Back in spring 2008, (I love the Gmail archive) I was talking to one of my best friends, Mia Mingus, about the ways that Black women are depicted in the media. She, a self described ‘queer physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee,’ suggested that there could be a term to describe just that, because she too noticed that the way Black women were treated was different from other women of color. I played around with words and ultimately settled on misogynoir (sistagyny was one I thankfully discarded). I had other Black women, Whitney Peoples, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, among others, vet the term and we talked about its potential utility, its pros and cons. I started to use it on the Crunk Feminist Collective and members of the CFC started to use it too (I put it in my dissertation and journal articles no one will read :)). It took on a life of its own on tumblr and it is amazing that so many folks I don’t know have take up and use it far more frequently than I have. Major thanks to Trudz aka Gradient Lair.
I say all this to say that it is important to me and to at least one other non Black person of color that the term is used to describe the unique ways in which Black women are pathologized in popular culture. What happens to Black women in public space isn’t about them being any woman of color. It is particular and has to do with the ways that anti-Blackness and misogyny combine to malign Black women in our world.
I see some folks are trying out misogynchrom for a term that applies to women of color generally. For me, POC and WOC as terms don’t really get to the heart of what is happening in our connections as non white folks. These are useful terms for building solidarity in some ways but have significant limits. See Janani’s post on BGD for more on the limits. I don’t know that lumping all other WOC into one category is useful, especially when the differences between us could help us root out our own internalized oppressors.
I was looking for precise language to describe why Renisha McBride would be shot in the face, or why the Onion would think it’s okay to talk about Quvenzhané the way they did, or the hypervisibilty of Black women on reality TV, the arrest of Shanesha Taylor, the incarceration of CeCe, Laverne and Lupita being left off the TIME list, the continued legal actions against Marissa Alexander, the twitter dragging of black women with hateful hashtags and supposedly funny instagram images as well as how Black women are talked about in music. All these things bring to mind misogynoir and not general misogyny directed at women of color more broadly. Find the language that works for you but please don’t redefine the terms we create for ourselves.