Appreciation or Fetishization?

Written by: Anonymous

In my first year here at Queen’s I met a guy named Tyler. When Tyler and I first met we were exclusively class friends; you know, those friends you only talk to in lecture and don’t really go out of your way to hang out with outside of school. 

Second year came around, and Tyler and I had another class together. We got pretty close that year. Soon, my housemates got to know him through the many stories I would tell about him. 

For context, Tyler would never really classify himself as ‘one of the boys.’ He has always been the type of guy who can make friends with just about everyone and seemingly respects everybody. He prided himself on the fact that he wasn’t a stereotypical Queen’s boy who objectifies women and fucks for sport. 

Tyler had always held himself in the highest regard. As a white-passing biracial male, he was aware of the privilege he had and always claimed to be an ally; however, I soon learned that his actions did not always match his words. 

The first red flag I saw with Tyler was the way he used dating apps. Being in university, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are quite common. The issue with Tyler and Tinder wasn’t the fact that he was on it, it was the way that he used it. Tyler would swipe right on every single girl and wait for them to message him first. When asked why he did this, he said, “Because then I don’t have to put in any effort. Not like any of them are going to be anything more than a quick fuck.” 

I guess Tyler figured it was okay to say this to me since we were friends. In hindsight, I should have reamed him out for saying it, but all I replied was, “That’s not cool, dude.” 

This incident should have been a warning sign for me, considering it was not only disrespectful but misogynistic. But, for some reason I stuck around even though he proved early on that he was exactly what he referred to: a stereotypical Queen’s boy. 

After this incident, nothing out of the ordinary occurred until I introduced Tyler to my housemates. The first thing he did after meeting them was rank them in order from hottest to least hot, all the while rationalizing this hierarchy. I remember telling him to stop because these were my best friends. He just laughed it off and said I was overreacting. 

In this ‘hotness hierarchy,’ Tyler put me at the top. At this point, I had already made it clear that I saw him as nothing more than a friend. In retrospect, there were so many times where he was flirting with me even though he knew I didn’t feel the same way. I would always turn down his advances and made my feelings clear by calling him “bro,” or “homie.”

Not only did he say that I, a woman of colour, was at the top, he also ‘awarded’ the second hottest of my housemates to the one other woman of colour. It was obvious that that colour of our skin was a contributing factor to our ranking on his list. This was when I first noticed his infatuation with women of colour. 

This racial fetishization was further evidenced through an incident when I was helping out with a club on campus. I was helping this club raise funds so I was sitting at a donation table in the ARC. Tyler stopped by and gave us a $20 bill. When he handed us the money, all he said was, “you know how much I love women of colour.” 

Shortly after the ranking fiasco, he came to the club with me and my housemates. That night, Tyler and my housemate (who is not a woman of colour) started hooking up. After they initially hooked up, Tyler kept talking about how she was one of the only white women that he was attracted to and how he is usually only interested in women of colour. Somehow, he would always find a way to work his “allyship” and adoration of women of colour into the conversation. 

See, here’s the thing. There is a fine line between appreciation and fetishization, and Tyler loved to walk that line. I’m someone who tries to see the good in people, so I gave Tyler the benefit of the doubt for way too long.

The incident that finally ended our relationship occurred one evening when Tyler and I went out with a friend and some other acquaintances. At one point, the conversation turned to dating, and Tyler looked me in the eyes and said, “You just want a man to colonize you.” 

My jaw dropped. I was livid. I turned to him and demanded to know what the fuck he was talking about.  He defended himself, explaining that he was right because I apparently only like white men, before  continuing to attack me for the next five minutes. 

I was so confused. Confused and hurt because: 

  1. This was coming from someone I considered a friend. 
  2. What does that even mean?
  3. When had I ever said, or demonstrated, that I exclusively like white men? 

Not only did Tyler have the audacity to say these horrible and completely untrue things to me, he said them in public in front of people I barely knew. These white women not only let Tyler say these disgusting comments but remained silent when he kept verbally abusing me. They acted as bystanders, pretending that it wasn’t their problem.

If that had happened to one of my friends in front of me, I would have immediately jumped in to defend them and end the conversation. Honestly, I probably would have stepped in even if they weren’t my friend. No one should have to endure that. 

Afterwards, I went home and cried with my housemate. 

Why would he say that? What does that even mean? Is that what he really thinks of me? What did I do wrong? 

Although my housemate is emotionally stunted, she was surprisingly successful at comforting me. We discussed everything that happened, and I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted Tyler’s friendship. I didn’t owe him anything. So it was over. 

But really, it wasn’t. What Tyler said to me that night still runs on a loop in the back of my mind.

You just want a man to colonize you.

When I find a guy cute at the grocery store- you just want a man to colonize you. 

While I’m swiping on Bumble-  you just want a man to colonize you. 

When I’m on a date-  you just want a man to colonize you.

What Tyler said will always stick with me, but I’ve since realized that what he said reflected no fault of mine. Everything Tyler had said about me and other women of colour  since I met him speaks volumes about his characternot mine. 

Yes, I was complacent for a while. I let him get away with too much. But no more. I will never let another man speak to me, or to any other woman of colour, like that again. 

Tyler is a prime example of someone who fetishizes women of colour. He would choose a woman of colour over a white woman in a heartbeat without even considering their personalities. The worst part is, I guarantee you that to this day, he would claim this fetishization as allyship. 

Fetishization contributes to both misogyny and racism- two things that will never be okay. Tyler’s behaviour will never be okay. 

And to all the Tyler’s out there- if I ever see you fetishizng women of colour, it’s on sight. 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿 

** Names in this article have been changed (Tyler)** 

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