When you, like Perez Hilton, equate being ‘fierce’ with black womanhood, you are not simply complimenting black women’s perceived awesome sassiness. You are saying that we are overtly strong, both emotionally and physically, which leads to us being denied the facets of femininity that white women are so easily given. This is dangerous in ways I cannot completely describe, but I’m going to try: Black women are raped more often than white women, because our ‘fierceness’ is linked to ideas of sexual promiscuity – rapists believe we ‘want it more’. When we are raped the police believes us less than white women, because our ‘fierceness’ makes them think we could have fought back if we really wanted to. When we are beaten by our partners, the same applies. When we argue with people, we are seen as immediately aggressive. If we raise our voices or get angry, it isn’t because you’ve done something stupid, it’s because we are black and we are female and our innate ‘fierceness’ makes us unreasonable and unworthy of being listened to. When we lose our children to violence, when we have to survive on food stamps and benefits, even when we go to prison, it’s all a-ok because black women are the fiercest of the fierce and so none of that is a problem and we can handle anything that’s thrown at us – and all of this has lead to a point where when we knock on a door to ask for help because our car has broken down, we are not given hugs and a cup of tea. We are shot in the face at point blank range because we are fierce, and therefore aggressive, unpredictable, and worthy of the mocking, fear and scorn that the world looks at us with.
Quote is from her good essay The ‘Fierce Black Woman’ Inside You Doesn’t Exist on Poejazzi, in response to Perez Hilton’s racist, misogynoiristic tweet “Inside every gay man is a fierce black woman!” Must read essay! Now, the very lazy response is for people to pretend like Perez is the only White gay man who has ever said this (as White privilege involves persistent attempts to individualize systemic issues as to deny accountability) or pretend that his specific awfulness (and yes, he’s awful) is the issue, not misogynoir itself which makes this is a common thing that many Black women hear every single day. I (that would be me, @thetrudz/@GradientLair) directly tweeted him too. His response to every Black woman was ignorance that got increasingly worse over time that day, including him eventually enacting Godwin’s Law.
If you notice carefully in this conversation, no one suggested that gay men do not experience homophobia or that when the conversation is about some Black women who treat gay men as “sidekicks” (which of course is wrong) is discussed, it should be discussed. So that derailment in the name of intersectionality (while of course ironically ignoring intersectionality origins) is not needed when it only happens as a gay man is being called out for misogynoir. As for the other predictable derailment, Perez having a Latina mother does not mean this is not about White supremacy, that he no longer has White-passing privilege, that his male privilege has evaporated nor means he is incapable of misogynoir and anti-Blackness. Finally, the derailment via male privilege and misogynoir—that Black women are empty and just “copying” and appropriating gay men—is not needed.
I know Perez thought this was an acceptable response to Pia’s video and she’s a Black woman but that is irrelevant. Privilege does not evaporate based on who you know that doesn’t have it.
Black women are not costumes to be worn or objects solely for consumption, period.