and Makes 2 Profiles--One Black and One White, Guess Which One is More Popular?

I am a wanderer of these Internets. One of my daily stops on my sojourn through cyberspace is a site called Erosblog. I do not as a rule repost information from other sites. But, for this I will make an exception. Today, Erosblog had a great story about a black woman who decided to do a little experiment: Kia posted an ad on Craigslist where she created a real profile (her true self) and a fake one (using a photo of her friend "Erin" who is white). Guess who was more popular, received "higher" quality responses, and attracted a better range of suitors?

I was going to do a similar experiment (and may still, although now temporarily absent Gordon said it would be cruel) but I give credit where credit is due. Kia's project is great. Here are some choice excerpts from her lab report where she discusses the types of responses "Erin" versus "Kia" has received.


So what kind of messages will a cute white girl from the DC metro area receive?

Really nice ones, actually. I am both validated and saddened. The majority of the messages compliment Fake Me’s humor and wit and express the sentiment that Fake Me seems like a cool person to hang out with. Which is true, I’m fucking rad. It’s validating to know that there are guys out there who “get” me.

But would they be as complimentary on my sense of humor and my killer favorite movies list if they were reading my real profile? Would they even bother to read my real profile? Probably not.

The most depressing part is that I rarely get messages like this. I can remember one. Let’s compare.

A sampling of messages to Erin:

“ok so you’re my new favorite person. first, that little intro paragraph was hilarious. i don’t even know why. but i laughed. Then you bash hiking which is ….ugh. I hate the people on here. it’s an instant rejection for liking hiking.” (VALIDATING MY HATRED OF THE OUTDOORS!)

“I enjoyed your wittiness and it’s not often that I meet people on here from Chevy Chase.”

“Anyone who speaks Elvish or, as you said, one of the many in the family of languages does not have a sad life. In fact, you’re the second person I’ve come across who took the time to learn it. Which makes you, in my book, pretty awesome. I actually enjoyed reading your whole profile, but the Elvish was the first thing I noticed.” (VALIDATING MY NERDLY INTERESTS!)

“I can’t spend much time on this message, because I’m typing it in the middle of my work out. My workout is bench-pressing a car.” (His entire message is like this. Very funny)

A sampling of messages to me:

“You know, the first thing I noticed about you was that your sense of humor is well developed and full of awesome. You made me laugh, and not just the lol silent internet laugh, but a true laugh out loud.” (This is the message I referred to. The only one. This guy talked to me on IM twice and I’ve never heard from him since.)

“Hi, so you thinking bout making out alot” (This is the entirety of the message)

“Hi Hello, how are you doing? I guess your doing fine’s. Actually l came across your profile and I was highly impressed. If you don’t mind, l would love to know you Bettie am here looking for my soul mate, someone loving caring loyal trustworthy and honest, am looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with. By the way am kelvin and u can contact me at…..” (This is the average language skills level of people who message me. I’m not exaggerating one bit.)

“Hello there, I saw your ad on CL and it caught my eye and my imagination…” (This guy goes on and on, not a bad message, but clearly copy and pasted from the mass responses he sends out to chicks on Craigslist. Great.)


Here is some gross data on Erin versus Kia's popularity as of the first day of their ad being online:

Erin: 99 profile views, 10 messages, added to 3 favorites lists, 9 IMs, 1 Wink (a passive-aggressive way to contact people)

Me: 13 profile views, 1 IM, 1 Wink

So what do you all make of this experiment? How is race a variable in the online dating game? Could this be an artifact of fewer people of color using the internet for dating purposes (question: is this even true? does anyone have data on this? It seems that OkayCupid has released some really rich data on race and dating online. Of note: check out the following two charts. As we can see black women are the most likely to write back to men of all races, and the least likely to get a response. We also see that white men get the most responses, and that white women prefer white men to the exclusion of almost all other groups. Asian and Hispanic women prefer them almost exclusively. What is up with the response rates intra-racially for black men and black women? Surprising? So much for the myth of black male primacy and the compelling allure of race mixing...

Chart One:

Chart Two:

I would bet there are a whole lot of folks trying to holla at each other on Facebook and Myspace (Would any of you date someone you met that way?) Alternatively, could people be using the Internet for approaching folk they would not pursue in person? Thus, interracial dating is more popular online? Stating the obvious: is Kia less attractive than "Erin?" Could the results be a measure of general attractiveness?


Marianne said...

Both women are pretty, and I'm sure racism is a factor in the discrepancy between their replies. The question is how much. Kia would have gone safer by choosing a White woman of a similar size, style and facial features, and narrow the differences as much as possible, leaving only race in the middle. Many guys are interested interracial dating, but they will not date a fat girl even with a gun to their head (boy, do I know! - not that I ever put a gun to a man's head :)), no matter how sweet and smart she is.

chaunceydevega said...

Thanks for chiming in. Sometimes we think a blog post will catch fire and it lands with a dead thud! You were the first brave one to speak up--thanks.

How do we separate weight and race? There is this commonsense notion that black and latino men like "bigger" or "thick" women. I do wonder if this is true. Then again, I wonder with how white women are also becoming bigger--thus the Kardasian effect--that white men will now like women they used to call "fat?"

Marianne said...

I guess men will still date within their pool of options, but they don't have to like it :)).
I think a similar experiment with more balanced parameters would be very interesting, if you want to measure the actual racism. I know how big fat hatred can be, and it makes things very blurry. I'm also curious if the particular male demographic that the profile appealed to (educated-nerdy types) is more likely to favor slim women, or White women, or both.
It would be interesting to see such an experiment with male profiles too.

M. Gibson said...

I wondered about the weight difference as a mitigating factor as well. It seems to me the skinny white woman would draw more white males than the thicker black woman would. White America’s standard leans toward the skinny Euro-female type. I'm married so I must be judicious with my compliments. But as a black man I was drawn to the sista “Because” she was the thicker- of the two. I looked at the black woman's face first- and hardly noticed the skinny white woman's. I see her type all over the news- magazines and the sitcoms/dramas. So I would also suggest you compare plump to plump; thin to slim- then consider the racial implications.

Annette C said...

Agree w/Marianne. This would be more valid if she chose someone w/her body type, features, etc. I am sure though that the results would be similar.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with AnnKura that all body sizes being equal between the 2, there still would have been an uncannily overwhelming response to the white woman over the black woman. History tells us this, and present day society tells us this. And with certain "black" features being increasingly cherry picked by white women to add to their desirability (spray tans, lip enhancements, large posteriors, etc, or as the post below tells us, weaves...) there's even more reason why men of all hues who may have a "thing" for these features won't have to take on the onus of dating a black woman when they can just merely find a game white woman who takes these on and can be flaunted out in the open. The trend of "souped up" white women may even start to confound the ongoing trend of mulatto attractiveness (or in some circles "gateway" minority women like Latinas and Asians) as being the best of all worlds... I wonder if folks here may think I'm overthinking this issue and taking it in a wrong direction? (and lest I be accused of being one of the single angry black women who seem to be getting way too much traction in the mainstream media these days for not being able to find a man, Im actually a happily married black woman, but one who's had her eyes wide open for much of her adult life about these things.)

chaunceydevega said...


I think you make some great points. It is almost like a "trick my car" phenomena. There is a long history of whiteness being precisely the ability to perform/adopt/"borrow" those traits most desirable from the bodies of women of color-with none of the burden. I learned something new a few weeks ago: during America's fascination with Japan during the late 1800s and early 1900s we saw the popularity of the white geisha in America. At present, and you are spot on with latinas and asians as the new gateway groups on the cusp of whiteness, how their most desirable attributes can now be appropriated through popular culture.

Irony as always, black folk are permanent outsiders as a group--exceptional individuals like Obama aside--but our culture, attributes, and physicality can be borrowed/assimilated by whiteness without any burden.


Big Man said...

As many other posters said, it would have been much easier to call this racism if she and the chick were both slim. Being big is a disadvantage in the dating world, particularly on sites like craigslist. Yet, my gut, my rather ample gut, tells me that the results would have been the same regardless of the pictures.

Ernessa T. Carter said...

I've always thought of it as a benefit that back when I was dating, I attracted less men than some of my white friends and also less men than some of my more traditionally attractive friends. Less editing. Basically dating is a weeding out process and it's nice when there are less weeds in your garden. Makes it easier to get to good stuff. You got one quality response based on who you REALLY are. That's great! I say post another ad and see if you get another quality response. It only takes one. There's always going to be something that makes you less attractive to some guys. And that's awesome, b/c you don't want those guys. You want the guy that wants you for you.

I've never gotten this obsession with quantity. Who cares how many responses thin white women are getting? What's the point of getting mad? Be yourself and manifest that and search for YOUR quality man. That's all that matters.

Open Comments said...

Internet dating is a perfect way micro-select potential life mates, if you are looking person of another race that's unlikely to happen unless there is a physical/mental/psychological/financial problem with person of other race. In your example, a AA (african-american) female wants to be a EA (european-american) male that scenario is only workout if that male is mentally retarded. In most case 99.9% each self-respecting, those that take pride in being of whatever race they belong will never think about engaging outside of their own race, this is called racial self-pride. My experience has constantly shown that Africans are only race with lowest self-esteem about their own race. You have to find happiness in your own race, you don't belong to other racial groups. If you the guy is totally obsessed over you and love is mutual then it's different. If you look at any you tube video, blacks are willing to mix with any race on a dime which is not true with all other non-black races, but it's true that most will want to mix with european/caucasoid race mostly because of skin color not based on intelligence and/or talent, which includes asians (korean/chinese etc). As for many white women with black men interracial couples, the motive is purely fame/wealth/status and thereby increasing self-worth.