News | Confronting misogynoir in popular media

Panelists discuss stereotypes, hypersexualization of black women

On November 14, the Black Students’ Network (BSN) hosted a discussion titled “My Anaconda Don’t: Misogynoir, Hypersexualization, and Black Feminism.” Attended by about 200 students, many of whom were people of colour, the event featured the screening of music videos as well as a discussion focused on black feminism and “misogynoir,” a term coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey that refers to anti-black misogyny. Misogynoir is based on the inter-workings of race and gender in the oppression of black women.

“We want to tackle the issue [of misogynoir and the perception of black women’s bodies in the media] because […] a lot of people won’t realize that these things are offensive, and the history, and background that they have, and their oppressive nature, so that’s something also that we’re going to hit on,” said BSN Political Coordinator Isabelle Oke.

Oke began by providing some contextualization for the discussion. She explained that the institution of slavery is at the root of many of the problems that black women currently face. Black women were seen as the property of the slave masters, Oke explained; they were exploited and dehumanized, which led to assault and abuse.

“When it comes to the case of sexual assault, society propagates this stereotype in order to create doubt on [the woman’s] credibility,” said Oke.

Attendees viewed and discussed three pop song video clips from popular songs: “Anaconda” by black American rapper Nicki Minaj, “Pu$$y” by white Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, and “Hard Out Here” by white British singer Lily Allen.

One of the major discussion points surrounding Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” the first clip shown, was whether her depiction of sexuality in the video was empowering or objectifying.

One audience member said that Minaj “reclaims” her sexuality in the video, by showing her “big butt” even though it may be shocking.

“Is she really celebrating her sexuality, or is she buying into this trope of strong, black women with a predatory sexuality […] copying the way men have exerted this sort of predatory sexuality against women, rather than exploring something that is truly new and truly unique?” asked another student.

Many argued over whether this music video was made to appeal to heterosexual men. Students argued that this could be the case, considering that the video was directed by Colin Tilley, a young, white, male director from California.

The next media clip shown was “Pu$$y” by white rapper Iggy Azalea. Participants criticized the music video for its objectification of black women and appropriation of black culture, as well as the hypersexualization of the young child in the clip, who is depicted riding a rocking horse and clinging to Azalea with his legs around her neck.

The video at one point also depicts the child holding a toy gun, and other men in the film wearing shirts with the words “drugs not hugs,” which the attendees criticized as perpetuating stereotypes of young, black males being associated with crime.

Furthermore, students questioned why some of these hip hop music genre tropes that have been around for years are suddenly desirable when they are used by white female artists.

Lastly, a clip of white singer Lily Allen’s  “Hard Out Here” music video clip was shown to the attendees. Allen attempts to tackle misogyny and societal pressures on body image; however, some in the audience criticized the video because Allen assumes a sense of superiority over the backup dancers, who were mostly people of colour in the video. She is fully clothed, while the backup dancers aren’t, and she also says phrases such as “don’t need to shake my ass for you ‘cause I’ve got a brain” within the song.

BSN VP internal Richenda Grazette called the event a success, as an unexpected amount of students were present in the lecture hall and an active discussion was held.  The discussion still continued on the event page on Facebook, and according to their page, the BSN is already planning similar events and discussions that will be held in the future.