Black Women, Hated: Layers of Misogynoir in Fandom Spaces
As fandom spaces become even more active in asking for and creating positive representation about underrepresented identities (i.e., disabled people and queer people), one notable weak spot in fandom representation politics revolves around the reception towards and portrayal of Black women in fandom. Black female characters, performers and fans have been subject to years of racist treatment across fandom – including in the arguably more progressive spaces of transformative fandom – that falls under the umbrella of anti-black misogyny or misogynoir (Bailey 2010). This includes erasing Black women from fan works and fandom spaces, assigning negative labels to Black female fans, and a whole host of other toxic practices ranging from relatively minor microaggressions to openly racist behavior and rhetoric.
Building on recent work on black women fans and fandom misogynoir (Johnson 2015; Arcy & Johnson 2018; Warner 2018), , this paper will consider misogynoir in fandom spaces as a pervasive problem that has infected multiple fandom spaces and thrives, unchecked, even in parts of fandom that are traditionally assumed to espouse more progressive politics than male-dominated, white “geek” spaces. Some examples of this misogynoir can be seen in the way that Black female characters are cut out of canon and killed off in fanworks, how non-Black fans actively make excuses for the harassment Black female performers get, and how Black women in fandom are labeled as troublemakers or “antis” for expressing their thoughts about Black characters in fandom. These are all mild examples of what misogynoir in fandom looks like. Additionally, beyond exploring what fandom misogynoir looks like in 2019, a significant goal of this paper is to provide solutions for changing how fandom talks about and to Black women.
- Coined by Moya Bailey in 2010 to “describe the particular fuckery Black women face in popular culture”.
- Misogynoir uses micro- and macro- aggressions in order to reinforce a point of view that keeps Black women at the bottom.
- Anyone can perform or promote misogynoir.
Black Female Characters
- Black female characters as desexualized “bros” or mammy figures to their actual or potential love interests (e.g., Abbie Mills in Sleepy Hollow, Nakia in Black Panther, Kory Anders in Titans).
- Black female characters are often rewritten as villains by fans (e.g., Braeden in Teen Wolf) or killed off and/or tortured in their fan works (Vivienne from Dragon Age: Inquisition).
- They are shamed for all the sex they’re supposedly having with one of fandom’s white dude faves – who fandom happily writes in sexual relationships (Nyota Uhura from the Star Trek reboot films).
Black Female Celebrities
- Already not seen as human/worthy of privacy and respect because of their celebrity status
- Warned not to check social media because of the direct access racists have to them
- Subject to dehumanizing social media posts and images, many of which tag them in the pieces.
Black Female Fans
- Black female fans are always positioned or portrayed as “angry for no reason”
Because they are a “minority” in fandom spaces, their contributions and discussions in fandom are erased or misattributed to white fans.
- Black female fans are deemed “anti-fans” out to rob other fans of their enjoyment of media and shipping.
- “You’re just harshing our squee! Why can’t fandom be fun like it used to be” as a mantra directed at these Black female fans
- Targeted harassment campaigns and slander aimed at Black female fans – especially those critical of fandom.
Listen To Black Women
- And not just the ones that agree with you/minimize misogynoir in fandom
- What kind of fanworks are you creating? What kind of fan culture are you participating in?
- Work on misogynoir in fandom exists. Black women, Black people, in fandom talk about our experiences publicly for a reason.
Use Your Privilege
- It is a fact that many people stop listening to (or won’t start caring about) people of color talking about race/racism in fandom unless their message comes from a white fan. Call stuff out.
My PCA 2017 presentation:
- My Comic Book Girlfriend Has To Be a Redhead: Misogynoiristic Reactions to Racebending Iris West and Mary-Jane Watson
A five-part mini-series on misogynoir in fandom
- Diverse High Fantasy on Tumblr
- Michelle Ruiz’s “The Meghan Markle Tabloid “Pile-On”—And How to Fix It”
- The Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures issue on Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color
- Rukmini Pande’s Squee from the Margins
- Helen Young’s Habits of Whiteness: Race and Popular Fantasy Literature
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Say. It. Sis.
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