De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. - Zora Neale Hurston "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
I have one regret in my life. It's not minoring in Gender Studies while at the University of La Verne. I declared it my freshman year after taking my first Gender Studies class, then dropped it. Adding a minor would have added an additional semester and I didn't want to spend the time or money. How foolish I was at eighteen. I've been a lifelong feminist and am dedicated to smashing the patriarchy, and I just wish I had a piece of paper that backed up my knowledge when I get on my feminist soapbox and speak to it. However, I didn't do it. I regret it so much I've considered going back to school for a certificate in the subject, because I've got things to say. I don't come to you today as an academic or scholar. I come to you as a lifelong learner with lived experience who wants to make something clear; misogynoir is not Santa Claus. Misogynoir is real as fuck.
Oh, but what is misogynoir you ask? Misogynoir is misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. It was coined by queer Black feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term to address misogyny directed toward black women in American visual and popular culture. Bailey first used the term "Misogynoir" in a 2010 essay entitled "They aren't talking about me..." The term describes the specific type of discrimination experienced by black women, "I was looking for precise language to describe why Renisha McBride would be shot in the face, or why The Onion would think it’s okay to talk about Quvenzhané the way they did, or the hypervisibilty of Black women on reality TV, the arrest of Shanesha Taylor, the incarceration of CeCe, Laverne and Lupita being left off the TIME list, the continued legal actions against Marissa Alexander, the twitter dragging of black women with hateful hashtags and supposedly funny Instagram images as well as how Black women are talked about in music."
That's great, but why are you talking about it now? Because my tweet storm fired off earlier this week wasn't enough.
I know it wasn't enough, because someone hopped in my mentions asking me what black women don't get and to enlighten them, as if google wasn't free, but my emotional labor was. Universities offer classes on race and gender studies all day. Tumblr and twitter are hotbeds of information if you know where to look. But, since it's still irking me, allow me to put it here and put it simply for posterity. Black women get hated on, regardless of what we do. And I am not talking about a black woman individually, or myself. I mean BLACK WOMEN TM as a group. As a group, black women are hated by society and we don't get shit. You want a list of what black women don't get? Good, because I have one.
Things Black Women Don't Get:
To Be Girls - A study recently completed by Georgetown University found that American adults view black girls as less innocent than white girls. The study revealed that adults think black girls seem older and require less nurturing and protection than white girls of the same age. It also found adults think black girls know more about sex than their white counterparts. This study was done across racial/ethnic and educational backgrounds. Similar to how Ryan Lochte at 32 years old was a kid, but 12 year old Tamir Rice was 12 was "big for his age" and "could have easily passed for someone older", black girls aren't afforded the privilege of being girls. In American, black girls are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls, both in the educational and justice systems.
To Be Positively Pregnant - Both Beyoncé and Serena Williams released the most beautiful maternity photos I think I've ever seen. And in less than 48 hours both were targets of think pieces about why their photos were useless and didn't matter. Becky (literally, her name is Rebecca) had to open her mouth and say Beyoncé's photos were tacky, because she didn't understand the black cultural references in them. Rosie had to invalidate B and say pregnancy doesn't look like that. She's Beyoncé. She could eat a McChicken and make it look magical. Get the fuck over your internalized misogyny and hatred of black women, Rosie. Similarly, the photoshoot done by Serena Williams, who won the Grand Slam while fucking pregnant, was criticized and it was said it should be the last of it's kind because again "pregnancy doesn't look like that". I don't care if my pregnancy won't look like Serena's. My ass doesn't look like Serena's either; I am not about to win a Grand Slam anytime soon. What I do care about positive media portrayals of black pregnancy. We're bombarded with negative criticism, even though black pregnancies aren't easy. Pregnancies and labor are generally more difficult for black women because of systematic racism in health care and lack of access to health care, period.
To Be Mothers - Black women aren't allowed to have positive relationship with motherhood. Slavery, white supremacy, and racism have created negative portrayals of black motherhood and permeate American culture. "The truth of the matter is public ridicule is not reserved for Black mothers who are celebrities. We see especially visceral reactions of hate and judgment for Black mothers that have lost their children to state sanctioned violence and or extrajudicial murders by law enforcement officers. The disdain for Black mothers is not reserved for a specific 'type' of Black mother. However things like lower financial means, age, martial status, number of children, gender presentation, and sexual orientation can intensify the hate their families receive." - Gloria Malone
To Be Vulnerable and Soft - Do I even need to talk about the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype? Kerry Washington summed it up when doing press for Django Unchained, "Look I can see how it’s not particularly feminist to play the princess in the tower, waiting to be saved. But as a black woman – we’ve never been afforded that luxury. There was no man coming to save you; it wasn’t part of the story. In some ways, this telling is a statement of empowerment." Django Unchained is problematic as fuck, but Kerry makes a damned good point. Name another black damsel in distress? We don't get to be that. Vulnerability is a form a strength, and I'm glad I stumbled across that blog post earlier this week. But this is not a thing that is largely accepted for black women.
To Be Complex - Black women are put in a box. We're stereotyped. We are not nuanced or containing multitudes. In Grad School I wrote a paper that said every black woman on television at the time was a prominent black female stereotype; mammies, jezebels, magical negroes, and angry black women. And while Shonda Rhimes is writing complex and well-rounded women, she is the exception to the rule. Black women suffer greatly from one-dimensional stereotyping. I can't count the times I've been told I'm "fill-in-the-blank" for a black girl. Black women are not thought of as complex, interesting, multitudinous people.
To Be Pioneers - The historical accomplishments of black women are overlooked. Did you know black women invented laser eye surgery, closed circuit television, and caller ID? They fucking did. A black woman invented rock and roll. Sister Rosetta Thorpe was one of the very first great gospel artists who crossed over and gained mainstream success, performing with a racially integrated band, and although guitar playing was for "men" she beat several men in guitar battles at the Apollo. She was one of the first black artist's to have a tour bus with her name on it, she was openly bisexual, her wedding was a concert for over 20,000 fans, gave Little Richard his first public performance, and toured in the UK before the "British Invasion". Where is this woman's biopic? And yet, Chuck Berry, or worse, Elvis, gets credited with inventing rock and people ask me what I'm doing at rock shows. Um, black women invented this shit. Along with my next bullet point
To Be Punk - I've already written about my experiences as a black girl in what is considered a white space and how it affects my enjoyment of the scene. Something that I thought about recently and how much annoys me though? How come black women are neglected in the scene when Poly Styrene founded the X-Ray Spex and Ronnie Spector was the godmother of Punk?
To Drive - Say Her Name. Sandra Bland.
To Own Their Culture & Be Celebrated For It - Culture Vultures are fucking everywhere, do I even have to explain this? Cornrows, hoop earrings, colored contacts, AAVE, extensions, large lips, big butts, whatever it is that black women have naturally and culturally doesn't belong to them. When we do it we're mocked, when other girls do it, they're praised.
The Amount of Money They Deserve - The pay gap margin the worst for black women. Link.
To Be Fictional Movie Characters - Do y'all remember the outrage when it was rumored Zendaya was playing Mary Jane? Even though she wasn't actually playing Mary Jane, despite having the personality, acting skill, and physical beauty to make a bomb ass Mary Jane Watson? People tried to hide their misogynoir behind her not being a natural redhead, but Kirsten Dunst is blonde as fuck, and her hair got blonder as that franchise wore on.
To Be Characterized Positively In The Media - I touched on this earlier. But seriously. Think of black female characters on TV. Mammies, jezebels, magical negroes, and angry black women. We're always seen as loud, vindictive, petty and always ready for some mess.
To Be Depressed - I've already written about how black women are more prone to depression, and less likely to seek help because the internalized and cultural myth of The Strong Black Woman.
To Have Any Feelings That Aren't Anger - "But it wasn’t until recently that I began to see that the popular 'black girl with an attitude' trope was just a way to oppress and undermine black women and our ability to engage, connect and feel. These negative traits are consistently pinned on black women, depicting us as angry even as we calmly state an opinion, or as having an attitude when we are justifiably angry. Who cares if we are understandably angry about the countless black people murdered in the past year? The stereotype has parallels in the “strong black woman” and the “strong independent woman” (of any race): all limit our ability as women to emote, as if the only emotion we can express is anger and our only quality is strength." - Leah Sinclair
To Be Desirable - Studies have revealed that black women are the least likely demographic to have success with online dating, because of stereotyping and racial bias.
To Have Their Moment - Viola Davis couldn't accept her Emmy the way she wanted to, without a white woman telling her it wasn't about race; even though it was a historic moment for black women. Rihanna couldn't get her Video Vanguard Award without Drake trying to make it about his undying love her.
To Date People - Megan Markle started dating Prince Harry and the response was so racist Buckingham Palace had to issue a statement telling them to stop with the fucking racism and remind them of Queen Charlotte who was black.
To Be Healthily Sexual - Black women are reduced to either a mammy or a jezebel. It is the ultimate Madonna or Whore complex. Taken from the second source; "The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty - even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory." Black women deserve to be able to have relationships with sex.
To Be First Lady In Peace - Michelle Obama got the short end of that deal from day one, and she was the most educated, best First Lady this country has ever seen. Not only was misogynoir rampant in criticisms of her; so was transphobia - instead of being called a statuesque beauty, which she is, she was called a man.
To Be Praised - Everywhere you look people are trying to bring down black women in general, because they hate us so fucking much. OR. They're rewarding other women for doing the same shit. Taylor Swift made the same video as Rihanna, but she won a VMA for it and Rihanna didn't.
I'm over it. I really am. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston, one of my favorite books, and the book from which I quoted at the beginning of this was written 80 years ago. In it, the black female protagonist Janie, searches for love, spiritual liberation, physical satisfaction, and a way to defy the laws of gender and race. She says the black women are the mule of the world; “worked tuh death,” “ruint wid mistreatment,” yet strong enough to carry impossible “loads” nobody else wants to “tote.” However, through Hurston's storytelling, Janie is allowed to have a fuller and more complex existence than that traditionally afforded her in either literature or life. And that's all I fucking want for black women.
I am not going to let society's disdain for black women stop me from doing anything I'd like to do. I am not going to let it make me feel like less of a woman or a person. I am going to embody #CareFreeBlackGirl-ness with every fiber of my being. However when you deny misogynoir, you help perpetuate it, and that's what I'm not about to do. I am going to call this shit out when I see it, and kindly link people right back to this blog post. I'm not one of the people who thinks ignoring the problem means it goes away. We need to call out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and fuckery in general in order to end it. And we will end it. The patriarchy will be dismantled in my lifetime. Believe that. If you'd like to learn more, follow these women on twitter. They will school you.
Until next time. xo