White supremacy is one hell of a drug. But couple white supremacy and patriarchy and you enter the world of a black woman. The effects of structural racism are covered extensively; from institutions who kill black people that they’re meant to protect and serve to black people being rejected from work.
Misogyny, a product of patriarchal culture, is the reason black women are erased out when names of black victims of police brutality are listed. Not too long ago a protest was held in San Francisco to name the women, trans and cis, who have died by the hands of police. The protesters stood topless, with names and messages written on their chest. What happened next on social media? Onslaught. Name calling, from whore to slut to black bitches. People decided to disregard the message behind the protest and focus on the fact that they stood topless.
The sexualisation of women’s breast has genuinely made people see nothing in a topless man parading the streets but let a woman do the same, and she becomes deserving of derision. It would be dishonest to not outline the fact that these women had insults rained on them more because they were black.
The hyper-sexualisation of black women’s bodies is what makes it easier for a man, of any race, to call a black woman a slut in comparison to white women. In general, women are expected to suppress their sexuality. We’re not meant to even entertain the idea of embracing sexuality.
But black women’s bodies, for decades, have been viewed as a commodity. Our bodies can be taken by others, copied by others (cc: Kardashian clan) and these women receive a whole load of praise. But God forbid we reclaim it for ourselves. We’re even told by black men that we may no longer be “needed” once a white woman manages to purchase a big butt. Unless you happen to be related to them, we’re mere walking and talking arses (or mules but that’s another topic).
Black women from all walks of life are subjected to this same scrutiny. In an attempt (a successful one, I believe) to reclaim her sexuality and body as a grown woman, Beyoncé released a digital album where she dances erotically for a man she loves; she talks about being “Drunk in Love” and “grinding on wood”. (White) Feminists used their media platform to berate her, “slut” shame her and talk about her doing it for the “male gaze”. Yet sweet little Miley Cyrus can twerk, co-opt black culture and be sexual because she’s just being a carefree white girl. Cute, isnt it?
Black feminism has helped me to understand just how well white supremacy and patriarchy go together. I have learned from amazing women on social media (e.g. @FeministaJones @YungSapGawd / @FrenchHeaux and @judeinlondon), unlearned (and still unlearning) internalised misogyny and continue to let people know that we are humans; multifaceted human beings at that. I do not choose between being black and being a woman because I cannot choose. My experiences will always be a result of both combined.
Editor’s Note: A Black Feminist hero, is Brixton’s own Olive Morris. The Remembering Olive Morris Collective are staging rally to her memory today in Brixton, South London. Details here:
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/839226729479837/
This is part of the new Black Friday series on ALL BLACK EVERYTHING section of Media Diversified. We will be publishing articles from a range of activists, poets, artists and writers which will culminate in a real-life discussion and meet-up in London in August. If you want to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: ALL BLACK EVERYTHING