The intersectional oppression and devaluation of Black women in society.
This blog explores the term’s origins, significance, and its implications for Black women in society.
Moya Bailey coined the term ‘misogynoir’ in 2008, which alludes to the anti-Black and misogynistic racism that Black women experience, particularly in popular media and culture. The framing of misogynoir has been worked on for years by Trudy of Gradient Lair. In one of her blogs, the writer highlights that misogynoir refers specifically to “Black women’s experiences with gender, and how both racism and anti-Blackness alters that experience” of misogyny.
An interview between Moya Bailey and Trudy specifies that the term is specific to Black women, as, even though misogynoir can come from anyone of any race or gender, it cannot be experienced by women of any other race. While misogyny harms all women, misogynoir is conceptualised to explain the ways in which anti-Black racism, sexism, and misogyny, intersect “to malign Black women in our world”. Furthermore, under this definition, ‘women of colour’ is not interchangeable for ‘Black women’, given the unique experience of Black women. This should not be criticised as exclusionary in nature; “by being more specific in addressing the types of violence we experience, we are better able to come up with actions that truly address it”, as highlighted by Moya Bailey in the interview. An article by The Guardian quotes Black feminist commentator, Feminista Jones, who stresses that prejudice against Black women is ignored by mainstream feminism, and ultimately this term should be exercised more in feminist discourse.
What are the stereotypes feeding into misogynoir? Firstly, there is the stereotype which presents Black women as angry, especially someone who speaks out, with the implication that this diminishes what is said. Secondly, in many aspects of culture and society, Black women’s bodies are hypersexualised. This highlights just two examples, though it is fundamental to recognise that these stereotypes ultimately engender the oppression and devaluation of Black women in society.
It is important to look at the real-life implications of misogynoir for Black women. The everyday, lived experience of Black British women exposes the deep-rooted, intersectional discrimination and prejudice. The conceptualisation of this lived experience, misogynoir, explains why Black female figures in the public eye are targeted in the way which they are. It explains why Serena Williams is criticised for her behaviour on court, and why many fixate on her appearance, comparing her to an animal or a man, instead of her unmatched talent and sportswomanship. In politics, one example is the experiences of Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP, who has suffered constant racist and sexist abuse online. Such hostility was exposed in a study, which was published by Amnesty International, revealing that in the run-up to the 2017 election, the abuse she received accounted for 45% of all abusive tweets against women MPs. Another example which demonstrates this disproportionate contempt for Diane Abbott refers to her experience of being sexually harassed by David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, to which she responded assertively and made him accountable for his actions. The response from the media was alarming; rather than being met with outrage or empathy for Diane Abbott, newspaper headlines scorned her language, instead of focusing on the unconsented to, inappropriate behaviour of David Davis. Sexual harassment should never be tolerated by reason of someone’s ethnicity, personality, or political views, like it was with Diane Abbott.
We at JAN Trust believe that the intersectional ways in which women are oppressed across the world need to be recognised. We find this oppression and discrimination unacceptable and work to empower these women against these forms of prejudice. We work with women that come from many different countries, cultures, and speak many different languages, and therefore encounter different obstacles. Please find out more about our work on our website.