Photo via The Independent
Sexism is a troubling issue concerning nearly every civilization worldwide. While the severity of this issue varies significantly from nation to nation, it is still a point of tension when analyzing the socioeconomic status of an area. The same goes for racism. Opinions of what it is and its inherent negatives in a society are constantly shifting and morphing, but its existence is undeniable. Racism and sexism, while being completely different systems, experience very similar treatment in discourse. Recently, a term has been coined that defines an intersectional experience between the two of these systems. This term is ‘Misogynoir’.
The term Misogynoir refers to a “hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against Black women.” Specifically, it relates to the intertwined experience of racism and sexism that Black women face. How these oppressive regimes interact takes on a different darkness when considering how we treat Black women.
One key lens when looking at the way Black women operate within this idea of misogynoir is through white feminism. Feminism as we know it (at least in the United States) began as a progressive movement for white women. Frankly, since its popularity in the U.S., the protagonist of feminism has been the figure of “the white middle-class woman.” This is not to say that since our arrival in this country, Black women have not made forceful moves toward equality between the sexes. From activists like Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells to more modern thinkers like Angela Davis and bell hooks, the feminist and pro-Black movements would not be where they are today. This inspection of feminism aims to differentiate between the mainstream conceptualization of feminism that only serves to address the white world and the feminism that Black women need.
In a school like Fordham (specifically the Lincoln Center campus), this difference between feminism and the mainstream narrative of white feminism has been made obscenely clear to me. According to an article from 2007, published by The Fordham Observer, Fordham Lincoln Center “has become increasingly male-deficient” and currently has a female population of slightly less than 60%. The majority female population, in addition to already living and studying in one of the most progressive and liberal places in the world, naturally predisposes the Fordham population to possess an incredibly progressive ideology when it comes to feminism and equality between the sexes.
The issue is that Fordham dually remains incredibly white, and while feminist thought is popular through the halls, it only caters to one audience. In my own time here, I have never had the pleasure of hearing a white student address feminism in a way that includes people who aren’t in the mainstream scope of the subject. People from various traditions and socio-economic backgrounds would perceive their experiences of femininity, respect, tolerance, equality and equity between the sexes, and reform differently. By not being accounted for in these discussions, Black women are immediately made into “the other”. This is not to say that more inclusive discussions are not being had, but instead to make the point that even if they are, they are few and far between, and most likely being had by Black women who are looking to utilize and reanalyze the tools of mainstream feminism in a way that accounts for their experiences—like I am right now.
This small-minded, closed perspective on feminism “has been used as a weapon of white supremacy and patriarchy deployed against Black women.” A recent example of this is with the celebrity Meghan Thee Stallion. After being shot and harassed by rapper Tory Lanez, Meghan Thee Stallion received gross media coverage that depicted her assault as comical and deserving. While the assault of women has often, in American history, been handled with less than delicate hands, more often than not the shooting of a woman is rarely taken lightly—unless that woman is Black. Media sources used the hypermasculinization of Black women in the case of Meghan Thee Stallion to depict her assault as not an attack on women (which would be clearly anti-feminist), but instead an attack on a more masculine Black individual who just so happens also to be a woman. Meghan Thee Stallion’s story is just one of many instances in which Black women, instead of being lifted into the arms of feminism, are left behind.
This article was edited by Renee Agostini and Delbar Nonahal.