Black Women** and the “#me too” movement

Writings on the recent and welcome focus on women’s pervasive experience of harassment too often tend to proceed as if white women and women of color are just the same in this respect.  I’m not in a position to speak for women of color, but I can mention some resources that arguably we should all read.  I don’t want to claim they are all completely true, but they are worth knowing about.

(**The authors of the remarks below are all black, but women of color more generally may find themselves left out or disadvantaged in the #me too movement.  In fact, factors other than ethnicity may create problems for other groups of women, such as disabled women.)

Here are three resources:

1. Reporting the neighborhood harassers: A black woman has some reason not to do this.  Involving the police with the neighborhood bad guys can get the latter sucked into a horribly unjust legal system or even get them killed.

2. Learning from the experiences of other women at work:  A black woman may be left out of the white women’s collective knowledge about harassers.

3.  Actress and producer Gabrielle Union argues that white women benefit the most from the recent attention.  She says, “I think the floodgates have opened for White women,” Union says. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.”



9 thoughts on “Black Women** and the “#me too” movement

  1. Re Item 1 please note: this is not what the author said. She said this:

    ‘The intersection of race, class, sexism and power is dangerous, and the most vulnerable women among us must navigate it alone. They are terrorized, then expected to fight for those who terrorized them because a seemingly greater predator is at large. Their faces will never grace the cover of Time magazine, and in some cases their silence will never be broken, if they hold the same false notions of power and victimhood that I once clung to when the cognitive dissonance became too strong.’

    As I understand it she is criticizing those who suggest that black women SHOULDN’T call out the corner dudes who harass them–and are a pain in the neck, to put it mildly, to others in the neighborhood. They don’t get a free pass because they’re themselves oppressed.

  2. And if I may add…the notion that men who are themselves oppressed by racism or whatever shouldn’t be called out for oppressing women is part of the old story: fix the ‘real’ problems—poverty, racism, colonialism, etc.—and then, later, we can talk about justice for women. E.g. here is a ‘traditional society’ in a formerly colonized country where women are treated like shit, beaten by husbands, etc. First let us fix the fallout of colonialism. Then we can think about feminism.

    Or consider in the US that great liberal Moynahan’s report on ‘The Negro Family’. Things falling apart in inner cities? Problem is that welfare makes women independent, undermines the traditional male-headed family. Solution: invest in education and employment opportunities for men; cut off support for women so that they’ll be forced back into dependence on men. That will reestablish the traditional male-headed family and put an end to male irresponsibility. Maybe once that’s done we can think about feminism.

    Or consider the Million Man March and its support by the good white left. Yes! Encourage responsible male headship. The alternative to irresponsible male criminality. The women just love it! In exchange for benign subordination they get responsible male providers who don’t beat them up. Of course WE upper middle class white women wouldn’t go for this, but it’s the best THEY can do. Maybe when that’s fixed we can think about feminism.

  3. Prime, your opening remark surprises me. In most academic settings I’ve been in, many members of the audience would be prepared In effect to argue that they aren,t all completely true.

  4. HEB: i don’t think she is criticizing them. It’s rather an extremely painful fact that calling in the law can get people killed. As she says

    We’ve seen the unchecked power of white men ravish our communities, and we carry the message of “not right now” when it comes to addressing our pain if the offender is black.

    It gets taught, but what is taught is grounded in reality.

    On thinking about this, I’m reminded of news stories about largely hispanic neighborhoods near me. No one wants to call the cops and get people deported.

  5. annejjacobson: Since truth is invoked, “I don’t want to claim they are all completely true” (evidently there are doubts) sounds pretty Gricean. But I don’t travel much outside philosophy departments.

    Anyway, I had in mind this blog. That kind of qualification is hard to find here, which isn’t surprising — given the push to “believe women” rather than routinely introduce the possibility that they might be lying, mistaken, or confused.

    Happy Holidays

  6. As a black woman, the most fearful situation is being left out of the loop regarding potentially dangerous men and women. Especially if individuals have bought into the view that black people are insular so don’t get involved with others :/

  7. I can tell you, as a black woman, these types of things are harder for us to speak up about. Subconsciously, we want to be seen as strong individuals and talking about sexual harassment or worse makes us seem vulnerable. Its embarrassing because our own community tends to judge us harshly. We get the, “She should have known better” and “She must have made herself seem easy” responses a lot from other black women. I can’t comment on the Hollywood scandals but that’s just more reason why I believe women of color don’t speak out.

  8. Gloria Friedman in Zurich and Catherine Deneuve in Paris, defending men, proves that ignorance has no limit.
    They know nothing about being felt up on the bus, followed on the street, not even being able to go for a walk, wait for a bus , and being called a whore for refusing a man’s unwanted attention…..especially when you are a woman of color.
    I know because I have lived in 8 European countries and have been experiencing this for over 30 years. Swiss and French men are the worst in Europe ( I have lived in both of these places and speak, fluently their languages. ) Woman of color are considered as things to hunt like animals, inferior and/or illiterate females born , only, in ghettos or living on Welfare.
    Have fun with them but do not marry them And call them by animal names Tigresses, Lionesses, Panthers or ” exotic.”
    if well-dressed, then, one must be a prostitute and / or ”easy”, sexually.
    The fact that you have degrees and a respectable job does not occur to them OR that may incite even more violence towards you because they believe that you should , automaticallly, belong to an inferior social category .
    I am continuosly having to prove that I know how to read and write. Actually, I have nothing more to prove.
    However, what bothers me, the most, is that in both of these countries, if I defend myself, I can be sued or go to jail.
    I am not whining but actually am prouder and hold my head higher but this is an interesting, albeit, primitive social phenomena in Switzerland and France
    Thank you for reading this. It feels good to share this after so many years..

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