What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Misogynoir – Black Women in the Way

Don’t forget to check out last month’s post and the introduction!

wfrll - misogynoir - black women in the way

I may later eat my words because I haven’t seen more than season 1 of ToS or any of the movies but I hate that Uhura in the reboot is just a love sick puppy that follows Spock around. Like she doesn’t even resemble herself and she feels less of a character. (A tweet from twitter user @meganbytetweets from 2/4/2018.)

That sucks i just really hate iris and barry idk i rather ship him with linda, patty or caitlin lol (A tweet from twitter user Amber_G27 from 4/6/2018.)

Few things inspire more misogynoir than a Black female character that fandom thinks “gets in the way” of a ship involving two white characters.

When Zoe Saldana was cast as Nyota Uhura in the 2009 Star Trek reboot film series, fans were fine… until it was revealed that Saldana’s Uhura was also in an established and committed relationship with Spock.

Then it became a problem.

The moment that Uhura became a fleshed out character that served a love interest to Spock, she became a threat to Kirk/Spock and Spock/Bones slash shippers.

She became an obstacle.

I’ve already written a little bit about the way that fandom treats Uhura in the aftermath of Star Trek: Beyond.

However, I understand that many people simply don’t know what the fandom was like and how they continue to treat Uhura years later.

Uhura went from “simply” being ignored and written as a sassy Black friend from the Sixties/TOS-based fandom to being Public Enemy Number One.

The fandom was (is still) full of people that called her a whore/U-whore-a. To this day, there are folks who insist on accusing her of “sleeping her way to her current position” even though she literally only has a single canon relationship and sex positive feminism should have room for people/characters we don’t like.

The fandom also constantly killed her off or vilified her in fanworks so that a white guy (Bones or Kirk) could pick up the pieces and comfort Spock – with their dick, of course.

Folks in fandom reached for the familiar “convenient excuses” I mentioned in the last installment so that they could say she was boring/didn’t have any purpose in the updated franchise.

They say these things despite the fact that Uhura’s xenolinguistic skills are super relevant to the films and even though it’s obvious that Beyond would’ve ended quite differently without her.

Some folks in the fandom even purposefully misrepresented her relationship with Spock in order to make it problematic.


Stitch Computer530
In this screencap from Star Trek (2011-2016) #18, Uhura tells Spock that: “Actually, Commander, I uploaded my thesis last week and it’s already  been collated and graded. If you’d care to check, you’ll see that I finished with the highest score in the class. Now, considering I’ve completed the course and you no longer have any impact on my academic future, I was hoping to ask you to dinner. How’s that sound?”

There were folks who went out of their way to portray the relationship as a student/teacher one because Spock was Uhura’s professor — which ignores that they didn’t start dating until she was done with his class and that they’re in the same age group.

There are folks who’ve misrepresented the (again, established) relationship as abusive, citing Uhura initiating physical contact with Spock as something that was inherently abusive because he’s a Vulcan and they’re not touchy. Never mind that Uhura and Spock were in a relationship…

And when all that failed to get Uhura written off by fandom, they went with the tactic I referred to in my piece on Uhura: trying to claim that her relationship with Spock was in some way “unfeminist” because she was being “reduced” to a love interest.

This has been going on since 2008/9 and honestly, the fandom has shown no sign of stopping as long as the two characters are in a relationship in canon.

There’s something about 2008 and 2009 in fandom, honestly. Those two years were some of the earliest and worst years for Black women in fandom. (If you don’t know about Racefail ’09, get educated.)

I don’t know why fandom from 2008 onward overwhelmingly decided that when faced with Black women as love interests to their white faves, the response they needed to have led to… Black women (real and fictional) receiving a ton of terrible comments from fans who would otherwise describe themselves as feminists.

A year before the Star Trek reboot film series began, misogynoir reared its racist head within the fandom for BBC series Merlin. This misogynoir directly followed the series’ decision to cast Black British actress Angel Coulby’s as Guinevere in the series opposite Bradley James’ Arthur Pendragon.

Despite the fact that this is a show with a giant, talking dragon and tons of magical and mythological figures scattered across the United Kingdom, the most unrealistic thing to fandom was a light skinned Black woman playing “the fair” Guinevere.

That was where they drew the line.

It’s no surprise that the fandom’s main ship was one that Gwen “got in the way of”: Arthur and the titular Merlin.

Two white guys with a mildly antagonistic relationship that literally shapes the history of the UK… fandom can’t get enough of the ship.

And with Gwen being the ~canonical~ love interest for half of their ship, they constantly championed her being shunted from the narrative. Even the folks that didn’t ship Merlin and Arthur replaced her with a “more relatable” character – Morgana – who was conveniently both white and raised as Arthur’s sister.

Those two things made her unthreatening while Gwen’s Blackness and her romance (with Arthur and with Lancelot) rendered her threatening to their established fanon and desire for white romance.

Whenever a Black female character is placed in proximity to a white male character and is important to him – either as straight up family or n the course of a romantic relationship – fandom revolts.

The insults to the character, her performer, and Black female fans are the most obvious aspect of misogynoir but let’s be very real here: this is only the tip of the iceberg.

While almost everyone actually knows that insulting Black women because they’re Black women is wrong – even if they hem and haw so they don’t have to engage with that realization – there’s another layer to the misogynoiristic treatment of these Black women.

Think about how fandoms that are all about shipping will claim that Black female characters – like Nyota Uhura, Nakia (Black Panther), Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow) – would be better off single because “men and women can just be friends” and “x is a strong black woman that doesn’t need a man”.

Think about how much more vitriol and violent hatred Black characters get from fans of a ship between two white characters. Look, I know that shipping rubs people the wrong way even before we start thinking about the race of the characters involved, but there’s no excuse for racism.

The Teen Titans fandom has been spewing misogynoir in the direction of their least favorite Dick Grayson love interest for like twenty years at this point. Titans casting Anna Diop as Starfire didn’t make a portion of weirdly rabid Barbara Gordon fans hate the character, they’ve always hated her.

Now though, they tack on a racist reason for it and shit on the actress/character’s looks in the process.

A lot of the hatred that Anna Diop and her Starfire get is all because the “wrong” female character is with “their” chosen hero. They would’ve attacked the character with misogyny if she’d been played by a white actress, but the level of anger is the kind that Black female performers and characters usually get from fandom when they’re supposed to be a love interest.

Think about it: the way that the fandom’s shippers talk about Anna Diop and her character is not how they talk about Dawn, another character who has a relationship with Dick Grayson. They don’t harass her actress or constantly hate on her character because of a ship.

Once again, that dubious honor is squarely reserved for Black women.

The main characters that shipping-focused fandoms consistently decide don’t need romance are Black women.

(In my experience, Black men are next lowest on the roster followed by Asian people outside of Anime/East Asian media and/or RPF fandoms. In general, outside of a few outliers, characters of color aren’t generally the main focus of fandom’s powerhouse ships.)

Two white guys stand next to each other?

Fandom favorites.

A white man and a white woman who hate each other?

They just have to be together.

But a ship involving a Black woman?

Especially one involving her with a white man?

Then the concern trolls show up with their claws out because they’re always ready to let us know they don’t think Black women deserve anything, much less love.

Next month, we’ll be talking in detail about… Black Actresses Under Attack!

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4 thoughts on “What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Misogynoir – Black Women in the Way

  1. As someone old enough to remember K/S from original-Trek fandom, and one who never really saw the appeal of Shatner’s Kirk, I always felt that Spock Deserved Better… so pairing him with Uhura? YAY! (Even in Original Trek, there were hints of this…)
    If they want to diss a Trek female character for being “just a lovesick puppy” around Spock, they should look at Original Trek Nurse Chapel. Both Original Uhura and ReBoot Uhura are, imo, excellent and strong female characters, worthy role models, and NO ONE’s “lovesick puppy”!


  2. Omg, this is so true.

    I’ve been ostracized from parts of Merlin fandom because I accused two mods in a “Merlin” (read: basically Merthur/”gay” pairing) chatroom of racism and misogynoir, after they made disgusting comments about Gwen and Arwen.

    The Arwen comment being that it made one of the mods PHYSICALLY SICK. Like??? That set off an alarm in my head. I can’t understand how Arwen making someone sick could be possible, as Arthur and Gwen had one of the most mature and loving relationships on the show, even with their few downs. The mod hedged when I asked her why, and an immediate red flag went up.

    I was extremely suspicious, but my suspicions were confirmed when the other mod in the chatroom started making comments about how Gwen was a lazy Queen that did nothing, and who wore more revealing gowns out of desperation because her husband was “more interested in his manservant.”

    And then the first mod goes, “I can see why you’d think that.”

    LIKE, WHAT THE FUCK?!?! I knew then, without a doubt, that the two of them were racist pieces of shit despite how “nice” they apparently were.

    I called it out and was then gaslit publically, villified, and had my mental illnesses used as a justification to discredit anything I’d said. Later, that first mod tried to blackmail my friend into turning her back on me.

    Later still, an “impartial” mod started messaging me while I was under the influence of alcohol (to numb the pain of the numerous emotional attacks I’d been receiving), trying to press me into saying I was wrong and offer an apology. They continued to gaslight me, and guilt-trip me. They also tried to equate the first mod being sickened by Arwen to other people being sickened by the show Hannibal.

    And I was like an interracial marriage between two people that love each other and the romanticising of a fucking cannibal ARE NOT THE SAME THING?!?!?!?!

    But apparently, “Merlin fandom is the nicest ever!”

    Fandom, as a whole, is a racist cesspit and if I’m sick of it, I can only imagine how much harder it must be for fans of colour.


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