This Is How "Misogynoir" Affects Black Campus Sexual Assault Survivors
The term "misogynoir" — a fusion of the words misogyny and “noir,” the French word for black — was coined by the queer, black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010 and refers to the intersection of sexism and racism black women face.
“We allow and encourage abusers of Black women to thrive, yet somehow the conversation turns to the spoiling of nostalgia or stripping of earned success," founder and editor-in-chief of ForHarriet Kimberly Foster argued in a 2015 article. This is "an old story: a Black man’s triumph is more important than a Black woman’s body," she added.
There is plenty of evidence of the specific misogyny and violence black women face, but it is particularly evident in terms of how survivors of sexual assault are treated on historically black campuses (HBCUs). Black women's experiences with sexual assault are undeniably linked to deeper misogyny evident in black culture, such as stereotypes about black women’s bodies that promote their objectification and sexualization.
"What we see in the media, how we're portrayed, guys approach us differently, even though we're just women like everyone else," one survivor of assault at an HBCU told Mic.
Black women also come to campus with overwhelmingly different experiences than their white peers. 60% of black women report being sexually assaulted before the age of 18, BET reported the organization Black Women's Blueprint found in 2011. Black women are also less likely to report their assaults: Fifteen unreported rapes of black women occur for every rape reported by a black woman, according to For Harriet.
Chardonnay Madkins and Synclaire Butler both survived assault on HBCU campuses and have recently begun to speak out about their experiences, including victim-blaming and disregard from administrators. Hampton University would not accept Madkins' calls or answer her emails and made it clear that "they did not want to do anything for me," she told HuffPost Live. Butler, a student at Spelman College, also told HuffPost Live that she faced difficulty reporting her rape to Morehouse’s campus: Campus police told her that because the rapist was remorseful for what he did, she should sit down with him and mediate the problem herself. What's more, neither Butler or Madkins' assailants were charged with crimes despite admitting they had committed them and neither woman was fully informed about the resources available to them.
"There's an added pressure to remain silent because this is someone who was able to make it to college," Madkins told Mic. The black community imparts the message that black survivors shouldn't "put another black man in prison," she added. "This is your brother, your friend, somebody who is trying to make it, and you're trying to make it with them. Don't do anything to jeopardize that. Don't be another person to get a black man in jail. ... Don't be another person to victimize them."
Of course, this issue is hardly restricted to HBCUs. Overall, 25% of women will be the victims of sexual assault and although 1 in 12 college-aged men admit to committing rape, few face any consequences, according to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Our society at large, therefore, undoubtedly needs better comprehensive education about both consent and rape culture as well as a serious re-evaluation of the Title IX law that allows colleges to conduct these investigations on their own.
But we also need to dig deeper and analyze the ways in which these systems uniquely worked against Butler, Madkins and other survivors of color. It’s time we begin to allow for Black women to actually feel pain and recognize their humanity.
More articles by Category: Feminism, Media, Misogyny, Race/Ethnicity, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexism, Sexualized violence, Racism, Rape, Television