By: Tamya Matthews
Grammy nominated and multi-platinum rapper Megan Thee Stallion, former world No. 1 in women’s singles tennis and 23x Grand Slam Single Champion Serena Williams, and Harvard Law graduate and former first lady Michelle Obama.
You might be wondering what all of these women have in common, despite the obvious connection all of them share as highly successful black women dominating in their respective fields. The real answer however, is much more grim.
Each of these inspirational, powerful, and trail-blazing black women have all fallen victim to violent transphobia, the discrimination/prejudice against transgender people, despite being cisgender or having a gender identity which matches their assigned sex at birth.
The virulent ridicule they have endured has gone on for years through both everyday commentators online and prominent members of the public.
In 2014 Joan Rivers joked with a photographer after being asked if she believed the United States would ever see a gay or female president that “We already have it with Obama, so let’s just calm down. You know Michelle Obama is trans”.
In the same year Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev was fined $25,000 and banned by the Women’s Tennis Association for a year after jokingly referring to Venus and Serena Williams as the “Williams brothers”.
More so, following the shooting incident last July involving Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez, rapper Cam’ron uploaded an IG post with a picture that read, “Tory Lanez saw that dick and started shootn…IDC what no one say”, which he captioned “Ayoooo…Da net wins again.”
While disappointing, the remarks about these women come as no surprise and highlight the difficulties black women face navigating through the narrow and white supremacist definition of femininity and beauty.
Megan, Serena, and Mrs. Obama all share taller and muscular/thicker builds, which are often associated with men and viewed as incompatible with femininity, but truthfully there are many women who share these same exact features and do not experience anywhere near their levels of verbal abuse.
Their grave offense is much simpler: being darker skinned.
When people typically speak of colorism, they often discuss the practice of discrimination against darker skinned people and preferential treatment to lighter skinned people, but the issue goes a lot deeper. A central aspect of colorism is that lighter skin is perceived as feminine, whilst darker skin is perceived as masculine. This is why we often associate dark skin men with being mean and aggressive and light skin men with being sweet and sensitive, and the same goes for women.
Subsequently, this line of thinking uniquely positions dark skin women to be on the receiving end of contempt and equivocation to men.
As tall, muscular/thick, and darker skinned women, Mrs. Obama, Megan, and Serena are all prime subjects to disgusting and unfair speculation and denunciation of their womanhood and femininity manifested through transphobia, simply for the fact that how they look does not align with how white supremacy says women should look.
The fact of the matter is that black women are black women, and the standards determined by whiteness will never ever be fully attainable to them.
Rather than continuing to judge black women or any women by these standards, we should be dismantling them in their entirety and making femininity as a whole a completely inclusive concept.