There are multiple kinds of discrimination that people can face, and some populations of people are subject to more than one kind of discrimination. Most people understand that women can face gender-based discrimination or abuse in their workplace. Quite a few others recognize that racial discrimination is still a factor in many companies and industries.
All too often, people fail to notice the uncomfortable intersection of racial prejudice and gender discrimination. African American women are members of two of the most discriminated against subsets of the population in the United States. That means that even in places where gender discrimination isn’t an issue, they can still face unfair treatment.
Professional black women may have to deal with both racism and a special kind of sexism known as misogyny noir in the workplace, which may hold them back from advancements.
What exactly is misogyny noir?
The human brain is incredible at identifying patterns. Unfortunately, the desire to organize and understand the world around you can lead your brain to engage in some questionable pattern recognition. Many racial and gender stereotypes are born from the idea that most if not all people who belong to a population will fit certain criteria or behave in a certain way. Women have historically been seen as emotional and even irrational, while African-Americans often have to deal with stereotypes about their intelligence or proclivity for physical violence.
Black women have to deal with a unique kind of stereotyping. Far too many people buy into the idea that black women are simply angrier than women of other races. African American women are often subject to intense societal pressure because they do not conform to European beauty standards. At the same time, many people fetishize the appearance of African American women, in part because of the inaccurate idea that they are less evolved and therefore more animalistic and sexual.
None of this has a basis in biology or psychology, but it doesn’t stop these inaccurate beliefs from affecting women of color in the workplace. Misogyny noir is a unique brand of discrimination that uses both racial and gender stereotypes against African American women.
Has misogyny noir impacted your career?
Women are often subject to tone policing, where people in the workplace can’t critique what they say, so instead they critique how they say it. African American women are particularly vulnerable to this kind of unnecessary criticism, particularly if they are assertive or in a position of power. Even if tone policing isn’t an issue, people may judge you and your work based on their assumptions, not your abilities.
If your co-workers, clients or managers have made reference to your attitude, your tone or your racial background when disciplining you or when explaining why you didn’t get a raise or promotion, you could be the victim of misogyny noir and its potentially devastating impact on professional women of color.