Knowing what I know about the typical Black blog/news site/magazine reader, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that if you're reading this, you're probably a Black woman. It's also somewhat likely that you reside in NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, or somewhere in the DMV, and I wouldn't be completely off-base to also assume that you're somewhere between 24 and 35 years old.
If you do fit these characteristics, it's also somewhat likely that, sometime in the past three years, you either attended or thought about attending a relationship-related roundtable/panel/mixer/show — "Meet-markets" for bougie, er, upworldly mobile Black people, basically. And, if you happened to be at any one of these events, one thought probably went through your mind as you entered the venue:
"Wait. Why are there like 300 women here and only 14 guys? Where are all the men?"
As a person who has been both a panelist and a moderator at many of these types of events, I can tell you that hypothetical woman's rhetorical question is not hyperbole. Whether I was sitting on a panel in New York City or D.C. or moderating a discussion in Pittsburgh, every time I've been on stage and looked at the audience, I've noticed a mass of women's faces with a couple guys sprinkled in here and there, specks of pepper in a bowl of salt. (At one show, the numbers seemed so skewed that I actually started counting people in the rows in front of me to see if the actual number reflected what I was seeing. By the time I reached 100, I had counted 86 women and 14 men.)
There are a few obvious reasons for this number's discrepancy. Most relationship-related materials — whether books, shows, panels, or events — are geared towards women. For reasons I won't expound on today, (generally speaking) women just seem to be more likely to spend money to discuss relationships and/or learn about the opposite sex than men are, and this willingness creates a demand for those relationship-related products to exist.
Also, most of these events take place in highly-populated urban areas — cities where the number of Black women with disposable income usually outnumber the number of Black men with extra cash. More women attend because, well, more women are able to attend.
Still, despite each of those factors, there remains another, more crucial reason why you rarely see a ton of men at these types of events. Men stay away because, well, these are awful places for them to actually meet women.
I realize how counterintuitive that last statement sounds. "There are always nothing but women there," I can imaging you thinking "How the hell would those be bad places for men to meet women?" That question, while admittedly stating an obvious truth, ignores a couple important dynamics.
1. Although these events are designed to get a group of like-minded men and women in the same room, many of the women who attend are there to see and possibly meet the panelists.
I was a panelist in one of Paul Brunson's Matchmaker shows in New York City a couple years ago. Jozen Cummings and Anslem Samuel were the other male panelists, and Slim Jackson from Single Black Male was also involved. Each of these men had already established pretty large followings through their blogs, and many of the women in attendance weren't necessarily there to meet "men" but to ultimately catch a first glimpse of one of these blog superstars. Also, although Paul, Jozen, Anslem, and Slim are definitely good guys, they're men just like any other men. But, because of the way these events are structured, the panelists and moderators are presented as these ultra-evolved, articulate, insightful, and engaging alpha men with the microphones and a spotlight, and a man attempting to meet a woman there would have to deal with the near-impossible task of competing with and having to match up to "Paul Brunson, Modern Day Matchmaker." Basically, these events are great for the participants to meet women, but not necessarily for the men who buy tickets.
2. These events can be very, very uncomfortable for certain types of men.
Now, I've never been a person who believed it when (some) women say that men are intimidated by them. ("Men are intimidated by me" usually means "the type of men I'm interested in, for whatever reason, don't approach me") But, there are certain situations that can be intimidating and/or uncomfortable for a man looking to make a good impression on a woman, and these meet-markets can be pretty overwhelming for a man who's more of an introvert. Introverts tend to feel more comfortable when they're able to blend in with the crowd. But, at these types of events — where the numbers are so skewed — they're aware that, by virtue of being one of the only men there, they won't be able to be "invisible," so they stay away. As an introvert myself, I can tell you that attending an event like this as a paying customer and trying to figure out which of the 200 women to approach would be absolutely nerve-wrecking.
This creates a bit of a catch-22 where introverted men stay away because of the dynamics of the typical meet-market, but, if more men actually came, they'd feel more comfortable.
I know some event organizers are doing some reverse marketing — i.e.: instead of having a "first 20 women get in free" promotion like many clubs do, they're offering those types of deals to men — to make the numbers more even. But, since there really isn't much you can to do change the overall dynamic, this seems like a band-aid on a broken leg.
Perhaps, like the club scene, relationship panels and other meet-markets serve a useful purpose, but just aren't the best place to actually meet people you might be interested in. And, as long as there are myriad ways to meet people organically — grocery stores, professional organizations, Megabus lines, Ebony.com comments' sections, etc — why attempt to fix a "problem" that isn't really worth fixing?
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