by Rafaella Gunz
Last month, the revamped version of the 1980s smash Ghostbusters was released, featuring an all-female cast of Ghostbusters. The film was heralded by many, including some of the stars, as a “girl power” flick. Melissa McCarthy, who plays Abby in the film, even Tweeted a photo of all the women in the cast and crew of the film saying, “When we stand together, we are unstoppable!”
But is that really the case now?
Actress Leslie Jones, who plays Patty, has been the target of online abuse since the movie’s release. As the only black woman in the cast, the harassment reeks of misogynoir. It started last month when she was forced off Twitter because of all the racist and sexist remarks flung her way. Then, this week, her website was hacked and defaced with her private nude photos as well as pictures of her driver’s license and passport.
Yet none of her co-stars have said anything in her defense. In fact, very few of the mainstream (read: white) faces of feminism have said or done much of anything to defend Jones from this abuse. Surprisingly, the only major celebrity who posted a Tweet with the hashtag #IStandWithLeslie was Katy Perry.
I took to social media to see how women of color felt about this issue.
“Before the abuse on Twitter came, the Ghostbusters film was getting a lot of slack, some being actual criticisms of the movie, but most being criticisms of the main characters, all female,” says Yolanda, an 18-year-old woman of color from London, England. “This movie was a step forward for Hollywood, allowing women to take charge in their roles and show their many layers. However, only one of the four main actresses faced disgusting racial abuse: Leslie Jones.”
“The abuse proved that women of color walk a different road from white women, who walk a different road from white men,” she continues.
“Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident. The attitudes towards prominent women of color have always been disgusting,” says Sheri, a 21-year-old black woman also from the United Kingdom. “Look at the incidents with Zendaya and Michelle Obama, for example, constantly being told that they have to either ignore racist and sexist comments or get off the internet.”
“What upsets me and angers me the most is how society has proven time and time again how the feelings and needs of black women aren’t as important as the feelings and needs of white women, and how we have almost become desensitized to the pain of women of color,” Yolanda says.
Sheri isn’t surprised that Jones’ co-stars haven’t said a word about this. “White women are reluctant to stick up for their black co-workers in the face of racism, either due to discomfort or lack of caring,” she says.
“What happened with Leslie was racial bullying, causing her to leave Twitter, yet only a small amount of her fellow comedians gave her support. This is because nobody is talking about the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to recognize the racial and cultural differences in women, especially as some people actually believe that racism ended in the ‘60s,” Yolanda says. “This was a sad time for women but an even sadder time for women of color.”
As feminists in 2016, it’s imperative that we believe in intersectionality — the idea that different identities, such as race, class, gender, disability and sexual orientation — intersect and are not stand-alone issues. It’s important that we stand up for all women, regardless of how their backgrounds differ from ours, when they are facing abuse like Jones. We cannot sit idly by during these times. Feminists: #StandWithLeslie.
Rafaella Gunz is a recent graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. Her work has previously been published on Ravishly, Slutist, Feministing, Guerrilla Feminism, The Tab, and DeadState. Visit her website: ellagunz.com.