Misogynoir: The Awful Cocktail of Patriarchal and White Supremacist Toxins

I’ve talked about white supremacy. I’ve talked about patriarchy. Combine those two toxins and you get misogynoir, the vile poison suffered by women of color, and more specifically, black women. 

When asked to address this, I joked and told Geri Miller the amount of rum it would take for me to discuss misogynoir would put me in a coma. I wish that was funny. I don’t want to write about this sober. I’m not qualified to discuss this with nuance and deftness. 

Also, I am out of rum. 

Coined by a queer black feminist Moya Bailey, misogynoir lies at the heart of all of what we think of as intersectionality. If you could imagine a Venn diagram that displays the overlap of racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia, the cruel bullseye at its center is misogynoir. 

For everyone who’s watched The Handmaid’s Tale and thought that it’s predictive of what will happen in this country as they attempt to strip women of the right to determine their own reproductive rights: You’re wrong. It’s not a dystopian future, it’s the actual history of black women in this country.

Part of the essential process of colonizing the Caribbean and the Americas was the systemic rape of Indigenous and African women. Officially, the import of African slaves was banned in 1808, not for any altruistic reason, but for a fiduciary one: 

It was simply more profitable to breed slaves than to buy them. 

Black women’s names were taken from them, their identity as humans all but erased. They were treated like brood sows, their babies ripped from their arms at the moment of birth, and assigned deeds of property instead of birth certificates. 

Black women were bred like cattle. Slaves, not tobacco or cotton, was the South’s most profitable industry. At its peak, port cities like Richmond VA were exporting between 10,000-20,000 slaves per month. 

The right to treat black and brown women’s bodies as possessions is in the DNA of this country. Racism and sexism have acted as force multipliers for their oppression. From Sarah Baartman who was paraded around in a cage like an animal for her beauty, to the pervasive portrayal of black women as deviantly hypersexual (by the men who were raping them), misogynoir is (and has been) a cudgel used to beat these indomitable women into submission for centuries.

There’s nothing subtle about misogynoir. 

Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” The list of grievances that are both racist and sexist black and brown women face daily exceeds my ability to convey.

I don’t want to create labor for any black or brown women reading this. I don’t want the indignities suffered daily to be entertainment. If there are any women of color reading this who feel safe sharing their experiences (both muted and profane) for the purpose of enlightenment and edification, please do so in the comments. 

Hopefully, men and women of good intent will share your thoughts, and develop demonstrable empathy for your pain, and unshakable respect for your dignity, compassion, and endurance.

This invite is open ONLY to women of color. If you’re not a brown woman but would like to leave sub-comments to thank these women for sharing and let them know they are seen, by all means do so.