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The Stank Eye Woman Syndrome and how Black Male Privilege is to Blame: Are Black Men Really Ignorant of how they “Compartmentalize” their “Female Friends”?

So, in the traditional way in which black people begin their stories, “What had happened was . . .”

I attended this event where one of my best male friends was hosting. Upon arriving my best male friend comes and says, pejoratively and with great amusement, “Your friend is over there,” hinting to a black woman who every time I see her she gives me what I can the “stank eye.” And, if you are a heterosexual black woman you are quite familiar with either giving the “stank eye” or receiving the “stank eye.” Long story short, my best friend decides to play what I call, “The Great Black Male Conciliator.” He decides to prompt the “stank eye” woman to reconcile with me. I should state at this point in the story, I am somewhat hazy on why every time I see this woman she gives me the “stank eye.” Anyways, she comes over and tries to be nice to me and, of course, it comes across as completely disingenuous.

So, after leaving the event, it came to me why this woman continues to give me the “stank eye.” And, it has everything to do with my best friend. The “stank eye” woman romantically likes my best friend and perceives me as competition. Because she only gives me the “stank eye” when I am with him. So, I call him up and tell him this. And, of course, he denies it and says in the way black men say, “We are just friends. We worked together to get Barack Obama elected. We spent a lot of time together doing that, but we are just friends. I know for a fact she does not like me in that way.” And, all I could say was, “Bullshit, you are completely impervious [let me use a smaller word, ignorant] of the privilege patriarchy gives you as a heterosexual man.”

Which brings us to the current discussion, “Are black men ignorant to how they engage their many female friends?”

And, my general answer is yes. They are ignorant because patriarchy allows them to be blind to how they engage women. Like all ruling classes (i.e. bourgeoisie, heterosexuals, men, white people, etc.), they are able to set the rules of engagement and the boundaries for how women engage their lives. My best friend said that he compartmentalizes the women in his life and that he learned this from an older black man. And of course, he says he does this so that there is no drama and so that no one gets hurt. And, yet again, I say, “Bullshit. I have been mentored by wise old black women who have taught me to discern when I am hearing bullshit.”  Specifically, this idea of compartmentalization is problematic on many levels. Mind you, I think healthy boundaries are important, however, when they are set against the backdrop of black male privilege (i.e. Surplus of unmarried black women and short supply of marriageable black men) they can become quite toxic, oppressive, and just downright wrong.

Furthermore, this idea of compartmentalization allows men to be emotionally detached and absolves them of emotional and social responsibility for how they engage the many women in their lives. They get to say with immunity, “I told her we were just friends . . . I told her from the start we are only friends . . . I-told-her-we-were-friends.” Bullshit.

Going back to the story, my best friend gets to look like The Great Black Hope because he is helping to squash what he thinks is a “silly” situation between two women when he is the reason for the drama. I tell you, my best friend is ignorant of what the relationship is between him and “the stank eye” woman. But, I see it for what it is and call it out because I know firsthand what it means to give “the stank eye.” When you live in a society that privileges men over women in politics, in home affairs, in classrooms, and in jobs you socialize women to see themselves as inferior to men and you create a narrative that women are nothing without a man in their lives. Hence, the onset of the stank eye woman syndrome.

In particular, patriarchy and racialized scripts of endangered black men breeds this behavior. Black women become competitive with each other to secure a good black man. They give the stank eye. They wear the shortest and most revealing dress to professional networking events. They call each other bitches and “them females.” They have sex without regards to their own bodies/Spirits. They fight each other beginning in grade school. Yes, this is the stank eye woman syndrome created by a patriarchal culture that privileges men.

So, the black man (i.e. best friend) gets to look blameless in this whole scenario when it is his ignorance (i.e. compartmentalization), or perhaps, I should say his “male privilege” that is the problem. And, of course, not only does my best friend get to pat himself on the back for being the Great Black Noble Diffuser of Conflict, he also gets to enjoy the “feeling” (i.e. invisible male privilege) men get when they perceive a woman and in this case two women are vying for them. It is a type of invisible ecstatic affirmation or reconstitution of their black heterosexual hegemonic manhood. And, though my best friend would deny it, there is a part within him that enjoyed the drama between me and the stank eye woman, perhaps, an unconscious part, but a part nonetheless.

Once again, privilege makes you ignorant. It makes you ignorant of how you treat and engage people. It makes you ignorant of the many visible and invisible privileges you get simply because you are the dominant group. Though my analysis may be reductionist in some ways, it does tell the story of how male privilege makes you ignorant to the oppression or life stories of women. Hence, the black man becomes “The Great Black Peacemaker” of the womenfolk and the black woman becomes “The Stank Eye Woman” who will hurt her sister to get a man.  And, I say to all of this, as my grandmother, Clara May, would say, “bullshit.”


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