Ain’t I a Nasty Woman?
Women of color across the country are getting insulted, verbally attacked, and banned from Facebook groups and pages every minute of the day, left to wonder, “Why do so many white feminists disrespect women of color?”
*This post is dedicated to my Cleveland sister, Morgan Le Fay. Thank you for standing in your truth when a group of white women tried to tear you down.
It happened again last weekend.
After a month of observing more than a dozen women of color being verbally attacked, dismissed, or mistreated in yet another faux feminist Facebook group - which we’ll call Snarky Feminists, I spoke my peace. I posted my first status to the 10,000+ members, letting them know exactly how I felt. I mentioned that many feminists of color shared my sentiment, and asked if immediate actions could be taken to make the group a safe space for all feminists. I stressed that it would take a collective attitude of all group members to embrace inclusivity.
Over 1,000 combined comments were posted over the course of ninety-six hours. Old members left because they didn’t like the ‘new direction’ the group was taking, new members joined specifically to participate in the heated discussions, and I received a host of direct messages. Most of them touching. Some of them vile. I was reprimanded by the founder and reminded that I could ‘stay or go’ (rude). I was accused of being a Russian spy (flattered). I was also told that if I was so concerned with being around more Black women I should start a new group and invite Black, brown, orange, and blue people.
Ain’t I a nasty woman?
At one point I had a one-on-one conversation with the founder of Snarky Feminists, via Messenger. She spoke at great length about all the work she does for people of color, and how amazing her life is. She never once addressed any of my concerns. I asked why she seemed bothered by the questions I posted, or, why she instructed me to ‘follow the guidelines’. She never answered.
The conversations went on for four days. I was never disrespectful (not even when I was being disrespected). I listened to everything that was said, and replied with consideration to whomever I was conversing with (even when I was being talked down to). A Black woman who had been vocal about the mistreatment she experienced was banned. Several other members were ‘removed’ (I know, it sounds very scientology-esque). One group of defected members recruited another ex-members to an already established group which they found to be more fitting. On Saturday afternoon, Snarky Feminists introduced the members still standing to their new Black moderator.
By the time the sun set on Sunday evening, I was a shell of myself. I was behind in several deadlines, had a throbbing headache, my thumbs were sore from hours of typing on my cell, my excema was flaring up, and my hair was going through it. All because I shared a fucking opinion.
Ain’t I a nasty woman?
This has happened before. A local political group comprised of mostly middle-aged white women came after me with guns loaded after commentary I made on a post in their group page.
The now-infamous post was of a comic strip, featuring Trump and his sidekicks. They were laughing at cops roughing up suspects during arrests (an obvious reference to police brutality). I expressed that while the material wasn’t necessarily racist, it was clearly using police brutality (a crisis responsible for the deaths of 943 Black Americans in 2015) as the basis of the joke, which is what makes it racially insensitive. I knew that most wouldn’t understand. Still, I naively assumed some would be empathetic to how deeply the topic of police brutality and misconduct triggers the spirit of nearly every Black American. I was so wrong. No one wanted to take my word for it. Even when I explained what they failed to understand, I was the one who was called confused. I was told that I was off-base, overly-sensitive, and that I simply “don’t get it.” Women told me I was looking for a fight. A conversation highlight was when one of the most arrogant women I’ve ever debated admitted she had been rude. A conversation lowlight was when a woman used her Jewish heritage to compare how unbothered she is by holocaust commentary (say what now?), as a way of suggesting I was being sensitive.
The next day, I shared a Huffington Post article about the lack of intersectional feminism with the same group. It was my way of pointing out to them that their behavior the day before was more important than the content of a comic strip. They weren’t having it.
“You’re being so divisive!”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re the racist!”
“If you want to be around more Black people, we’re not stopping you! Go right ahead and find your ‘tribe’.”
“We’re not here to fight each other, we’re here to take back the White House!”
Ain’t I a nasty woman?
Groups dedicated to women of color have become warm hugs in a world of cold shoulders. Any room filled with Black women is the only room where I am truly free. I wasn’t shocked to hear my sisters of color sharing stories that were identical to mine. A few of us suggested it had something to do with the super moon, but, we knew better.
I’ll give it a few more weeks to regain my strength. Eat junk food, watch episodes of Unsung Hollywood, and spend more time tending to my hair. I’ll finish reading Women, Race, and Class. I’ll nurse myself back to emotional and mental health. I’ll re-read the positive messages, texts, and emails from white women who credit my words to their change. I’ll give birth to new art. Deactivate my Facebook account for a week. And, when I’m strong enough, I will repeat this process.
Tamela J. Gordon is a writer, community organizer, and creator of the women’s empowerment group, Sisters with Aspiration, as well as SWA’s Book Club. Support Tamela’s work and gain access to exclusive content by FOLLOWING HER ON PATREON and joining SWA’s Book Club! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org