Black internet spaces also have a misogyny problem – Tips & Results

The specter of incel dominates current discussions of hypermisogyny. Stereotypically, the image we have of the Incel is a white, teenage, Reddit-reading gamer dude. But the rise in incel is just a symptom of a broader, worrying trend of hyper-misogyny fueled by digital platforms. In the black British spaces I live in online, hypermisogyny masquerades as male solidarity and self-enhancement.

Examples have multiplied in recent weeks. In late April it emerged that a group of black men with major online platforms had formed a new Twitter “community” with the sole purpose of disparaging people – mostly black women. The targets included actor and podcaster Kelechi Okafor, sex and relationship counselor Dami “Oloni” Olonisakin, and Zaya Wade, the 14-year-old daughter of Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, who is transgender. The men joked about the “extermination” of women like Okafor (an outspoken black black woman), suggested that Olonisakin’s career was the result of “blackmail” and said they would kill their children if they came out as transgender would. The room’s creator, who posted under the (now-deleted) name “@3SixMANIC,” slammed Okafor for having a white partner, while another user shared an explicit image of a black woman scrolling her phone while walking away from was sodomized by a white man.

Such statements should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. But they also need to be placed in a broader context of the fiercely misogynist rhetoric that has become normalized in some black internet spaces in recent years.

Hypermisogyny as entertainment.

In 2016, snippets from the YouTube show BKChat LDN — an online talk show mostly featuring young black Londoners discussing topics like sex, dating, relationships and finance — landed on the timeline and spurred frenzied commentary. The web series was founded by Andy Amadi, who pointed out a lack of representation of black Britons on television. While Amadi correctly identified a cultural gap that needed to be filled, BKChat itself gained notoriety for sensationalist discourse and controversial talking points, often involving misogynistic themes. In Episode 3, titled “If I Pay for a First Date, We’ll Have Sex,” a cast member confidently claimed that if he paid for a first date with a woman, they’d have sex, “whether she [the woman] whether you like it or not”.

Indeed, the relationship between capital and hyper-misogyny is evident in internet content targeted at black men. The hugely successful Fresh&Fit podcast, hosted by Americans Walter Weekes and Myron Gaines, claims to help men navigate the current dating world by providing financial, fitness and romantic advice. Topics include debates about whether a woman’s body count (number of sexual partners) matters. Another episode sees Myron to quarrel that monogamy no longer makes sense for a man after a certain level of financial success. A clear pattern is emerging that visibly successful men (at least in terms of social media currency) make connections between fitness, wealth, success, and the objectification of women.

Both Weekes and Gaines have it too made openly derogatory comments about black women, along with another notorious black dating ‘guru’ Kevin Samuels. Samuels—who died suddenly last week — made famous by misogyny, critics say. His Latest videos contain provocative titles such as “Modern Women Are A Party of 1” and “Narcissistic Modern Women Are Driving Men Insane?”, the latter accompanied by an image by Jada Pinkett-Smith. His most popular video, with 2.8 million views, shows him chiding a black black woman for her expectations of a potential mate, titled “You’re Average At Best.” A highly rated comment below the clip reads, “This is the show the door was opened for [Black men] finally start to be honestly open [Black women] after more than 50 years [Black men] not be respected by [Black women]. REST IN PEACE [Kevin Samuels]! Your tough love is badly needed for our black communities caught in a death spiral.

This type of internet content is part of a broader problem of “popular misogyny” – a term coined by Dr. Sarah Banet-Weiser. “Whenever I began examining a popular feminist practice or utterance, there was always an accompanying hostility, reciprocation, or challenge, regardless of what mediated space it took place in,” explains Banet-Weiser. Black internet spaces are no exception. Writing about Samuels, BBC broadcaster Richie Brave recently observed: “The man was a crook and found that humiliating black women made him money at a time when feminism was becoming a conversation outside of academia.”

Alphas, not incels.

There are clear differences between the “incel” culture and the type of hypermisogyny that manifests itself in these spaces. The perpetrators are not “involuntarily celibate”, nerdy, predominantly white, self-proclaimed social outcasts, but rather discernibly successful, self-confident, appearance- and status-driven. Their goal is to be Alphas; the “best possible” version of yourself: wealthy, physically fit, and sexually desirable. But it has created a distorted view of women and men’s relationships with them. In this success-oriented framework, the “right” kind of woman is a conquest that must be achieved in much the same way as a promotion or a flashy watch. Typically this woman is conventionally beautiful, submissive, sexually selfless and willing to accept their male partner’s promiscuity while maintaining total monogamy themselves.

The reason why this type of internet content is popular with black men predates the internet. Western notions of masculinity rest on resources that black men are routinely denied access to. Where men are meant to lead and provide, UK disproportionately excludes black boys from schools and underpaid black men. Mykki Kendall’s “Hood Feminism” talks about how the disrespect that black men face in the world is problematically reinforced by a family where they have the upper hand, observing: “Because of the lack of respect elsewhere, the appreciate Men in these scenarios have a level of subservience and submission meant to compensate for what they cannot obtain in the wide world.” In the UK, structural racism shows little sign of abating. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act will give an institutionally racist police force more powers to continue to harass and brutalize black men, as well as those who protest against them. Self-actualization, the control of one’s destiny, is an important pillar of our understanding of what it means to be a man. It’s also significantly less practical for black men in the current socio-political climate.

The individualistic hustle ideology these men subscribe to rests on the central untruth of capitalism: that personal autonomy can overcome the effects of structural inequality. It is obvious that this notion would be attractive to black men who are so visibly victims of this inequality. Frames of reference for public success are often figures who espouse individualistic ideals, such as billionaire Jay-Z, whose luxury policies are often confused with black liberation. This short-sighted notion of success rests on heteronormativity and patriarchal values ​​(such as attainment of wealth, children, and a “dream woman”) that posit alternative lifestyles as impediments to black advancement. This perceived (and imagined) threat is why we see such widespread homophobia and transphobia in black internet spaces. The fallout from the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have led to increasing economic scarcity. When conservative ideals are posited as the means of prosperity, it is no surprise that people would double down on those ideals in difficult times.

The normalization of these ideas is to be criticized. There are brilliant black male creators in digital spaces, like Chucky Onlinewho treat these discussions with nuance and respect. Social media is a sphere where marginalized voices can be heard, but it is also a sphere where hatred is free to fester between any group. Issues such as misogyny, which appear to be specific to the black community, can be difficult to discuss over concerns that such discourse could be weaponized into further criticism of black culture. But the reality is that misogyny exists within a broader structure of misogyny that transcends racial demographics. At the same time, if we continue to uphold the “incel” as the sole example of hyper-misogyny, we’ll overlook the fact that it’s taking root elsewhere.

Martyn Ewoma is a creative director, photographer, stylist and writer.

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