The Problem With the "Black Wife Effect" Trend on TikTok

Over the past few weeks, you might've seen a new trend taking over TikTok. In the videos, regular users and celebrities alike in interracial relationships with Black women are showcasing their transformations after meeting their current partner — and crediting their glow-ups to the "Black Wife Effect." Non-Black men highlight how their style and overall appearance have improved since being with their Black wives or girlfriends, validating that je ne sais quoi that Black women can bring into others' lives.

But while the videos might have positive undertones and highlight the beauty of being loved by a Black woman, the trend has also sparked an important conversation about misogynoir and harmful stereotypes. Despite what I'm sure are good intentions from many, this trend others us. It subtly highlights how Black women are often expected to take on roles that benefit others. We've been painted in this light for generations; just think about tropes and media representations like "the mammy," who served white families, or more recently "the strong Black woman." Whether we're expected to be the mom friend, act as the voice of reason, or help our partners level up their style, the underlying message is that our value is transactional.

Even the most influential Black women have these stereotypes thrust on them. Most recently, Drew Barrymore told Vice President Kamala Harris that the country needs her to be our "Momala." Regardless of her intent, this reinforces the narrative that Black women need to take on an additional mammy role, no matter how important their primary job is.

The "Black Wife Effect" trend has also shined a light on how certain demographics perceive Black women who are in interracial relationships. Most commenters have been marveling at the transformations and complimenting the couples. But a handful of Black men have entered the conversation, accusing Black women of having a white man savior complex and abandoning them in favor of white men. Comments like this are frustrating to hear, especially from members of our community. Instead of celebrating us, they're lobbing unfair criticism.

"Regardless of our partner's race, we deserve to be loved fully."

And it's hypocritical: Black men are twice as likely to marry someone of a different race compared to Black women — who happen to be the demographic most likely to date within our race. Every other day, there seems to be a debate online about why some Black men refuse to date Black women: we're too loud, too strong-willed, we're not soft enough — all things that contribute to the narrative that we're difficult partners compared to our counterparts of other races. Everyone should be able to be with whoever brings them joy and treats them well, but it seems like no matter who we are with, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

On top of these "critiques," we're also blamed for expanding our horizons in dating instead of prioritizing monoracial relationships. The sole responsibility to preserve Black love shouldn't be on the shoulders of Black women. Regardless of our partner's race, we deserve to be loved fully.

In the United States, Black adults marry later in life, have the lowest marriage rate, the highest divorce rate, and are most likely to never marry. At the same time, the most successful relationships are between Black women and white men; these relationships are substantially less likely to end in divorce than those between white couples, according to the Pew Research Center. As a Black woman, if you want to get married and have a healthy, long-lasting marriage, it makes sense statistically to be open to a variety of dating experiences.

Of course, dating interracially comes with its own set of obstacles. From navigating cultural differences to dealing with potential racism and stigma surrounding your relationship, you have to figure out what you can handle. But the more we dissect and compare, the less likely we'll be content with whatever we have.

Despite the negative rhetoric that has come from the "Black Wife Effect" trend, it has also created a space for people to reflect on how their worldview impacts their perception of Black women's role in romantic relationships. We aren't these mystical beings here to fix every issue that plagues the world, nor are we demons who are planning the demise of the Black community.

Black women deserve to be supported — no strings attached. We shouldn't have to be exceptional to be acknowledged. Others can admire and appreciate our unique and beautiful qualities without constraining us to a monolith. All we want is the same opportunity to celebrate the mundanity of dating that other women are afforded.

At the end of the day, we just want love. In relationships, maybe that means having spa days with our partner or helping them shop for pieces that fit their dream aesthetic. We want to be an active participant in the activities that bring our partners joy and make them feel attractive. The "Black Wife Effect" isn't an intentional overhaul of someone's former self. It's just a by-product of constantly being loved, heard, and invested in.

Daria Yazmiene is a freelance writer, social media manager, and advocate for BIPOC communities. She is a proud graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.