By Kagure Mugo
With all the racial tension brewing over the past few months it’s no surprise that an eventcalled #ForBlackGirlsOnly has caused a stir. Many think the event counters nation-building in a time when people are losing their jobs over racial slurs, and the amount of melanin you have can trigger an online shouting match. This event has antagonised white women but black men as well.
The Facebook page for the event is inundated with messages saying it is inherently racist (the argument for why it is not is based in a real understanding of racism as prejudice and power) but also with men threatening the women that attend.
There were posts on the page stating that the women would be raped, that men would form groups and harass them while arriving to and leaving the venue. The threats became so severe the organisers have sought to raise funds for extra security. This heightened level of online violence and resentment simply because black women want to gather, uplift each other and commune on common topics?
The ability for men to go from zero to rape has always puzzled and confounded me. What steps did you mentally take in which a woman not doing what you feel is right should mean you put a penis forcibly inside her? Forsaking all other means of engagement including using words and intellect?
These cyber threats are not empty threats, online violence against women mirrors the reality offline. This is evidenced in the recent murder of Motshidisi Pascalina, a lesbian in the Vaal whose body was discovered in an open field. And a 17-year-old boy from KZN recently took to twitter to say that if he ever found two lesbians having sex he would “definitely” rape them, “f**k them till they turn straight”.
The violence of racism and misogyny is constant, real and exhausting. Let me teach you a new word: misogynoir. It is a phrase the encompasses all the elements that come with being a black woman in a world that comes at you for either being too brown or having too much vagina.
— Goaty Digital (@MaddGOAT) January 31, 2016
A place where Hoteps (see also Hotep Twitter and how it manifests locally in movements and spaces such as #FeesMustFall) use black unity, tradition and powerful black history while secretly hating black women and wanting to subjugate them. A place of the strong black woman who can raise a nation. The idea that we are feisty and unbreakable while white women are delicate. The fact that we cannot feel pain or depression and that our mental health is sidelined in the name of being “strong”. A place that we gon’ be alright despite the world not being safe for us on so many levels.
This is why spaces like #ForBlackGirlsOnly are needed. Everyone needs a safe space where they can be themselves. It must be understood that this space is not a threat to anyone else. It is not a small enclave in which a revolution is being planned. Spaces like this are akin to parks for children in a world built for adults, a place where one can be in their entirety. The sad reality is that as a brown woman there is an onslaught of violence out there, from the racial dynamics of the world to the very men who purport to support and protect us enacting some of the worst violence on us, mentally, sexually physically and psychologically.
Having attended another #ForBlackGirlsOnly event the only thing on the agenda is to tell other black women that they are fabulous. That you are amazing. That it is OK to be in a world that thinks your hair is too kinky, your skin is too dark, your hips are too wide, that you are not smart enough and not male enough.
This was the same here. To search the #FGBOJhbJan16 tag shows that it really was black women enjoying being in the presence of other black women.
— Strength of a Woman (@HOLAAfrica) January 31, 2016
— Simamkele Dlakavu (@simamkeleD) January 31, 2016
— Pontsho Pilane (@Pontsho_Pilane) January 31, 2016
— Strength of a Woman (@HOLAAfrica) January 31, 2016
— Buyisanumhlaba (@CharmaineMogari) January 31, 2016
No coup is being planned. There are no plans to storm the bars and restaurants where black people cannot get a reservation. Going out in groups to heckle men who engage in street harassment is not on the agenda. No one is bringing weapons, pitch forks or stating that any other groups cannot go to or do something elsewhere. The event is not a threat to anyone, it’s simply a gathering of women who are sick and tired of always being sick and tired and for a moment want to be alone from the troubles of the world.
That’s simply it.
Much as all women need to be uplifted there are some struggles that women of other races do not experience in the same way. Much as black people need to be uplifted there are realities that men do not face in the same way. Being a woman of colour means facing a special type of reality, it is that word that many hate: intersectionality. It is facing the heat of racism and the fire of sexism.
We are well and truly cooked in this regard.
Much as there can be another time for others to come to the party there needs to be a time where there is a very exclusive theme. So when black women say can we have a moment, grant us this, at least for a little while longer because as the youth say “it’s real outchea“.
This article was first published on Thought Leader, this article has some additions.