Black Women: Stereotypes, Shame, Violence, and Racialized Misogyny

“All these sassy, angry, ghetto, “wanna be a man”, hood rat, ratchet black bitches have got to go!”

I don’t know about you, but I think these lazy uncritical racist misogynist losers need to go! And take their with them! I am tired of the shaming, stereotyping, and scapegoating of black women that goes on both in and out of the black community. I am tired of seeing violence perpetuated against black women put forth as entertainment.

It sickens me to see people post  these videos of young black women being beaten or confronted with disproportionate violent responses for their unruly behavior. But aside from the violence depicted in these videos what really troubles me is the way people enjoy these videos and revel in the violent actions taken against these black women.

In my last blog, “Ain’t I a skeptic?,”I briefly discussed Christianity relates to the concept of racial identity and racism among other things. One facet I did not discuss was how this factors into how we think about morality as relates to race. This is important as one of the reasons given in favor of imperialism was to civilize the savage. Nevermind, for now, how savage imperialism and colonialism was (and continues to be for some) for people of color. For example, stereotypes of black women as particularly “loose” or sexual led to the Jezebel stereotype and irrational fear of black men led them to be stereotypes as hypersexualized animals. And so violence and subjugation of blacks and other people of color was justified as something for their own good, even sanctioned by god. This type of violence was also seen as entertainment, FYI. And in the midst of striving to gain acceptance and gain rights Western blacks found it necessary to assimilate particularly to the gender standards and conservative views on sexuality. Darlene Clark Hines writes about how black women in the past have had to at time sacrifice their right to sexual expression (and I would argue other forms of expressions as well) in return for “respect and recognition”thought to be a deterrent from rape and domestic violence. Because we all know victims are always to blame right?

Black women who organized on behalf of civil and political rights both before and after slavery weren’t even safe from insults and attacks based on their gender and sexuality. And so it should come as no surprise that later in the 1960’s that Stokely Carmichael, and others, would say that the only position for women in the movement was “prone”. During the sixties many blacks saw black power and liberation as tied to black men controlling and dominating not just the movement, but black women and children as well. After all, is that not what the bible and society instructs: that man is to be the head of his woman and his children, you know- his property. And so it should So many in the movement were ” telling black women to step back into a domestic, submissive role,” as experienced by many people in the movement like Francis Beale, a black feminist, who wrote:

[The black male] sees the system for what it really is for the most part, but where he rejects its values and mores on many issues, when it comes to women, he seems to take his guidelines from the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Certain black men are maintaining that they have been castrated by society but that black women somehow escaped this persecution and even contributed to his emasculation.

To me I think Beale’s analysis of the mindset of many black men of the 1960’s fits with the mindset of those individuals that enjoy and promote these videos depicting this violence against black women. Like the men she describes, there seems to be a lot of resentment in the black community towards black women today as well. But I think this resentment is best summed up by this excerpt from a paper written by black nationalist, Larry Delano:

The ‘hyperliberated’ black woman is in fact so much of a man that she has no need for men… the black race would be better served without them.

Mind you this man was prescribing polygamy to combat the “problem” of households run by single black mothers and viewed homosexuality as a form of betrayal. Similarly, many other identities and behaviors are also regarded as betrayal within the black community particularly where black women are concerned. We can’t win. The way society defines what it is to be American excludes us and for many in the black community what defines what it means to be an acceptable or respectable black woman is just as limiting. Black women are expected to conform to all the patriarchal mores accepted in black culture AND fight racialized stereotypes on behalf of the race.

Black women, as a double minority, have to contend with both racism and sexism. An intersection that can be difficult to articulate at times, as the misogyny we face is often racialized. You aren’t just a bitch but a “black bitch”. As if to say there is some category below just being a simple “bitch” where black women can be found. As though, no category could possibly be any lower. And it doesn’t take much to be thrown in that category, all you need do is say something unpopular above a whisper in the wrong company. Any display of strength by a woman is an affront to to patriarchy. We are held to stricter standards of docility, punished more severely for our sexuality, and blamed for socioeconomic realities we didn’t create and certainly don’t perpetuate by ourselves. This labeling just another way to dismiss and dehumanize black women. Nonetheless, black women are shamed as not only black bitches but hoodrats, hoochies, ratchet, etc. Some of these people defend their behavior saying they only attack “those women” but how long before ‘those women” become all black women? Not long if you ask me. Once within hip hop, the term “bitch” was defended as something only used to describe a certain type of woman. Now it is a term used universally as both an insult and term of endearment. “Nappy headed hoes” was a term used to describe black female scholar-athletes by Don Imus. The media has gone after First Lady Michelle Obama as an angry black woman and has even been called a “baby’s mama”. If an educated, poised, intelligent woman like Michelle Obama can be attacked in this way, then no black woman is safe from these sorts of labels.

And last night, The Onion called Quvenzhané Wallis ” a cunt”. As if to say, “how dare she insist that people learn to pronounce her non-European name properly?!” And thank you Anti-Intellect for pointing out the hypocrisy of people who defend this little girl and her name simply because she is familiar and has a “veneer of respectability” from her association with Hollywood, when they would otherwise shame people with equally unique or “ghetto” names.

Campaigns like “Die Hoodrat, Die”, people like Tommy Sotomayor, and others ignore the socioeconomic realities that lead to dysfunction within the ghetto to target black women as though they are the cause. They blame single motherhood entirely on women; as though it is only black women who are responsible for the trend and never question if the idealized nuclear family model is all it’s cracked up to be in the first place. They blame black women they label as ghetto or a hoodrat without acknowledging the ghetto or the hood is a place. a place where economic depression, lack of access to quality education, poverty, crime, health disparities, institutionalized racism, etc all converge. This creates a reality where parents are absent (whether trying to make a living, or incarcerated, or struggling with addiction, etc), aggression is a means of survival, and all of this is happening within a larger culture that is fixated on conspicuous consumption. It is far too easy to write all of this off and argue that the people or women of the ghetto need to take personal responsibility for their lives. This approach is simplistic, anti-humanist, and yields no long-term solutions.

I have at times in my past been guilty of labeling other black women hoodrats or other negative things. But today, I reject that mindset as it kept me from seeing the humanity we share. It kept me from seeing how those perceptions by society at large tells not just black women but all people in the ghetto that they are neither worthy of love nor respect but disdain, dismissal, AND violence. It can and does effect their expectations of their society and of themselves.

If we want to see the culture of the ghetto change it is going to mean changing our mentality first. And this is why I do not believe that people that engage in this type of shaming care anything about these women or the betterment of the lives of people in the ghetto. This is about how misogyny allows people to uncritically blame women for the problems of society and how white supremacy encourages people to blame those it oppresses for their own oppression. This is about putting black women in their “place”. This is about shaming black women into subservience and conforming to patriarchal ideals, not the betterment of the race or the conditions faced by those in the ghetto. Pointing and laughing, shaming, and encouraging the use of violence to chasten people whose behavior you don’t approve of does not promote positive change. Anyone who defends that type of behavior with that sort of reasoning is either lying or uninformed. We have to change ourselves before we have any hope of helping to promote positive change elsewhere.


9 thoughts on “Black Women: Stereotypes, Shame, Violence, and Racialized Misogyny

  1. Emelyne says:

    Very thought-provoking critique. Thanks for posting!

  2. “Pointing and laughing, shaming, and encouraging the use of violence to chasten people whose behavior you don’t approve of does not promote positive change. Anyone who defends that type of behavior with that sort of reasoning is either lying or uninformed. We have to change ourselves before we have any hope of helping to promote positive change elsewhere.”

    EXACTLY! Thank you for posting this, I’m glad to see that there’s a pushback against the vilification of Black women.

  3. brent mosher says:

    And last night, The Onion called Quvenzhané Wallis ” a cunt”. As if to say, “how dare she insist that people learn to pronounce her non-European name properly?!” And thank you Anti-Intellect for pointing out the hypocrisy of people who defend this little girl and her name simply because she is familiar and has a “veneer of respectability” from her association with Hollywood, when they would otherwise shame people with equally unique or “ghetto” names”

    The Onion has apologized for the comment. However, it was intended as satire. Whether it was effective satire is questionable. And that The Onion made use of a 9 year old to make their point is IMO the main offense given here, not that she was black. The Onion’s point was that the media, and the public, love to tear down celebrity and find spurious reasons to hate them. They were emphasizing the sort of vitriol directed at people like Kristen Stewart, for example. Again, it was ill-considered of them to use a nine year old, who may not get the point, to make theirs. Obviously it went over the heads of many adults (which actually kind of helps make The Onions point.). It has been said that satire is lost on Americans. Some truth to that, I think.

    The Onion said nothing about the difficulty of pronouncing Quvenzhane’s name. You are reading that into the Tweet. Do you think the editors of The Onion seriously believe it would be acceptable to call a nine year old a cunt with a straight face? Isn’t that Rush Limbaugh’s turf?

    I’ve read other critiques of The Oscars from leftist blogs (I consider myself a leftist). I’m discouraged by the willful misrepresentation of facts and out-of-context quotes being used to make ideological hay.

    I agree with more than I disagree with in your post.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on Michele Obama presenting the Oscar for Best Film to a movie that whitewashes CIA involvement in Iran.

    • It was not satire. First what were they satirizing? No one has given a real answer to that. The fact of the matter is that that term is an extremely harsh sexualized insult to hurl at anyone even in jest. But what else bothers me is that this sort of thing happens frequently with black youth who are not given the presumption of innocence or seen as worthy of protection in the way that many white children are. Look at Trayvon Martin. Before all the facts of the case emerged many people were already trying to cast him as a thug or a hooligan in fact that is what George Zimmerman assumed he was when he chased the boy down.

      Given some of the other inappropriate things the Onion has said over the years I don’t care if it was said in jest or not. I don’t have to support that type of “humor” and nor will I defend it.

      As far as Michelle Obama presenting the Best Picture Oscar for Argo, I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with her acting as a presenter but what movie in Hollywood isn’t “whitewashed”? I mean look at Lincoln, a movie about the abolition of slavery and the passage of the 13th Amendment, that excludes prominent abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and others. I am sure the First Lady doesn’t get her history from film just as no one else should.

  4. brent mosher says:

    As I said in my comment, what was being satirized is the harsh vitriol directed at celebrity by the media and the public. Reread my post and I think it is clear. So, I do think a clear explanation of what the Tweet was intended to say has been given. I have also stated my own reservations about the Tweet, and concur with your concerns about black youth.

    A take on Michelle at the Oscars:

  5. […] Black Women: Stereotypes, Shame, Violence, and Racialized Misogyny ( […]

  6. Skeptical skeptic says:

    I agree with you completely. I am a guy and I hear these types of disrespectful comments daily. I believe that this type of racio-misogynistic thinking has it’s roots in patriarchy. The black woman is this and that , therefore I can abuse or use her because she is nothing. “My wife is crazy.” This is what an abusive man told me, once . We place a label and the whole context changes. It is not his fault that the marriage is failing his wife is , “crazy.” We exploit our women but it is ok because they are just so,”ghetto.” The label dictates the cure. We defend our harsh treatment of our women. Often young black males are referred to as thugs. Thugs are dangerous , so it is ok for the cops to shoot them. This mistreatment of black women must end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: