Misogynoir and Sexual Abuse in the African-American Community

Another paper from graduate school


This paper will discuss misogynoir (hatred of black women and girls) and whether hatred of black women and girls leads to higher instances of sexual abuse and rape amongst them. This paper will also discuss the two gaps in the literature selected for this project and how can writers develop further research on this subject.

What is Misogynoir?

            Misogynoir is a term I discovered about two years ago after reading the blog Gradient Lair written by queer black feminist scholar Moya Bailey. She defines misogynoir as anti-black misogyny in which race and gender are entwined together to cause hatred of black women. Does misogynoir really exist? I think so. Misogyny is hatred and contempt for all women, whilst misogynoir is a particular and invasive hatred geared specifically towards black women and girls that is often perpetrated by black men and women. Misogynoir is why a known sexual predator like R. Kelly is embraced by the black community and why Janay Rice was blamed for being knocked unconscious on an elevator by her then fiancé, Ray Rice and subsequently dragged off the elevator by him cave man style.

            Misogynoir in the black community is a social problem that is having a devastating effect on relationships between black men and women. Example: In 2009, Asia McGowan, 20, of Ecorse, Michigan was shot and murdered by Anthony Powell, 28, of Detroit, Michigan in a classroom at Henry Ford Community College, both of them black. He then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This was not a lover’s murder-suicide because Mr. Powell did not know the victim personally.

He only knew her through the various YouTube videos she had posted, discussing her life.  He targeted this young woman because she was a black woman and he hated black women.  “This was a targeted killing of a Black woman by a radicalized Black man who frequented YouTube and rallied his hatred of Black women and other things. He only kills himself when the police come up on him. Bottom line is we discovered it’s a whole bunch of these Black dudes out here who are radicalized like that.” (“The black woman,” 2014).

            As a writer who spends some part of her day perusing the social media for possible writing opportunities, I have learned that the level of hatred for black women is at an all time high. All one has to do is type in “Why Black Men Hate Black Women” in Google search, and 4,600,000 results pop up. There are YouTube pages dedicated the altar of anti-black women worship and countless articles have been written on the undesirability and trifling nature of black women.

As a black woman with two black daughters, misogynoir is a depressing concept. This hatred of black women is probably why sexual abuse statistics amongst black women and girls are so high. According to the Black Women’s Blueprint, “In 2007, approximately 40% of black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18 (National Black Women’s Health Project). A more recent and on-going survey by Black Women’s Blueprint reveals that number is closer to 60%.  For every Black woman that reports a rape, at least 15 do not report (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).” (“The truth commission,”).

            While looking for five articles that addressed the social problem of misogynoir and sexual abuse against black women and girls, I learned that very little research has been done on this subject. As a matter of fact, when I typed in misogynoir in the various psychology databases, on Walden University’s library website, I received zero results. So I typed in misogyny and found five articles that do not address the problem of misogynoir and sexual abuse but does explain why misogynistic attitudes exist amongst African-Americans.

In the article entitled Race, Class, Gender: A Constellation of Positionalities with Implications for Counseling written by Debra A. Harley, Kristine Jolivette, Katherine McCormick & Karen Tice, they discuss how race, class, and gender are social constructs that are a constellation of positionalities ( how they are positioned in society) that determine how an individual is placed in society (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002) and how counselors have stereotyped marginalized groups of people when seeking counseling. Since black women are on the bottom of the totem pole of American society in regards to their economic, social, and beauty status, they are looked upon as expendable and their issues ignored, even while seeking treatment for various issues. Black women are also stereotyped by negative stereotypes about their sexuality. Women of color, in particular, black women have been categorized by the dominate culture as domineering bitches, and perceived as sexual beings who have little modesty, virtue, or intelligence (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002). Black women have also had to deal carrying a triple burden of degrading perceptions and are the marginalized and less protected segment of American society (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002).

In the second article entitled, Myths About Pimps: Conflicting Images of Hypermasculine Pimps in U.S. American Hip-Hop and Bisexual Pimps in the Novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim written by Josef Benson, he makes a powerful first statement: “The traditional image of the urban U.S. American pimp functions as a powerful symbol of Black hypermasculinity throughout contemporary hip-hop culture. This image perpetuates entrenched stereotypes that characterize Black males as violent, rapacious beasts and Black females as hypersexed, valueless mules.” (Benson, 2012, pg. 429).

Mr. Benson discusses how hip-hop music’s assimilation of the pimp had done more hard to African-American culture than good because of its image as a white slave owner who keeps his black women in check. “The hip-hop pimp not only has the power to control women through the use of violence, but also by possessing a hypermasculine, hypersexual appeal hypnotizing to women. He views women as commodities—slaves—dehumanizing them to assume the role of the powerful White male slave owner.” (Benson, 2012, p. 431).  By viewing black women and girls as commodities, not actual human beings with feelings, it makes it easier for sexual predators to feel no remorse or even feel that these victims deserved their abuse because of their subordinate position in the African-American community.

The third article entitled Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos written by Kate Conrad, Travis Dixon, & Yuanyuan Zhang, the authors discuss colorism, another social problem in the African-American community in which lighter skinned black women are thought of as prettier and have more value than darker skinned black women.  Music videos on television seldom show women that look like the rappers’ mothers and as of late, only mixed race or white girls are cast as the leading ladies of rap videos, systematically shutting out black women.

“Often colorism is an issue the Black viewers face whereby individuals with lighter skin may be given advantages over those with darker skin” (Conrad, Dixon, & Zhang, 2009).  In a community filled with strife against black women, colorism is another tool that has been used to divide lighter and dark skinned black women while at the same time, brown skinned women in the middle, neither light nor dark are ignored.  Misogynoir pits black women of different hues against each other in the fight for crumbs from the table of Black patriarchy. When darker skinned black women are victims of sex crimes, the black community turns a blind eye.

The fourth article entitled Perceptions of Misogyny in Hip Hop and Rap: What Do the Youths Think? written by Ruby M. Gourdine & Briana P. Lemmons, the authors discuss hip-hop music’s influence on the younger generation of African-Americans and believe that hip-hop in its current form is detrimental and adds to misogynoir with lyrics disrespectful towards women encourages a rape culture in which black women and their bodies  do not belong to them but to black men. “If women are portrayed as being abused and symbolize persons who can be mistreated by males, this gives a troublesome message to the youths (both males and females) that women are not valued.” (Gourdine & Lemmons, 2011, p. 70). At my daughter’s grade school, there have been instances of sexual harassment with young boys telling young girls what sexual acts they would like to perform. The vast majority of the children in her class listen to hip-hop artists such as Chief Keef, a local Chicago rapper who raps about money, drugs, and women in the most derogatory terms.  These young men have internalized these lyrics and are acting out.

The last and final article is Misogyny and Madness by Robin Post. It is a review of the book Women and Madness by Jane M. Ussher and she discusses the book and how women are often categorized as mad or crazy because of misogyny. Labeling women mad is viewed by Post as an attempt to control, suppress, or punish women. “The stigmatization of dissatisfied or unconventional women as mad in this perspective serves to dismiss them, to ensure that women will adhere to prescribed social roles, and to protect the power of men.” (Post, 1993). Due to the devaluation of women’s roles in society, she believes “that women who adhere to conventional social roles may also experience mental health problems.” (Post, 1993).

Black women who are feminists or women who are unconventional are often labeled crazy or angry in the African-American community. Black women who decide to lead a different life than the path ascribed for them are threatened with violence or actually killed like in the case of Asia McGowan.

There are several gaps in the literature related to misogynoir and the connection between misogynoir and the sexual abuse of black women and girls. As stated previously, I could not find any articles on the subject and had to improvise by finding articles on misogyny in the Black community.  A great way to bridge this gap is to get in contact with African American female social science professor and interview them to find out their thoughts about misogynoir and whether it is a link between misogynoir and sexual abuse and ask them what would be the best way to conduct research on this subject. After doing that, formulate the research question. The question should be: Does misogynoir or hatred of black women lead to higher cases of sexual abuse of black women and girls? In a society that devalues all women and has placed the black woman at the bottom of the ladder, it is no wonder that misogynistic thought patterns exist in the black community. If someone wants to destroy a community, the first weapon of war is to attack the women and girls.


Benson, J. (2012). Myths about pimps: Conflicting images of hypermasculine pimps in U.S. American hip-hop and bisexual pimps in the novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Journal Of Bisexuality, 12(3), 429-441. doi:10.1080/15299716.2012.702627

Conrad, K., Dixon, T., & Zhang, Y. (2009). Controversial rap themes, gender portrayals and skin tone distortion: A content analysis of rap music videos. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53(1), 134-156. doi:10.1080/08838150802643795

Gourdine, R. M., & Lemmons, B. P. (2011). Perceptions of misogyny in hip hop and rap: What do the youths think?. Journal Of Human Behavior In The Social Environment, 21(1), 57-72. doi:10.1080/10911359.2011.533576

Harley, D. A., Jolivette, K., McCormick, K., & Tice, K. (2002). Race, Class, and Gender: A Constellation of Positionalities With Implications for Counseling. (English). Journal Of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 30(4), 216.

Post, R. D. (1993). Misogyny and Madness. Psyccritiques, 38(10), 1061-1062. doi:10.1037/032668.

The black woman guide to dealing with radicalized black men hating black women online. (2014, March 11). Retrieved from http://dreamandhustle.com/2014/03/the-black-woman-guide-to-dealing-with-radicalized-black-men-hating-black-women-online/.

The truth commission on black women and sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/sexual-violence/

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