Mysogynoir: Where Racism and Sexism Meet

September 8, 2016

 

Most Americans know the hardships of going up as a Black man in America. Most Americans know the trials and tribulations of being a woman, LGBTQ or Latina in America. Yet, very few Americans know what it is like to be a Black woman in America.  However, Olympic champion Gabby Douglas knows what it is like to be just that.

 

From the 2012 Olympics to the 2016 Olympics, Gabby has been under fire online for everything from her demeanor to her hair. Gabby is a winner of three Olympic gold medals, several world championship medals and now she even has her own Barbie doll. Unfortunately, we don’t talk about her success, because instead we are talking about the state of her hair, failing to put her hand over heart during the national anthem, not cheering enough for her teammates, and finally, failing to smile.

 

It is as if we forget that she was the first African-American woman to win a gold in the team competition and the individual all-around. It’s not just Gabby receiving this criticism though; almost 6,000 people signed a Change.Org petition demanding singer Beyoncé to comb her daughter’s hair.

 

 

In 2012, actress Viola Davis attend the Oscars with her natural hair, only to be attacked by talk show host Wendy Williams, who claimed no one wanted to see the “Room 222” look on the red carpet, implying that Davis’s natural hair made her look like a man.

 

It’s impossible to escape the policing, criticism and shame but it isn’t just about race; It’s about gender too. This discrimination, prejudice and unchecked fear specifically at black women is termed “misogynoir.”

 

Black feminist Moya Bailey created the term in 2010. Bailey is a feminist, scholar, writer and activist. Bailey attended Spelman College for her undergraduate degree. She then pursued graduate studies at Emory University in the department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is currently a Dean's Post-Doctoral Fellow at Northeastern University.

 

Misogynoir is not expandable and consumable under the term "women of color." "Black women" and "women of color" overlap as identifiers only because Black women can be considered women of color.

 

“Woman of color” is a political identity of non-White women because of White supremacy and racism. “Woman of color” is not a racial classification in the way that “Black woman” is.

 

Misogynoir is about the specific prejudice that is aimed against Black women.

 

The core of “misogynoir” is two cohesive stereotypes. The first stereotype is the “strong Black woman” which characterizes Black people as animalistic or uncontrollable, and is in part responsible for the concepts of the “angry or strong Black woman.” This is used to deny pain and legitimize offense: “Oh, that you’ve received unfair treatment at school? Don’t worry you’ll get over it, you’re a strong Black woman.” The second is that Black women’s bodies are hypersexualized: the “sexy Black woman” is all tits and twerking.

 

As a black woman, I understand how uniquely detrimental misogynoir is to one's confidence and overall life in today's society.

 

Gabby may have won Olympic gold in two Olympics, but her primary job as a Black woman (according to the media) is to uplift the Black community while remaining the sex symbol the media see the Black woman as. This burden has been handed down for generations. To be Black and to be a woman in America is to eternally fight for our true identity.

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