Misogynoir was first coined by black queer feminist Moya Bailey to address the specific misogyny black women are subjected to due to their race, female gender and sex. As black women do not experience misogyny on its own, there is often an undertone of racism as opposed to the misogyny experienced by other races. Misogynoir specifically targets black women and more often black women of a darker skin tone. Examples of this can be explained as assuming a woman is a secretary rather than the CEO is misogyny but demeaning and ignoring the black woman completely, assuming she could not hold a position of power or is the cleaner, regardless of her demeanour and attire is misogynoir. When making small talk and ask one woman what she does for a living, but you ask a black woman if she works at all is misogynoir. When talking in a group, you ask the black woman why she is so loud in disgust is misogynoir. It is in these unconscious biases, that black woman face from all racial groups including black men who at times fail to see the struggle of the black woman and ages in society that create an unlevelled playing field for women of colour, specifically black women. The disadvantage in which black women experience racism more harshly than black men and other racial groups widens the gap in black women being able to achieve, remain successful and thrive in all areas their life.
Black women are forced to play roles which are subservient to their peers. These roles are set up to fail and fuel the rhetoric of black women being undesired and their only purpose is to fulfil the needs and goals of others, this notion is ingrained in society’s biases. An experience of this was felt by a young black woman when shopping with a friend at the time in a shopping centre in Kent, England. Whereby the ethnicity of the county is 96% white British. Stating in 3 of the 5 stores they visited; she was approached for store assistance. No one approached her friend who was of South Asian descent. This highlights the perception of black women being at service to others. A clear distinction between the global majority community and women of colour, it is the discrimination where non-black people fail to understand or face. They are not able to freely enjoy their leisure or innocently shop with a friend. Connoting If black women are not acting as retail workers, maids or wait staff then they are out of place and do not fit society’s image of the roles they are allowed to play.
Stereotypes in the media perpetuate representations of black womanhood as feral. Female blackness is only described in the following troupes: Angry Black Woman, Sassy Black Woman, Jezebel, Mammy, Black Best Friend, independent Black Woman and Strong Black Woman all of which put black women in a box inauthentic to themselves. Humans are not one-dimensional, people are complexed and do not fit a one size fits all, cookie-cutter model but the media fail to apply this to black women. It is a well-known saying within the black community ‘You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.’ – Rowan Pope, Scandal. And even in achieving some level of success, black women are underpaid if even paid at all. Michaela Coel walked away from a million-dollar deal with Netflix because executives wanted her to sign away her rights. This was a knock to Coel who had written, produced, starred in and co-directed the proposed show ‘I May Destroy you’ only for Netflix to claim ownership of her work. It was later mentioned that her agents at the time were expected to receive an undisclosed amount if Coel took the deal with Netflix.
Similar treatment was seen at the Grammys with Tiffany Hardish, Hardish was asked to host the Grammy’s preshow for free, Hardish stated she knew she would receive backlash at speaking up but felt disrespected at the request. Black women from various backgrounds and different levels in their field are told they should be grateful for the exposure whilst they appropriate and exploit black woman. Former First Lady Michelle Obama expressed she felt relieved after leaving the White House because she had spent 8 years of being perfect. It goes without saying that when you are the first black person to do anything you will be put under a microscope, picked apart, judged and criticised more harshly. Eventually, it will start to take its toll.
When on the path to success Black woman have to leave a trail for any injustice or hardship that might arise. Founder and CEO Leila Noelliste of Black Girl Long Hair – a top-ranked natural hair and beauty site turned natural hair and body marketplace stated in an early blog post when first starting her company, she always had to leave a trail of communication between suppliers. This is a good practice for business owners in general but Noelliste particularly felt the need to have a record of interactions because as a black woman she noticed when conducting business, others would try to take advantage or cut corners with her because they thought she would be an easy target and/or be naïve in not knowing any better. Noelliste refused to accept phone calls and communicated via email or text message. Making sure there was a point of reference should there be any form of miscommunication or dispute. This is also seen in areas of academia, achievement and expertise. Black women are undermined when giving professional expert advice as they are not seen as credible. When a black woman achieves success, their credentials are downplayed and shrunk. It is not surprising that less than 1% of UK university professors are black, that is 155 out of 23,000 and only 25 of those are black women in the whole of the United Kingdom. Further perpetuating the fictitious notion of the black woman as uneducated within society.
Misogynoir is not an issue which only highlights microaggressions between Caucasian men and black women. Other races, sexes and genders are not exempt from showing misogynoir. Intersectional feminism addresses the trials and tribulations black women face when fighting for equal rights. Western feminism often ignores and discards the struggles of POC. It excludes social class, ethnic identities, LGBT+ orientations and widely represents one portrayal of what it means to be a woman. On the spoken word poetry scene, you will hear in not so many words how a ‘white woman’s tears are worth more than a black woman’s life’ reinforcing when women are fighting for equality, not everyone is fighting a fair fight. From the early fights for equal rights, black women had to choose between civil rights or woman’s rights. Which meant the safety of black women was left on the sidelines. Woman’s rights have made tremendous achievements over the years but often black women are being left behind and their contributions erased. The black maternal mortality rate is alarming, black women in the United Kingdom are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth as opposed to their white counterparts. Misogynoir in the healthcare system, medical community and the NHS causes fatal consequences for black women, their family and the community. Due to this shocking death rate, campaign group FivexMore co-founded by Tinuke Awe and Clotilde Rebecca Abe are campaigning to end the disparity in the black maternal mortality rate and build a community to spread awareness.
In the rise of black sisterhoods, black women are no longer keeping quiet. They are entrepreneurs, innovators, pioneers within their field and forces to be reckoned with. By building strong communities, refusing to engage without the acknowledgement of their labour and educating themselves. Black women are advancing through life further than ever before, they truly learning how to slay in their lane. What recent global events have shown is black women are made of magic but the magic is within themselves. Though misogynoir is ingrained in belief systems, institutions and society there is still hope. Black women have been conditioned to endure mistreatment, trauma and pain. But just because they are used to abuse does not mean they should have to internalise it. Misogynoir is ripe in many cultures because people can and do get away with it. When a community is not deeply connected it creates a weakness which is easy to attack. More can be done from black men, black women and people within society alike in the fight to end hatred and discrimination. Now is the time to speak up against injustice and mistreatment. No matter how small, it all starts with a thought, word and action.