Black Love is Not a Fairytale: African American Women, Romance, and Rhetoric

Author's School

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Additional Affiliations

Associate Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Associate Director, Center for Humanities; Faculty with the Feminist Critical Analysis Seminar

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Originally Published In

Wanzo, Rebecca. "Black Love is Not a Fairytale." Poroi 7, Iss. 2 (2011): Article 5. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.13008/2151-2957.1096


In 2009, the public witnessed an upsurge in media discussions about the lower marriage rates of professional black women. In the Unmarriageable Professional Black Woman discourse, the alleged pathological behavior of black men or black women causes marriage disparities, despite the fact that demographic data that can largely account for differences in marriage rates. This paper explores articulations of a heterosexual, and somewhat heteronormative, black female romantic imagination in the twenty-first century, and unpacks how the ideals and pathologies that subjects with various agendas attach to this imagination reveal the complex interplay of western romantic love narratives, black feminism, legacies of the Moynihan Report, and liberal individualism. Through discussions of three prominent examples representing the romantic desires of ambitious and successful black women in popular discourse, I explore how the heterosexual African American woman’s romantic imagination has been idealized and derided, with the idealization reflecting the ways in which feminism has done significant work in updating the romantic fantasy even as patriarchy’s presence is transparent, and the derision illustrating the disciplinary work of patriarchy and a broader national ideology that suggests that individuals are always responsible for not attaining their heart’s desires.




Originally published in POROI: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis and Invention, vol 7, no. 2, © 2011 by Rebecca Wanzo, http://dx.doi.org/10.13008/2151-2957.1096

wanzo_07_02.pdf (217 kB)