We Need To Talk About Misogynoir

We Need To Talk About Misogynoir

How the racist and sexist attacks against Leslie Jones highlight a much larger problem in America.

These last few months have not been kind to Leslie Jones. Although the Saturday Night Live actress had a starring role in the fourth installment of Ghostbusters, her box office success was overshadowed by an onslaught of racist and sexist attacks on Jones’ Twitter feed, causing her to temporarily remove herself from Twitter to escape the harassment. She rose above the hatred and used her comedic talents to support Team USA in Rio during the 2016 Olympics, but found the hatred was waiting for her to return home. On Wednesday, her personal account JustLeslie.com was hacked and plastered with more racist and sexist imagery. Nude photos and other personal information was stolen from her iCloud account and shared with the world. Memes and video tributes of Harambe, the gorilla who was killed at a Cincinnati Zoo earlier in the summer, were posted to her site as well, echoing racist remarks that bombarded the actress earlier in July after Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a scathing review of the female lead Ghostbusters movie. Although white actresses have found themselves the victims of nude photo leaks and computer hacks in the past, these attacks on Leslie Jones are unique as they force a spotlight on how the misogyny and hatred that women of color face is much more nuanced than the general misogyny white women are faced with in a patriarchal society. These attacks show that our society still has a long way to go on resolving both issues of race and gender equality, and if feminists are to have any hope in dismantling such hatred in our culture the intersectional movement must shine a light on the issue of misogynoir.

Misogynoir Is Different From Everyday Misogyny

In recent history feminism has pushed the belief that misogyny, or the hatred of women, is universal and that no matter one’s race, class or creed all women experience this cultural disdain of the feminine in a similar manner. This not true, however and is in fact an oversimplification of a complex issue. Although all women benefit from the destruction of a patriarchal value system, women of color, especially African-American women, have found that they not only experience basic sexism but that these experiences are compounded by racial hierarchies within our society. In 2010, gay black feminist scholar Moya Baile named this phenomenon “misogynoir” in order to discuss the intricate misogyny that is so deeply tied to race. In the United States, misogynoir stems from racial bias that was created with slavery, allowing for one group to be held in higher or lower regard based on the color of their skin. After slavery was abolished, white supremacy continued to create a racial caste system with the implementation of Jim Crow laws, allowing for the continuation of the dehumanization of African-Americans in our society. Couple this with patriarchal standards that dictate many norms in American culture, African-American women had twice as much prejudice to deal with compared to their white counterparts. Now, only 52 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, these ideas of white supremacy still lurk just below the surface in American culture, from workplace discrimination all the way to media representation of African-American women.

One example of misogynoir is that although 1 in 5 women will experience rape in their lifetime, statistics show that minority women in the United States experience violent crime at a much higher rate than white women. Even among other minorities, women within the African-American community often find they are victims of violent crime more frequently than other minority women. The Bureau of Justice has stated that 22.5 of every 1000 non-Latino African American women will experience violence in their lifetime compared to 16.2 of every 1000 Hispanic women that will experience violence against them. It is not only violence that African-American women experience differently, however. While white women on average make 78 cents for every white man’s dollar, African-American women’s pay averages to 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. Society often attributes this trend on the amount of higher education that white women hold compared to African-American women. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, however, black women have been earning bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at higher rates than their white counterparts since 2010 and this trend is expected to continue. Yet, even when the statistics show that white women have actually earned less education, white women still make up 43% of higher paying management compared to 35% of African American women in the same category ,in addition to white women being paid more in the long run. Studies found that if one’s name appears overtly African American, one is less likely to receive a job offer even if their credentials are identical to an applicant with a white sounding name. Women are more likely to be discriminated against in hiring and promotions which is believed to stem from sex biases that paint women as emotional and often unreliable due to their ability to become pregnant and take maternity leave. However, African American women, especially women who are easily identifiable as black, are overall much more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace due to the joint biases of race and gender that still thrive in a majority white patriarchal society.

Media Bias, Misogynoir and the Attack on Leslie Jones

Although America is an independent culture that values individualism and free will, this does not preclude Americans from being influenced by what they view. Mass media is often a reflection of overall culture, or an idealistic version of a culture , and our culture is what dictates what is and what is not acceptable and normal. It has the ability to influence the way someone feels about certain issues and can normalize what was once hard to imagine. It can change one’s mind for the better or plant fears for the worst. Evidence of this can be found in how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited with influencing how many white northerners viewed slavery during the Civil War Era as many of the northerners who had not been personally touched by slavery came to realize its depravity after reading the story. Birth of a Nation, a movie that is often deemed one of the most racist films in history, caused a surge in Klan membership and was thought to have influenced post-Civil War fears of free slaves in southern states, which eventually led to the creation of Jim Crow laws. Mass media has a much broader reach now than it did in the Civil War Era, and the reach has brought with it an influence that is powerful.

Studies show that the average American spends an average of 11 hours and 52 minutes a day watching some form of media, meaning the subtle influences that shape our understanding of the world has much more time with the average person. This is time spent with advertisements and shows that place importance on Eurocentric beauty standards and quite often depict women of color negatively, if at all. In a University of Southern California study, it was found that only 33.5 % of characters in media were female, even though women make up 50.4% of the American population, and that less than 28.3% of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial or ethnic backgrounds, even though minority groups make up more than 40% of the overall population. Studies have also shown that when African American women are featured in broadcasts, they are often depicted in stereotypical and negative fashions, allowing for the overall belief in tropes such as “the angry black woman”, the “baby mama”, and other hypersexualized stereotypes to be accepted by the masses. This contributes heavily to the continuation of misogynoir in American society. Media also contributes by projecting Eurocentric beauty standards as the determination of beauty in America. Due to the patriarchal value system in our society, a woman’s worth is often determined by her ability to carry out certain gender roles, one being the ability to be beautiful. These standards of beauty are set by what is deemed by the media as beautiful. When the majority of “beautiful women” on television and other forms of media are depicted as white or light skinned, soft haired and very thin, this excludes women like Leslie Jones or other African American women like Serena Williams or Michelle Obama from being viewed as beautiful, therefore they unable to achieve a “valued” status in our society. The only way for a black woman to be considered "beautiful" with these standards, is to appear very close to white. When women like Leslie Jones, who do not fit these standards, dare to make themselves seen in American society, these women are often attacked to discourage other women from challenging the status quo. Ironically, certain features and styles that are prominent within the African American community are coveted by white society such as larger lips, larger butts and curly hairstyles. However, these features are only deemed “beautiful” or valuable when they appear on a white body, showing that America values what many women of color have, just not women of color themselves. This inability to value a person allows for that person's dehumanization to be normalized, eventually creating situations such as the sexist and racist attacks on Leslie Jones that happened earlier in the week.

If society ever hopes to avoid other attacks like the ones Leslie Jones has endured, society must look inward and face the problems that have been lurking just below the surface for decades. Although it was a group of trolls who brought these problems to Ms. Jones, our society must also be held accountable for contributing to a way of life that for too long has devalued black and brown women. We must think critically about how the media influences us and we must demand inclusiveness in our media so that women of color can be depicted as people, not stereotypes, which will eventually change our society’s way of thinking of women of color. Subconscious bias can slowly be changed so that African American women will be given equal opportunities and be just as valued as white women in America. This value will allow for issues such as violence against women of color to be challenged and create safer environments for women everywhere. Society must stop denying that both sexism and racism no longer exist and feminists must become intersectional to face this complex issue head on. It’s time to start valuing women of color in this country. Here’s to you, Leslie Jones. Feminists everywhere are fighting for you and standing with you. You are talented, beautiful and so valued. We love you!

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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