Misogynoir is a term created in 2010 by the Black, queer, feminist scholar, Moya Bailey, to address misogyny targeted at Black women. Bailey first used the term in an essay titled, They Aren’t Talking About Me for the Crunk Feminist Collective. She defines misogynoir as a “word I made up to describe the particular brand of hatred directed at Black women in American visual and popular culture.”
Misogynoir meshes misogyny and racism into a tool that can be hurtful and scary to Black women. Those who thrive on misogynoir might use Black women’s natural hair as a weapon against them or speak about how they walk or dance.
In 2016, the comedian and actor, Leslie Jones, had to deal with an enormous amount of misogynoir for daring to play a role in the movie reboot of Ghostbusters with an all-woman cast. Some men reacted badly to this empowerment, and while all of the actors in this movie received some sexist feedback, the social media attacks on Jones were both misogynistic and racist, comparing her to large, darkly colored animals.
The abuse was so great, Jones eventually tweeted about her pain and then got off of Twitter:
Earlier this week, Roseanne Barr responded to a tweet about CIA operations during the Obama administration with this tweet:
The “vj” refers to Valerie Jarrett, former Senior Advisor to President Obama. Jarret is a Black woman. Because of this vile, racist tweet, Rosanne’s show on ABC was canceled.
But this isn’t the first time that Barr has tweeted misogynoir towards a Black woman. Below is a tweet that Barr used to throw misogynoir at Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to President Obama:
White people have often compared Black people to various animals, but these comparisons most often used monkeys or apes as an example of what Black people looked like, how they behaved, how they ate, how they performed sexually, and more. Identifying Black people as an animal not only satisfied racists’ desire to say something awful about Black people, but it also demeaned an entire race to be considered no better than an animal.
Barr seems to take great delight in showing her base feelings when she flings her misogynoir-based comments at Black women. Sadly, in the Terrible Time of Trump, most racists receive no punishment for their words or conduct. In the case of Barr, who tweet to Jarrett was too much and ABC canceled her show.
Women know about harassment, as it’s something most of us have had to endure at some point, whether it’s from male co-workers, a friend or family member, or even from people we barely know. Jones didn’t know any of the people who took to Twitter to denigrate her. This nastiness happens all the time in the non-celebrity world, as well, where Black women must deal with the fact that they’re too dark, or not beautiful enough, or too mean, or just not likeable.
Kesiena Boom is a Black English writer who breaks down the four tropes comprising misogynoir: The Sassy Black Woman, The Hypersexual Jezebel, The Angry Black Woman, and the Strong Black Woman. Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with a Black woman being secure and strong, or controlling her sexuality. And, who of us hasn’t been angry about something at some point in time? However, these characterizations diminish Black women, dehumanizing them and portraying them as cartoonish stereotypes, lower than all others. Not right, as Black women are equal to everyone else.
Two young poets, Crystal Valentine, who is the New York City Youth Poet Laureate, and Aaliyah Jihad have created a spoken-word piece, “To Be Black and Woman and Alive,” in which they deal with misogynoir, with one of the stanzas saying:
To be woman and Black is to be magic
Is to be the witch that wouldn’t burn
is to survive the White man with their needles and nooses
And the Black man with their hearts in their knuckles
To be Black and woman and alive is to be resilient
My very existence is defiance
In her book of essays, Letter to My Daughter, Maya writes to a daughter she never had, but sees in all women, and says, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
No one needs to be reduced by racism or misogynoir, but abuse of all kinds takes its toll. What are you doing to stop the abuse?