What Is Misogynoir?

Misogynoir is the unfortunate intersection of racism and sexism. Many Black individuals have experienced racism and many women have experienced misogyny. But to be both Black and a woman leads to unique disadvantages, both in real life and online.

The term was coined by Dr. Moira Bailey and examples are disheartening and prevalent. From athletes like Serena Williams who don’t see as many endorsements as male athletes at her level, to U.S. Supreme Court justices like Ketanji Brown Jackson who are met with ire from the moment their name hits a headline. In the realm of online harassment, we see similar examples, like the disappointing treatment of comedian Leslie Jones. Hackers stole her private files, leaked her nude photos and driver’s license online and put a photo of Harambe the gorilla at the top of her website.

Guys and white people don’t get harassed like this. These are some of the more high-profile examples, but there are far more instances that go undetected. The U.K. charity Glitch, which is committed to ending online abuse, recently published a report on misogynoir. We recently sat down with Glitch’s founder and CEO, Seyi Akiwowo — author of the book How To Stay Safe Online — who is familiar with misogynoir.

In 2016, Seyi spoke at the European Youth Event in EU Parliament and saw racist responses sent her way once her words went viral. The activist held a TED talk on what happened that day and after. Many would see Seyi’s experiences, and other Black women’s experiences and question if misogynoir is truly to blame. For those folks, she offers a litmus test: “‘If I were a blonde, white woman would I be treated like this?’” Seyi says. “This is what I often have to use to show how there is an absence of solidarity and support for when Black women are going through things. Misogynoir is particularly painful because it robs Black women of liberation, joy and rest — having to advocate for ourselves, having to work twice as hard and having to set up alternative spaces because we’ve been feeling alienated.”

How Do We Fix It?

People have been sexist and racist since before we had Facebook and Twitter, but that doesn’t give large tech companies an excuse to ignore the quality of life for Black women on these sites.

“One big hope from the back of our Digital Misogynoir Report is that tech platforms develop have internal policies on misogynoir and intersecting identities,” says Seyi.

The work in regards to misogynoir and online harassment is never finished, but Seyi offers a starting place for tech companies beginning to address these issues — focus on the most at-risk. “TikTok does a really good job at investing in trust and safety,” says Seyi, who is on TikTok’s European Safety Advisory Council. “TikTok has such a young audience it has to think about safety for children. By centering children, we as adults get to enjoy the platform more so on TikTok than we do, say, Twitter.”

Seyi says the same logic can be used to start to address misogynoir-related problems. “I really hope tech companies can take a beat and make sure they’re centering the most minoritized person. That way they can be confident that everyone is safe online.”

Misogynoir And How It Relates To Harassment Online

Written By: Xavier Harding

Edited By: Audrey Hingle, Innocent Nwani, Kevin Zawacki, Xavier Harding

Art: Shannon Zepeda

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