Violence against women is a large public health issue where scholars and community organisers are striving to build support to reduce harm. For women and girls of colour, racism compounded with sexism is a crossroads which presents issues at every turn. When Black women and girls talk about getting through each day and trying to survive, we do not mean simply getting through daily tasks under a capitalist system. A part of this mission is resisting Black femicide. Femicide is defined as the intentional killing of women because they are women. Black femicide needs to be named as such because the experiences of Black women and girls are different. Black femicide is the intent to murder Black women and girls.
Black femicide takes many forms including intimate partner violence and sexual violence. In 2020, at least four Black women and girls were murdered per day in the United States and this rate has increased significantly according to FBI reports. However, attention to this growing crisis is withering. As grueling as this is to confront, we must be explicit to fully address Black femicide and the multiple factors that contribute to this crisis. Far too often, the rationale for violence against Black women and girls is predicated on fallacies surrounding our value to society, and this discourse manifests online. Unfortunately, the Black manosphere has become one such assemblage of digital spaces where users may proliferate spurious anti-Black misogynist views about Black women, which can lead to violence against Black women and girls. The Black manosphere is one of many spaces that impeded the agency and structural well-being of Black women, which intersects with other misogynistic and racist spaces. As contradictory as it seems, there are men of colour who uphold far-right ideologies. This is in part because white supremacy is so deeply embedded in our society that anyone can be a vehicle for violence against those who have been systemically excluded. Thus, Black femicide and the Black manosphere are inextricably linked.
Some argue that the Black manosphere is an online space where Black men can discuss various topics from finances to dating, which may be true but isn’t as mundane as we think. The Black manosphere emerged to encourage Black men but at the expense of perpetuating misogynoir and aligning with white supremacist ideologies of gender and race. I expanded on this last year and still find it crucial to name misogynoir as it is key to understanding violence towards Black women and girls in digital spaces. Misogynoir, a term introduced by Dr. Moya Bailey, is a helpful term to illustrate the co-constitutive nature of racialised and sexist violence that subjugates Black women due to intersecting systems of oppression. Misogynoir is perpetuated through the Black manosphere specifically surrounding discussions of dating and pop culture. In particular, an occurring theme within the Black manosphere is attaching masculine traits to Black women with the purpose of excluding them from definitions of beauty and softness. The idea that Black women and girls are undeserving of protection has been a common perception since slavery and as we enter new generations this idea is transmitted in different ways, such as social media. Podcasts are very much a part of the digital space and can create meaningful change within people or endanger others. An increasing number of podcasts have centred on male-focused topics for Black men, which provide Black men and boys affirming spaces, yet these again come at the cost of Black women’s well-being. A few weeks ago, a popular podcast was under fire for a video of the two hosts, who are Black men, leaning into stereotypes about Black women. This podcast has many episodes targeting Black women and presenting harmful ideologies with a goal of ensuring everyone who watches believes that Black women are undesirable and a ‘hassle’ to interact with.
While there are many issues with the Black manosphere, a primary feature is the inclusion of white supremacist and misogynoiristic views because of their own social exclusion from white digital spaces. Take incels for example. For white incels, their barrier to healthy relationships with women is because of their own internalised misogyny and their belief that women owe them something. In contrast, a deterrent for healthy relationships in the case of Black incels concerns their race. However, incels are not the only individuals who perpetuate violent misogyny and specifically Black femicide, and the connection between Black femicide and the Black manosphere should be examined closely.
Reporting on the homicide rate of Black women since 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black women and girls face a higher homicide rate than any other female demographic. There aren’t adequate policies or protective measures to address this crisis of Black femicide, and this is not astonishing as Black women and girls have been ostracised from every issue that is meted out against us. Is this an argument that the Black manosphere is the sole cause of Black femicide? No. However, it is an opportunity to explore the harmful rhetoric that is expressed on these various digital platforms. At a time where Black women are losing their lives significantly higher than previous years to domestic violence, human trafficking, and other configurations of violence, simultaneously the Black manosphere is expanding Anti-Black misogyny to younger generations causing a snowball effect. Black women and girls are viewed as aggressive, masculine, and unruly which removes the responsibility of supporting us away from everyone else who is not us. The manosphere has been associated with cases of violent misogyny such as mass violence. The nonsensical perspectives on Black women are widely accepted as factual information which causes health issues and public safety consequences.
There are countless stories of Black women being murdered by men who they knew closely and by complete strangers. Their lives are lost, and we have no answers to many of the cases but many of us do understand the power of a belief. A belief that Black women and girls are inferior is what leads to death. Thus, the Black manosphere contributes to this. Moreover, these online spaces that encircle the Black manosphere have contributed to the online radicalisation of other Black men and this may be true for Black boys, and further research is required. Furthermore, scholarly work must move beyond tracking and reporting trends. It’s crucial without a doubt, but we also need scholars to do the meticulous work of building strategy to support all youth who are being radicalised. If the goal is dismantling these systems of racial and gender-based oppression, how do we use our research questions to enact social change for those who are impacted the most by violent extremism?
Rosalind Page, a Black mother of four and member of the non-profit organisation Black Femicide US has created social media pages and tracked the murders of Black women and girls. She is now planning to have a march in D.C. to bring fierce awareness to this issue. As a community organiser and emerging developmental psychologist with a focus on adolescent and youth development, my inclination is to cultivate evidence-based strategies to build solidarity among Black youth. Strengthening the relationships and coalition building among Black female and male youth is important. Research within critical far-right studies should include Black feminist and critical race theory lenses because far-right activity as a whole includes racism misogyny. Fascist movements oppose the ways women and girls of colour organise to establish supportive digital platforms. Thus, an intersectional lens is necessary.
The Black manosphere is a complex social space wherein the harmful ideologies of far-right groups and white supremacists contribute to misogynoir. The rhetoric of these spaces contributes to the growing crisis of Black femicide, and this requires immediate attention if we are to dismantle these systems of oppression and prevent the radicalisation of Black boys and men and to allow the thriving of Black women and girls.
Alexandria C. Onuoha is a PhD student in Applied Developmental Psychology at Suffolk University in Boston. She is a mentee and board member at the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, and a community organiser. Her primary research focus investigates the effects of far-right ideologies online and in-person on the development of Black adolescents.