Whenever Black women aren’t in a perpetual state of despair and self-loathing, there’s a problem. For some reason, Black women loving themselves, standing up for themselves, and refusing to be misrepresented is vexatious and alarming to people. That reason is misogynoir. Misogynoir is a term created by Black feminist Moya Bailey with much of the scholarship around it being written by Trudy of The Gradient Lair. Basically, it’s a term used to describe the intersection of anti-Blackness and misogyny and all the ways in which it affects Black women’s lives.
Now, I’m not going to say that you’re a racist or sexist if you don’t like Beyoncé‘s music, but I do find a lot of the criticism about Queen Bey to be tinged with misogynoir. One of the things I often hear from people, particularly white women, is a discomfort with her confidence. “She stomps around the stage like she owns the place.” As a Black woman, I have often been confronted by white people who are simply beside themselves when I don’t fall all over myself for their approval. There’s a way in which white women are encouraged within the feminist movement to be confident and bold. I mean, that’s what the Riot Grrrl Movement was all about. There have been whole essays telling women to stop apologizing for themselves, stop speaking indirectly, start demanding what they want, start loving their bodies unconditionally and themselves. But when Black women uphold to such, we’re told that our confidence is out of line, abrasive, and unbecoming.
Another argument often flaunted around Beyoncé concerns her stunning, ever changing hair. Conversations about Black hair are often vexatious and repetitive. As a 4c, kinky haired girl, I’ve heard it all:
“I like it better when it’s straight.”
“Are you going to wear your hair like that to your job interview?” (a.k.a. “Natural hair isn’t professional.”)
“I like it when you do twist outs.” (a.k.a. “I like it when your hair looks curly instead of kinky.”)
“I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the ‘right’ kind of hair.” (a.k.a. “I don’t have mixed girl curls.”)
“You should get a texturizer.” (a.k.a. “Your hair is kinky. Change it.”)
Oddly enough, now that my afro has gotten bigger, people seem to love my hair all of a sudden and I get compliments from all the “conscious,” young, Black men on the street. This was not the case when I first went natural. I find it fascinating that Beyoncé gets the opposite. People argue that she isn’t Black enough because she wears blonde hair and it’s usually straightened. Women of color can’t win either way. Apparently, until my afro grew an acceptable length, I wasn’t a palatable amount of Black because my hair is too kinky while Beyoncé isn’t Black “enough” because her hair isn’t dark, and kinky?? Interesting. Black women’s hair, especially now that the natural hair movement is really kicking in to high gear, has become the latest tool to lazily critique and police the identities of Black women. We allow non Black women to thoroughly experiment with their hair. Dye it all kinds of colors. Wear it curly one day and straight the other. Experiment with hairstyles. But when Black women do it we’re accused of being Toni Morrison’s Pecola from The Bluest Eye. There is to be no fun for Black women. There is to be no playing around. Fun = self-hate round these parts. There’s no winning and the fact this Black woman continues to do what the hell she wants with her hair infuriates those who wish to assign the parameters of Black womanhood.
For some aimless reason, folks have a problem with the fact that Beyoncé brings Black women joy. We live to see her perform. We love to see her flourish and incorporate her culture (Black culture) in her performances. We just about died when she mentioned “perm burns” in “Green Light,” and people hate that. Whenever Beyoncé releases an empowering song, the blogosphere finds a way to make Black women feel immorally for finding solace in them. When “***Flawless” debuted there were a bevy of anti-Black memes naming reasons why Black women shouldn’t feel flawless. Like I said, there is to be no fun in the arena of Black sisterhood. We, according to today’s society, are supposed to hate ourselves. We’re supposed to swallow the bile thrown at us quietly. Beyoncé refuses and so do her fans, and it simply infuriates people because if they couldn’t exploit and hold themselves over Black women then who would they be? People’s identities are tied to the continuous exploitation, humiliation, and debasement of Black women.
Luckily, this conversation may pick up some steam in the national conversation about race. Recently, The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams addressed some of the icky conversation surrounding “Formation”:
Truer words have never been spoken. Again, I don’t say all of this to accuse anyone of being a sexist of any sort. But, if you dislike Beyoncé, or the culture that is, because her presentation isn’t acceptably Black enough, because of her use of AAVE, because of her proud displays of southern Black belle, or because she has the nerve to be colored, female, and confident well . . . you just might be.