Misogynoir is misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. The term was coined by gay black feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term in 2010 to address misogyny directed toward black women in American visual and popular culture. Trudy of Gradient Lair, a womanist blog about black women and art, media, social media, socio-politics and culture, has also been credited in developing the lexical definition of the term.
Moya Bailey describes misogynoir as "where racism and sexism meet, an understanding of anti-Black misogyny." The concept is grounded in the theory of intersectionality, which analyzes how various social identities such as race, gender, class, and sexual orientation interrelate in systems of oppression.
Bailey coined the term misogynoir in 2010 while she was a graduate student at Emory University. She first used it on the Crunk Feminist Collective blog to discuss misogyny toward black women in hip hop music. Misogynoir combines misogyny and noir to describe anti-black sexism faced by black women. Bailey considered other terms, such as sistagyny, before settling on misogynoir.
The media connotation of noir factored into Bailey's decision. In 2013, an article by Bailey on misogynoir and gender oppression in hip-hop was published in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society. The concept of misogynoir has been accepted and used as a term by many black feminists and cultural critics, especially in the blogosphere. In a foreword to Michele Wallace's book Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, Jamilah Lemieux wrote that misogynoir "can come even from those who are black, who were raised by black women and profess to value black people."
In an article in the Albany Law Review, authors Aimee Wodda and Vanessa R. Panfil write that trans women of color experience violence at a greater rate than other populations. This transmisogyny towards black people has been characterized as "transmisogynoir".
The term transmisogynoir was created to refer to the intersection between transmisogyny and misogynoir, meaning the oppression of black trans women. Transmisogynoir encomposes transphobia, misogyny, and antiblackness. It was coined by Trudy of the womanist blog Gradient Lair.
Though misogynoir can be perpetrated by anyone, the term most often refers to the misogyny experienced by black women at the hands of black men. As the plight of the black man in America remains at the forefront of society, black feminist work as well as the issues similarly facing African American women are erased and ignored.
For example, the Black Lives Matter movement, created in 2012, was founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, nevertheless, this is little known throughout the wider community and while the movement specifically states it advocates for the lives of the entire black community, protests and activists groups invoking the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and mission are disproportionately rallying cries for justice on behalf of African American men. Incidences where police wrongfully kill or assault black women (as well as transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming black people) receive significantly less attention, as evidenced by the lack of media attention surrounding the 2015 case of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw who used his authority to prey on and assault upwards of 13 black women.
On a broader scale, misogynoir is also characterized by the tropes projected onto black women. Some of these common stereotypes include the "Strong Black Woman" and the hyper-sexual "Jezebel". In her article "4 Tired Tropes That Perfectly Explain What Misogynoir Is – And How You Can Stop It", Kisiena Boom describes these common tropes and why they are damaging. For example, while the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype seems to be complimentary, it ignores the racialized physical and mental trauma that black women have had to endure.
Perpetuating the idea that black women can handle anything justifies the situations African American women are forced into, such as the "Mammy" role for white families, the heteronormative head of household when black men are lost to the prison-industrial complex, and sexual abuse. This justification eliminates the need and desire to rectify the real problems. Furthermore, this trope forces black women to bury their issues and put on a "strong" face for all of those who expect it.
Some further applications of misogynoir can be assessed through the use of unfair and unjust assumptions of women, particularly women of color, is the practice of doctors, or other physicians, refusing certain safe practices to black women because they are believed to possess higher pain tolerance.
Misogynoir has been cited by scholars to address black sexual politics in hip hop music and culture at large. Respectability politics is one such issue. Coined by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, respectability politics refers to the tactics black people employ to promote racial uplift and obtain broader access to the public sphere.
Misogynoir is shown in the lyrics and in the videos that are released to promote popular songs and better publicize certain songs. In recent years it was found that music had more sexual content than any other media outlet. In hip-hop music black women are often depicted as only being good for abuse or sex. These videos and lyrics reflect the way society sees black women and their bodies. Music videos are important because they are a way to better publicize hit songs especially on television. Television shows became significant because they aired music video. Examples of these are BET, MTV, and VH1.
Serena Williams spoke with British Vogue about how she was, "underpaid (and) undervalued". Williams has been vocal about her treatment as a professional athlete in tennis. During the U.S. Open final in 2018, Williams was penalized for several things that she challenged. One of which being her breaking her racket during the end of the fifth game against Naomi Osaka. She was upset and in the game of tennis this is a natural reaction which goes unpenalized. However, the acting umpire Carlos Ramos gave Williams her second violation of the game. She was also accused of cheating and penalized, and when she asked for an apology, did not receive one. She then asked for the tournament referee to weigh in. Her position was that male players have displayed similar actions and have often gone unpenalized, calling Ramos a "thief". Billie Jean King commended Williams for standing up via Twitter in a post.
It was partly due to this situation that Naomi Osaka rose to fame. Osaka was painted as a victim of Williams actions in this game. The media painted Williams as an angry Black woman, and erased Osaka's blackness to enhance their perception of Williams as an aggressor in this situation. This is seen in a caricature published in the Australian Herald that depicts Williams with enhanced Black features, similar to Jim Crow caricatures in the twentieth century, whereas Osaka is portrayed with lighter skin and straight hair, making her seem more "innocent" to the public, due to the erasure of her blackness.
Ogom "OG" Chijindu was arguably a victim of misogynoir by Evelyn Lozada. Both women are a part of the popular show Basketball Wives. Lozada posted on her Instagram stating, "nobody watches you harder than the people who cannot stand you." Under this quote she proceeded to have an image of an orangutan. This was one of the rare instances in which she choose this imagery. Chijindu replied to her via Twitter calling her out on her anonymous remarks.
Commenting on the 2021 television interview, Oprah with Meghan and Harry, Moya Bailey asserts that misogynoir negatively impacts all Black women, regardless of skin color, wealth, class privilege, or their willingness to uphold the institutions that perpetuate misogynoir.
Kimberlé Crenshaw (who coined intersectionality) created the #SayHerName campaign. Her goals has been to spread awareness to black women who have been killed by excessive police force. When she facilities her symposiums she mentions well-known victims of police brutality who include Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin. However, when she mentions Tanisha McKenna and Aura Rosser these women are almost unheard of.
Crenshaw has also partnered with the WNBA to further the goal of #SayHerName. On July 25, 2020, players wore jerseys with Breonna Taylor's name to spread awareness. Crenshaw provided the WNBA with a repository of female victims. This allowed for players to wear various names they felt more connected to. Crenshaw was able to provide these names through her co-founded organization the African American Policy Forum.
There is a documentary titled Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland. This not only acknowledges black women who are overlooked in police brutality, but also utilizes the #SayHerName tagline.
- African-American culture and sexual orientation
- Black feminism
- Misogyny in hip hop culture
- Gendered racism
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