Despite a society hellbent on silencing their stories, there will always be nasty women, fragile women, slutty women…difficult women.Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women” went to print at a time when the United States was putting its first female Presidential nominee against its most vehemently and openly misogynistic candidate in this century. To beat that female nominee, the misogynist would use labels: “liar,” “criminal,” “traitor,” and more. The label that would later unite women across the US against him, however, would be “nasty woman.” He would follow up with “lying woman,” “frigid woman,” “man-eating woman,” and “crazy woman” before the end of the election. These labels are the very root of Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women”, a book about feminine labels, create at a time when the leader of the free world tried so hard to reduce women to labels, and the women found the strength to push them back. In fact, 2017 could be called the “Year of the Difficult Woman”. From the indictment of white women for electing Trump the black women who saved Alabama from itself, the pink pussy-hatted woman, silenced and disrespected women of Congress, as well as the most prominent difficult women, those of the #MeToo movement. The year was all about women marching, speaking up and speaking out against the sexual harassment that men once thought was their birthright. It was as if the Universe had read Gay’s work and decided to have it acted out in a single year. In 21 stories and 256 pages, Gay explores the labels given to women in today’s society when that woman becomes something other than compliant. She takes the label, distorts it with the image of the woman carrying it. That distortion reduces the woman to a character that is still human, but now she is her label but is more palatable to a reader who has been conditioned to NOT see past the label. By the end of the story, the reader has no choice but to see the strength and power that underlies every woman as she struggles under the auspices of the label. The reader must empathize with her or simply gather an understanding and move on. This is how each woman fared in the 21 stories.
Stop believing what other people have to say about Black women, and start believing what Black women have to say about ourselves.This week, rumors about actor and heartthrob Michael B. Jordan's alleged new girlfriend — Latina Instagram model, Ashlyn Castro — began to take root. Almost immediately after, news of a boycott against "Black Panther" appeared, supposedly led by Black women (but we didn't get that memo). Not a boycott of Michael B. Jordan or any of his other upcoming projects. Just "Black Panther", which is currently everybody's favorite Black power emblem. In this narrative, Black women quickly became traitors to our race, thoughtless and trivial. Our imagined lack of support for "Black Panther" translated very easily into a lack of support for Black men altogether, and this was used as a justification for the misogynoir that ensued. First of all, the sheer ease and momentum with which this wildfire rumor spread is proof enough for me that some people simply cannot wait to talk shit about Black women. All they need is a reason to air their already long or deeply-held misogynoir, whether or not that reason is based in any truth. The "Black women are boycotting "Black Panther" because Michael B. Jordan is dating a non-Black woman" hoax of 2018 was a pathetic attempt to make Black women appear bitter and paint us as irrational and irresponsible, unfit to make decisions about the media we consume — an old song that also plays during conversations about Black women's love for "Scandal" and disdain for "Birth of a Nation". The beginnings of it rest on misogynoir as much as the public’s willingness to believe in it does. Created by a known troll account on Instagram, ground zero of the fake "Black Panther" boycott effortlessly built its narrative around a familiar stereotype: Black women become irrationally angry when Black men date people of other races, especially white and white-presenting women (I'm sorry this discussion is so cisnormative and heteronormative). This is a belief that continues to grow more and more, with less and less context in each evolution. Even Jordan Peele's "Get Out" dipped its toe in this flavor of misogynoir when Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) insisted to his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), that the most likely reason for Georgina’s (Betty Gabriel) apparent coldness towards him was because she did not like the fact that he was in a relationship with a white woman. He had no evidence to support this claim when Rose questioned it, except to flatly say, “It's a thing.”
The harassment that Page faces particularly hit home for me because it shined a light on the specific struggles that LGBTQ+ people face.[TW: discussions of sexual violence and harassment, homophobia.] If you've been taking note of anything in public media lately, you've most likely seen accusations of powerful Hollywood figures committing acts of sexual violence finally getting the publicity it needs. In fact, it's hard to take note of what was in the news outside of that. Day after day, we've seen stories shattering the facade that these abusers have so carefully crafted in the public sphere. The lock has been lifted on Hollywood's secret of sexual violence, and there's no turning back. But despite the long list of survivors telling their stories, the stories keep coming. For me, one that took my particular attention was Ellen Page's. Page took to her Facebook page last week to speak on the sexual harassment that she experienced. As she writes, she was harassed by director Brett Ratner, who she worked with X-Men: The Last Stand when she was 18. In the post, she speaks on the deliberate outing of her sexuality that she had to endure, slurs and derogatory comments that Ratner made about her and other women on set, and even comments suggesting that Page be "...f*cked so she realize that she's gay."
It Has Nothing To Do With Clothing — Black Women’s Bodies Are Hypersexualized No Matter What We Wear
Black women's bodies are hyper-sexualized and we need to make sure the language around body positivity doesn't reinforce racist and sexist fetishization.Demetria Obilor, traffic reporter at a Texas news station, recently responded to body-shaming comments made about her style of dress. The comments focused on her body size and her choice to wear clothing that does not hide her figure. This situation is reminiscent of Patrice Brown, more commonly and affectionately known as Teacher Bae, who suddenly found herself under a microscope and under review by her employer when a photo of her went viral and garnered comments about how her wardrobe was inappropriate for the classroom. Both of these women, and many more, are fighting a constant battle against unwarranted and unwelcome commentary about their bodies and how they choose to dress them. Not necessarily because of their size, but because of their shape. “Has anyone seen Channel 8’s new morning traffic reporter? Her name is Demetria Obilor & she’s a size 16/18 woman in a size 6 dress and she looks ridiculous,” wrote Jan Shedd in a now-deleted Facebook post. “I understand that when I watch Channel 8 I’m going to get biased reporting and political correctness, but clearly they have taken complete leave of their senses. I’m not going to watch Channel 8 anymore.” The post went viral after Chance the Rapper retweeted a screenshot of it with the simple caption “BIIIIIIG MAD.” https://twitter.com/fabfreshandfly/status/926508650947940352 https://twitter.com/chancetherapper/status/926519148988989441 Obilor's response was astute, matter of fact, and refreshing: “A quick word to those people: this is the way that I’m built, this is the way I was born, I’m not going anywhere, so if you don’t like it you have your options.” While I support Demetria and her response to the racism and body shaming she continues to experience, I feel like there's something else to be found beneath its many layers. Something else about this situation bothers me. Both Obilor and Brown are “pear” shaped, light-skinned Black women. Their very existence in the bodies they were born into is readily fetishized, and not just by the color struck purveyors of colorism. With their light skin, small waistlines, and prominent hips and butts, they inhabit the seemingly most desired, coveted, and worshipped body type, for Black women especially. But there is something at play here besides the fact that people of all races, genders, and sexualities constantly attempt to police Black women's bodies. It's beyond the fact that Black women, regardless of appearance, are always-already sexualized. It's beyond the fact that curvy body types are always deemed inappropriate no matter what we wear.