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Not even heroines are impervious to misogynoir

Contributed by
Jun 4, 2018

Misogynoir, a term originally coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey, is misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. Bailey first created the term to address misogyny directed toward black women in American visual and popular culture. Black women experience misogynoir daily, and even Marvel and DC’s most powerful black women can’t escape it. 

In Uncanny X-Men #173, Storm arrives to Logan’s wedding with an entirely new aesthetic. She’s channeling her best Grace Jones with a mohawk and leather outfit, a new look that definitely matches the new Storm.

Leading up to this point, she’d been battling back and forth on who she was and wanted to be. Was she Storm, member of the X-Men, or was she Ororo Munroe, the goddess?  But not even Storm is free of "New Hair Monday," a time in which a black woman returns to work with a new hairdo, leaving her white colleagues befuddled and reacting in ways they wouldn’t with their other co-workers. 

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Kitty Pryde is visibly upset with Storm and her new look. Regardless of the context — Kitty being young and unable to cope with such a major change by a mother figure — her reaction is trash. Storm doesn’t deserve it. It’s her body and she should be able to do as she pleases with her appearance.

Kitty isn't the only X-Men to give her a hard time; Scott Summers follows up by telling Storm that the look is drastic and questioning why she did it. Scott sounds like Jim from accounting who wants to know why you aren’t wearing your hair flat-ironed because he think it fits you better than your natural curls in a two-strand twist out. Scott and Kitty should have just sat there and ate their food, but not even X-Men can pass up on the opportunity to scrutinize a black woman for simply existing. 

Monica Rambeau’s introduction in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 begins with her minding her business while catching the attention of Peter Parker, whose Spidey senses don’t allow him to mind his own. Even though Peter believes she couldn’t pose a threat, he decides to follow her anyway. This reminds me of the times I’ve been followed around in a store because my skin set off the racial profiling senses of a store employee. 

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After Monica takes care of a guy who tries to rob her, Peter still feels the need to confront her even after witnessing that she's able to hold her own during an attempted robbery. Monica is able to do what a lot of people only wish they could do and puts Peter on his Spidey-sense-tingling butt, rewarding him for his inability to leave her be.

In this same issue, Monica Rambeau is dealing with a clearly sexist boss. She’s been overlooked again for a promotion. Her boss claims it's because her methods are too unorthodox, but it’s a poor excuse. When Monica confronts him about not wanting a woman in charge of a patrol boat, he gaslights her by telling her he’ll just pretend he didn’t hear that remark. He essentially downplays the callout and chooses to ignore it.

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Sexism pops up in the Avengers courtesy of Thor, and again Monica is on the receiving end. Monica, going by Captain Marvel at this point, is nominated by Captain America to lead the Avengers. She humbly declines, feeling she isn’t qualified enough to lead.

Thor jumps at the chance to use her words against her, saying if she feels unqualified then she should remove herself — so he can be the leader again. Thankfully, She-Hulk is having none of it and is the only one to speak up in Monica’s defense. One has to wonder if Thor would have tried to discourage any of the male Avengers if they’d expressed similar feelings. 

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In another example, Amanda Waller is assigned to head Task Force X and is instantly met with hostility by Colonel Rick Flag. He isn't happy about having to report to Waller, making that quite clear by admitting that she wasn’t what he was expecting.

Amanda ignores his reaction and gets right down to business with presenting candidates to make up Task Force X, to which Colonel Flag responds with, “Are you out of your cotton-picking mind, lady?” Amanda is quick to let him know that he has the wrong one today. While Colonel Flag may have not meant the phrase in a racially-biased way, it doesn’t matter. He says it to a black woman, and given that her ancestors picked cotton, his use can’t be interpreted otherwise. 

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What each of these characters experience are examples of misogynoir that black women experience in the real world every day. Storm’s body is policed by her fellow X-Men. Monica Rambeau is not granted the space to just exist and has to deal with men questioning her ability to lead. Amanda Waller is confronted with a white man upset at her presence in a space that he doesn’t believe she should be inhabiting.

These comic examples are a reflection of just how prevalent misogynoir is in society—so much so that these examples seeped in, even though the writers of each comic are all white males. They may have not been aware that what they were writing were forms of misogynoir, but that only proves how ingrained it truly is. Misogynoir is everywhere, and it’s hard to overlook unless you are putting in great effort not to see it.