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Misogyny and Black Youth: Silence Equals Death

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    The educator/journalist observed that some of the boys in her classroom were “bursting with perspective” on “the widespread use of the words ‘bitch’ and ‘ho’ to describe young women of color on campus.” Not so with the girls, who were largely silent on the subject. When pressed, some of the girls “claim the words are justifiably used to describe ‘bad girls’ who are promiscuous and unruly, not realizing that black women have always been deemed “bad” in the eyes of the dominant culture, as less than feminine, as bodies for pornographic exploitation.” There is a crying need to “change the self-hating mindset of many young black women,” made worse by “a generation of Bush-besotted militarism and corporate reign over media [that] has turned sexualized violence against women into a billion dollar industry.”

    Misogyny and Black Youth: Silence Equals Death
    by Sikivu Hutchinson
    My students slam other girls for being “hoochies” and sloganeer violent misogynist lyrics without a second thought.”
    There is silence in the classroom.  Even amidst the clockwatching ten minutes-before-the-bell-rings clamor of a typical high school class there is silence, deafening and thick as quicksand. I have asked the class a question about the widespread use of the words “bitch” and “ho” to describe young women of color on campus and several boys are holding forth in response.  They are the same four opinionated boys who have been the most vocal throughout these sessions, always ready with a quip, a deflection or, sometimes, serious commentary that reveals deep wisdom.  They are bursting with perspective on this topic, but the girls in the room are silent.  Some twist in their seats, some study the tops of their desks in calculated boredom, transporting themselves outside of the room, slain by the language of dehumanization. 
    Finally a few girls chime in and say they use the terms casually with friends, as in “my b or my h,” supposedly neutralizing their negative connotations akin to the way they use the word “nigga.”  Some claim the words are justifiably used to describe “bad girls” who are promiscuous and unruly, not realizing that black women have always been deemed “bad” in the eyes of the dominant culture, as less than feminine, as bodies for pornographic exploitation.  When I wondered aloud whether white women call themselves bitch as a term of endearment I got uncertain responses.  My guess is that they don’t, not because white women are necessarily more enlightened and self-aware than women of color on gender, but because white femininity is the beauty ideal and hence the human ideal.  Despite the misogyny that pervades American culture there is inherent value placed on the lives of white women.  Every aspect of the image industry affirms their existence, and the spectrum of culturally recognized white femininity extends from proper and pure to sexually liberated.
    Despite the misogyny that pervades American culture there is inherent value placed on the lives of white women.”
    This is exemplified by the tabloid media’s obsession with missing white women and white girls.  Plastered on the main pages of websites like AOL, relentlessly rammed down our collective throats in titillating morsels with whiffs of sexuality and scandal, poster child Caylee Anderson and company are a metaphor for Middle America’s Little Red Riding Hood fetishization of white femininity.  Tabloid media narratives of imperiled white females highlight the suburban virtues of white Middle America and not so subtlely evoke the social pathologies of the so-called inner city. Indeed, the spectacles of grief, mourning, and community outrage trotted out on CNN and FOX not only program viewers to identify with the injustice that has been done to the victim and her family, but to her community. In the world of 24-7 media these victims become our girls, our daughters, while the “bs” and “hs” of the inner city symbolize the disorder and ungovernableness of an urban America whose values must be kept at bay.
    Awareness about the relationship between pervasive violence against black women in the media and male behavior is lacking.”
    In many regards this is part of the same so-called post-feminist trend of telling women to sit down and shut up, to internalize the values of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and stay in their place.  A generation of Bush-besotted militarism and corporate reign over media has turned sexualized violence against women into a billion dollar industry, as illustrated by global romance with gangsta rap, violent video games and Internet pornography.  Yet the desensitization of young black women to these trends is perhaps the most painful.  When I talk to my students about the staggering rates of sexual assault and intimate partner abuse in black communities they are quick to judge themselves and their peers for inciting male violence.  Unable to see themselves and their lives as valuable, they slam other girls for being “hoochies” and sloganeer violent misogynist lyrics without a second thought.  Awareness about the relationship between pervasive violence against black women in the media and male behavior is lacking.  During the 2008-2009 school year a few South L.A. schools have been willing to partner with media literacy organizations like the Women of Color Media Justice Initiative on a gender equity curriculum that trains young people to engage in media advocacy.  But unless we change the self-hating mindset of many young black women, silence—as the 1980s gay activist group ACT-UP’s saying goes—does equal death, as we are poised to lose another generation to a media-colonized sense of self worth.
    Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of blackfemlens.org, a commentator for KPFK 90.7 FM and co-founder of the Women of Color Media Justice Initiative, a partnership with the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, the Ida B. Wells Institute, Mother’s Day Radio and the Women’s Leadership Project. She can be contacted at sikivu@blackfemlens.org
     

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    I agree

    Misogyny is a global problem.  It occurs against women of all colors and shapes.
     
    I think Black men use injustices against them to rationalize or trivialize the wrongs they commit against women.  I think the same thing about the atrocities that Israel commits against its neighbors.  Jews suffered a great wrongdoing at the hands of gentiles, so they get to be excused for the atrocities they commit.  It is a mindset about always being the victim and not taking responsiblity for your own actions.  BTW, this mindset is not limited to Jewish people and Black men.
     

    What does unity mean?

     
    Violence towards women both physically and psychologically is unfortunately too true for so many in the US and the world.

     It is my opinion that, skimming over the facts and deeper reasons for it as well as making unfounded assumptions about how one ethnic group of women view themselves compared to the self conscious views that others have of themselves is not only careless it is an under handed attempt (conscious or otherwise) to place a value judgment on one or the others injuries or pain resulting from said abuses; in effect making some women's suffering less important than others(exactly what you accuse the media of doing). Along with weakening the fight for women's rights through color divisions.  Men dominate women because they can and have since before religion gave him more reasons to do so. And those reasons for Black men abusing and demoralizing Black women, for example, has little if anything directly to do with the dominant power structure's (actually out moded) pristine-suburban portrayal of white Women or the resultant self image issues that permeate the minds of many, many women in our culture. But, it may very well be a clue as to why Black men abuse white women.

    You write:

    "Despite the misogyny that pervades American culture there is inherent value placed on the lives of white women.  Every aspect of the image industry affirms their existence, and the spectrum of culturally recognized
    white femininity extends from proper and pure to sexually liberated."

    Some of that may be true, However, inherent value is an innate quality that nature preordains, it can't be placed on anything. However the Mythology that something or someone  embodies said innate qualities and/or abilities can be crafted into fooling generations of people. And so, by keeping Blacks, whites and Hispanics and Native peoples ignorant of one another, sans stereotypes, Mass media keeps us ignorant of the sufferings of the other in an attempt to reinforce and pervert our sometimes overly self conscious victim concepts.

    Do you really believe that white women are any more sexually liberated than any other group of women?

    Do you consider the fact that white women are the dominant female ethnicity objectified in both pornography( and i ain't just talk in' Play Boy) as well as mainstream advertising  is an inherently liberating status?

    Are you aware that instead of white women being called bitch and Ho by there white male counterparts and or one another, that they are affectionately referred to as pigs, bitches and cunts?

    Are you aware of the damage that white woman do to themselves everyday in order to comply with and maintain the image that Madison avenue and your aforementioned dominant culture Hegemony projects onto them to maintain a lie; to be loved;  to deny; and to die unfulfilled, mistreated, dehumanized, replaceable things?

    And since the beginning days of missing children appearing on milk cartons, I have always, unfortunately, observed there being black and Latino as well as white kids advertised.

    Have you researched into the reasons why some black families don't have their missing advertised as well as why all whites do not?

    You also make the clumsy suggestion that only Blacks inhabit urban areas and that the suburbs are a utopia of refinement pertaining to male/female relations, absent of sexual deviance populated by whites.

    Well, just for the record; some of the most renowned recording artists and exponents of so Called gangster rap with all of its misogynistic rhetoric and violent braggadocio was and is promulgated by young Black men who grew up in two parent suburban house holds. But, I suppose the money hungry and bigoted white music company executives forced them to make those records. That the record companies are run by greedy white and bigoted execs., along with s few Blacks with their eyes on the bottom line, ill concerned with gender politics is a fact. But they are one factor in the equation, subtracting them doesn't solve the whole problem.

    The burden of guilt of any and all violence to anyone anywhere in our societies
    aught to fall on the shoulders of all those who perpetrate and perpetuate; not just the politically convenient usual suspects. And maybe the government needs to be shored up to do more than hand out chump change to support women's issues, it aught to be making real changes in our society the effect the root causes of why shit trickles down hill.

    Drop the useless mind games and Unite.
     

    Great article. However, while

    Great article. However, while Black women are less likely to get news coverage when missing/rape/etc compared to white women, the same is true when compared to Black men. It is even true on BAR. 03/25/2009 there was a cover about Oscar Grant, an article about a young man being shot to death by murderous police officers, but that story was about a month years old at the time. Why when BAR can talk about some current horrible events, like the one year old girl who was beaten to death by her stepfather for being "disrespectful?" ( http://www.theindychannel.com/news/18926909/detail.html#- ). Or, for something a bit more recent, the judge in New York that immunized transit workers who watched a passenger being raped without calling the police? ( http://www.nypost.com/seven/04012009/news/regionalnews/subway_rapist_victims_shock_162317.htm ). When talking about dated news, why haven't BAR ever talked about the atrocities of Dunbar Village, FL? ( http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-1012dunbardetails,0,1022496.story ). Outside of Cynthia McKinney, who I support wholeheartedly, what Black woman does BAR regularly report on?
     
    It is important to know that Black women are undervalued when compared to white women AND Black men.

    THIS IS WHY BLACK WOMEN ARE RARELY ASSOCIATED WITH FEMINISM

    The reality is that black men are at the BOTTOM of the American social order.

    To LL

    I was going to grace your comment with an in-depth one of my own. I was seriously about to spend my time and energy to give a retort of a lifetime, complete with well documented sources to prove that Black men are as much the victim as they are the propagandizers of their own problems, especially when it came to issues in the Black community as it related to sexism, heterosexism, and religion (as are Black women). But then I realized something... there is something ingrained in you to want to feel like a victim that no matter of logic would change the way you think, and I would be just wasting my time.  I did mention the fact that Black women were undervalued in relation to both Black men and white women because while I can watch millions of white female kidnapped faces and Black male murder victims on the mainstream news, it is hardpressed to find anything that highlights the life and times of Black women. However, my statement above was not about any oppression olympics between Black women and men, but the lack of fair coverage over both of our issues on BAR. I am not interested in playing "I'm-more-victimized-than-you." I am more interested in seeing Black women's issues being documented at Black Agenda Report because Black women do make up about HALF of the group known as "Black people."
     
    Thank you,
    Mari-Djata
     
    PS: Please, step your feminist knowledge game up, because, from what it seems, you do not know the first thing about it or its successes/failures in the Black community... knowledge is power.

    IS IT BETTER TO BE IGNORED OR NEGATIVELY STEREOTYPED?

    Instead of dealing with the reality that black men are at the BOTTOM of the American social order, neoliberals exploit real, black misogyny with the usual weapon of choice: black misandry.

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