On Michael B. Jordan and Realizing the Man You’re Dating Might Be Problematic

by Jai Danielle

Most of us have been here before: you’re on a date with a new guy. He appears smart, handsome, financially and emotionally stable. Down-to-earth. Confident. Stylish. Sexy. You get a good vibe.

Then, just as you begin to play around with the idea of what you’ll name your future offspring (totally normal behavior, right?) it happens: he says something so problematic you just can’t ignore it.

When it happened to me, the guy I was seeing made a comment about how he had no problem with the legalization of same-sex marriage — as long as black homosexuals acknowledged that their lives mattered less than straight black ones. (Yes, this is an actual thing an adult person said. We didn’t work out.)

Cries from heart-broken women everywhere could be heard when beloved actor Michael B. Jordan’s October GQ interview revealed that the “B” in his name might actually stand for Buffoon, not Bae, after all.

In the interview, the Fruitvale Station star repeatedly refers to women as “females” and criticizes his black fans for their reactions to the Kylie Jenner dating rumors. He also mentions that he doesn’t see color. This, right after coming under fire for allegedly taking to Snapchat to proclaim #AllLivesMatter, a statement commonly used to trivialize how police brutality disproportionately affects black people.

(Jordan responded to the criticism in a public statement, insisting that with articles words can be “abbreviated” and “distorted”. You can read his full statement here.)

This brings up the important question: what do you do when Bae turns out to be problematic?

We would all love a #ProgressiveBae who understands intersectionality and who doesn’t perpetuate misogynoir (that is, anti-black sexism), but truth be told, finding a Non-Problematic Bae can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

Even so, setting dating non-negotiables is important if you want a fulfilling relationship. It’s perfectly okay if not being a misogynist incapable of seeing women as equals ranks high on your list.

I view speaking up when a bae (or friend) perpetuates sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or any other harmful behavior (when it’s safe to do so) as an important practice. How else will we effect change? We have to hold people accountable for their behavior — that includes friends, family, and men we’re considering (or are already) sleeping with.

I did this recently when a guy I’m dating shared a meme online that insinuated women wear weave as a form of “trickery”. When I reminded him that most women do what they want with their hair and bodies because it’s what they prefer — not for the male gaze and most certainly not to “trick” anyone — he didn’t get mad or defensive. He listened.

The way a person handles criticism can illuminate the line between “Bae” and “Bye’” real quick.

Bottom line, none of us are perfect. We all inadvertently do and say things that other people find troubling. But if we can’t have nuanced conversations with the people we’re dating about the things that bother us (or even worse, if we do and they don’t respect our feelings) —  we have a problem.

A person who isn’t willing to analyze their problematic behavior when respectfully confronted probably isn’t The One.

Michael B. Jordan’s public apology is an example of what can happen when we speak up about behavior we find offensive. Sure, it’s probably just damage control (his way of saving his ass once he realized Black Dollars Matter), but still proof that speaking flippantly about important issues and feeding into the patriarchy have real consequences — bae or not.

Photo: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Jai Danielle is an independent writer based in Tennessee. Her work focuses on the intersection of gender, race, sexuality, and pop culture. Follow her musings @jaidanielle.

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