Misogynoir*- Misogyny perpetuated specifically against black women. It is the intersection between sexism and racism, and was coined by Moya Bailey.
When you’re about this life, like really really ‘bout it– by which I mean pro-hoe, pro-LGBTQ, pro-women, pro-black – many are regularly offended by what you decide to speak out on, how you choose to live that life and ultimately what/who you personally do with your goodies. In turn, you find yourself regularly offended by the actions and comments you are greeted with by these many people, simply for living your best life.
Every day without fail, the haters – whether they be your male friends or that irritating co-worker – have you asking yourself, can I live?
Sxsters, this one’s for you.
Straight black men, this is mostly about you: pay attention.
It’s Sunday, aka self-care day, and you’re home alone (if you too are a heathen). Fresh out the bath tub, hype music on to assist in the enjoyment of watching your naked self get ready in the mirror – nothing like brukkin’ it down in your birthday suit while no one is around.
Scalp and edges attended to, shea butter and coconut oil mix sinking itself into your skin, a likkle spritz of Rih Rih’s Nude eau de parfum has got you feeling like a bad bitch. Yes, you can call yourself a bitch, and your girlfriends too – ‘cause reclaiming negative slurs for empowerment is a thing, didn’t ya know.
Your Soundcloud playlist has been popping for the last hour. You’ve been whining your waistline, milly-rocking on every block, straight getting it. No man has dragged your mood through any misogynoir* just yet, then something happens. The speakers tell you it’s a Cole World – you’ve never spun so fast to look at a screen before. Who in this Babylon let J Cole’s problematic ass slip between the tracks?!
No one has time, least of all you, to entertain the narrative of 2014 Forest Hill Drive: ‘I’m Black. And I went to college. Don’t shoot the Black educated man. You seen these bitches and nasty hoes tho?’
Minding your own business, headphones on, another day another reason to be as fine as you are.
You’re used to mandem doing the most so it doesn’t surprise you to hear, ‘Oi buff ting’. You still in sigh in harassment, this is only going to end one of three ways:
1. ‘Can man get your number? Nah? You’re butters (ugly) anyway.’ Funny how you can go from 100 to 0 with just one reply.
2. ‘Ah allow this gay bitch. What? No threesomes, nah?’ I wouldn’t consider you on your own, let alone with another women, in the history of ever.
3. ‘Why you telling me you’ve got a man? Fuck your man. Yeah? Aight fine, fuck you too hoe.’ Ooh good one sunny Jim, but what exactly is a hoe please? Enquiring minds would love to know.
Such sweet nostalgia reminds you of all the times a man called you a hoe for not wanting to sleep with him. What marvellous logic.
You and your girls have had a good night of care-free fun; entry was free, the drinks were free, the nipples were freed, you’re still buzzing as you walk towards your bus stop home. (It’s important to note this night is a year into the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, well before #SayHerName).
You bump into an old male friend on your journey and stop for a chat, as you do. The conversation moves through small talk to the lack of black women on any given London event line-up to police brutality in the US. You all feel disgusted and in despair; one of your girls comments how sad it is that black women’s deaths aren’t given the same attention.
They tell him it’s hard being a black women – society puts us as at bottom of the barrel – guy friend protests, tells you all no, the black man is at the bottom of the food chain. ‘Look at the way we’re being shot in the street,’ he says, ‘Look at the way we’re being portrayed by the media.’
You remind him the same is happening to black women and trans women at an alarming rate. He tells you no again, the hardest thing to be in this day and age is a black man. Now your girl gangs’ heads are cocked to the side in confusion, question marks for expressions, demons wanting to climb out of your collective throats and scratch out his words and tongue (might as well). Far too used to having men, specifically black men, dismiss/diminish their experience in favour of a more male-centric struggle, they’re very much done with this conversation.
You simply ask, ‘How? When the patriarchy still benefits you in terms of pay, visibility, power? When Black Lives Matter is a movement started to bring awareness to the high number of deaths of black men? When you’re still exclaiming that exclusively dating white women and other women of colour, but not black women, is a preference? You can still enjoy music, TV etc. because none of it is geared towards violence against your body? Please, do tell us how black men are carrying all the weight of the world on their shoulders.’
The common factor in these three scenarios is that life has a funny way of coming at you, and that black men are enemies of progress. The latter, mostly though. (Not all. Just about hm… 98 per cent, I think is fair to say).
Straight black men have become the oppressors of the black community, wishing ‘females’ would know ‘their place’ and seemingly so desperate to keep the foundations of the black family solid, as y’know, feminism and homosexuality are apparently continuing to tear it apart.
I mean, not the fact that unless the issue directly affects black men, they simply lack interest or dismiss/silence what they are told. Nope. Just the gays and the ‘man-haters’.
Not the fact that the addressing of misogynoir makes most men more uncomfortable than the actual act.
Or that ‘females’ now sounds like an unchallenged slur. Example, ‘But see if you females are secure in yourself, then you should know he’s not even talking about you… I hate when females do that… ay females are nuts… some females need to respect themselves.’ WOMEN. Goddamit, women.
Or they don’t turn up to rallies for the slain black women killed in the US, according to an article by Andre G for Afropunk, or check/drop their homies for wrong-doings. See Bill Cosby and Nate Parker.
Or that women are being beaten, raped, shot in the street at the hands of black men, for not giving out their phone numbers, or turning down a dance, or walking away. #Sayhername.
Or that black women, mental health issue or not, are told they are crazy, angry, bitter, in some cases, attenion-seeking whores, for expressing their valid hurt. Or the criticism that follows black women for speaking up for themselves or standing their ground – see Korryn Gaines, Azealia Banks, Kehlani.
Nah couldn’t be that. Probably got nothing to do with the game of respectability politics black men like to play with figures like Ayesha Curry, Cardi B, even Queen B.
And it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the homophobia and transphobia in this particular niche community.
Nope, it’s gotta be those damn gays, damn feminists and damn, damn social justice warriors fighting for equal rights. How insensitive of them!
But negativity has always spurred action and black women are doing as we were once told, being the change we want to see in the world.
How else could gal-dem takeover an historical museum like the V&A in London and fill it with Black Girl Magic? Leave out the cishet men. Even the Black Lives Matter movement, founded by three queer black women, has found itself slowly moving the spotlight away from the black heterosexual male community and re-positioning it to centre on issues faced by black women and the black LGBTQ community.
The message being, if they want to stay in their patriarchy-shaped bubble of hyper-masculinity believing it will get them far, well then fine, the show can very well go on without you.
If refusing to unlearn and getting left behind for being problematic is what they want, so be it, they can fight for themselves from now on.
But black women have tired of the enemy of progress antics, we are not trophies or mules. Not everyday worry about if our hair is ours or not, whose d*ck we choose to swivel on today (it wasn’t yours) or if we are marriage material – trust me when I say that is not every women’s underlying objective in life.
I think mother in lens, Ava Duvernay tweeted last year, ‘To be a woman who loves hip hop at times is to be in love with your abuser. Because the music was and is that. And yet the culture is ours.’ Speak it on ma’am!
Unpacking the issue with the likes of J. Cole means you have to drag Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye and the majority of men in music out for a proverbially ass beating. And if you did that, every problematic black man everywhere would have to be dragged too… and who has that kind of energy or time. They can do that themselves.
But what we’re not gonna do is pretend the violence, double standards and misogyny black women, face on a daily basis isn’t further perpetuated and re-enforced within said men’s music. It’s a terrifying cyclical structure that continues to teach from an early age that ‘boys will be boys’, when in fact as we’ve so clearly seen, boys will become disrespectful men, if not checked.
We’ve heard all the variational about black women needing to ‘tighten up’ ‘cause Becky and Lisa keep ‘evolving’, from men with the same thinking as Trick Daddy, both on songs and in our daily interactions. We stay unfathomed and clapping back at the misogynoir with grace.
Life when you’re an intelligent, outspoken, care-free-with-some-cares, pussy-popping, critical thinking black women… the masses go into overdrive. Every name and slur is thrown at your pretty brown self – you never knew you could be a frigid hoe, an angry bitter feminist bitch, and also ‘one of those females’ in the same minute/hour, let alone day.
Pro-black doesn’t mean anti-white, and womanism (black feminism) doesn’t equal man-hater. The reality makes you somewhat sad; to be this aware of the world, and know that the majority of the people, tweets, Instagram posts you encounter are not on the same level of thinking. Bet your eyeballs are sore on a daily basis from all the eye-rolls and side-eyeing you’ve done by the time you reach the safety of your bedroom.
A day spent being denied the fullness of your humanity can be exhausting/draining/frustrating, so please remember the words Tumblr user @bonitaapplebelle posted: ‘Black women will always be too loud for a world that never intended on listening to us.’
Remind yourself you are not a joy-killer, you are not bitter, you are simply angry as fuck and your anger is completely valid. Go ahead and be mad, it’s what Solange would want.
You’re swipe-swiping on Tinder out of boredom. You match with someone. You must be popping because he’s already swooped into the Dms.
‘I wanna strong black woman who stands by her man, like a black woman should.’ Swell, not that you asked or care.
You’re phone vibrates again. A d*ck pic. Welp.
Another vibration. Now you’re sure his fingers are barely even pausing to think, ‘but my woman gotta be a freak too.’
Motherfu- if you don’t get yo- blocked. Blocked. BLOCKEDDTTT.
Can I live?!
This is part of a guest editorship series by Vanessa Babirye and Michelle Tiwo from Ackee and Saltfish. They’ve produced a series of pieces for TRUE Africa which show how they see the world and the African part of them. More here.