“You all see prejudice in everything”: the silencing of black women in feminist movements

'Vocês veem preconceito em tudo' - o silêncio da mulher negra nos movimentos feministas - capa

Note from BW of Brazil: In today’s post, Viviane de Paula delves into a topic that springs up here from time to time: the need address specific issues of black women within feminists circles. We all know that we live in a sexist world, but what many if not most (all?) white women don’t seem to get is how black women must face this form of oppression in combination with another form of oppression that white women simply don’t have to deal with: racism. As much as white women have legitimacy in pointing out sexist male privilege that seeks to silence the feminine, white women often don’t acknowledge their privilege of being THE standard of femininity in the not only the media but in the social consciousness of Western nations. White women are not the base of the social pyramid. White women are not passed over in the realm of matrimony because of their color as are 50% of black Brazilian women who are single. White women don’t face widespread stereotyping based on race that projects their image in only a few select ways. Which is why black women tend view the world in a number of ways, including through the lens of prejudice. But, some people will never get it!

“You all see prejudice at everything”: the silence of black women in feminist movements

by Viviane de Paula

In recent months I have heard more frequency and indignation the following sentence: “you see prejudice in everything.” It was not just one or two people, but almost all my social circle and family. I began to review my criticism and my opinions, rethinking if I really “saw prejudice in everything.”

I realize that for most people with whom I live, racist discourses of media and society in general, are common and unpretentious, that is, only a “thing” in my head. In one of my recent discussions, I raised the case of the former Globeleza girl Nayara Justino. I was, in a circle of colleagues, feminists including white women. In 2014, Nayara suffered several criticisms of an extremely racist and sexist character, above all, by not fitting into the standards of “mulatologia” (mulatology). That’s right: as if we needed an area of knowledge to discover black women, or rather black (and beautiful) women. No, I don’t see racism in everything. I don’t not need “mulatólogos” (mulatologists). No black person needs them.

Sometimes there is no space, particular and specific, for one to establish an agenda for black feminism in feminist movements. Although for us – black women, activists and feminists – proclaiming that sexism against the black woman is crueler, certain feminist groups come to disregard this fact. Minimizing the struggle of these movements against the sexist discourses and attitudes is not the goal, but to reflect on the natural need to listen to the voice of the black woman.

Black women are hyper-sexualized, but white women are too.” Yes, but this issue goes much further.

The experience of oppression is given, above all, by the position that we occupy in a matrix of domination in which race, gender and social class are related in different perspectives. It’s not difficult to note that the black woman in an unequal, racist and sexist society, experiences oppression in a very distinct place.

I see a certain reluctance on the part of white feminists to conceive relevance to black feminism within the hegemonic feminist movement. The voice of the black woman, even within these movements, is silenced, as if we were too dramatic, seeing too much, hearing too much: however, among so many, this is just another way of silencing.

“We all go through the same thing.” No, we don’t. The black feminist movement has its peculiarities, omitting them therefore contributes to the deconstruction of the whole struggle of a people, blacks, black women in society. When we talk about domestic violence, 60% of cases involve black women. In the media, the representation of the black woman is the “mulata gostosa” (“hot mulata”), “do bumbum grande” (“with the big butt”) contributes directly to strengthening the discourse that black women are more sexually active, more provocative, “hotter”. In this manner, refusing any kind of harassment is not socially accepted, generating, often times, reasons for insults and even physical violence.

Since colonization, rape culture has been disseminated by the discourse that we are “um país miscigenado” (“a mixed-race country”), so here there would be no discrimination.” The body of the black woman was considered an object, and today it’s no different. Why doesn’t Globo TV extend the “mulatologia” (mulatology) to other races? Aren’t we in a mixed-race country? Well, then.

When we talk about equal working conditions for men and women, what women are we talking about? When you see a job advertisement which states “mulheres com boa aparência” (women with good appearance/women that look good)”, what women are we talking about? When it comes to the Brazilian standard of beauty, what women are we talking? When discussing the marginalization of women, what women are we talking about?

Racist and sexist discourse that I hear every day go beyond what is clear in our eyes and, perhaps, the problem of society is looking beyond the opacity, the obscure, beyond what is transparent.

No, I don’t see too. I don’t see prejudice in everything.

It was always there. Close your eyes and see it.

Source: Blogueiras Negras

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Women’s rights do not include “Black” Women…Sexism was not an issue before “Blacks” got plugged into White society. “Black” Women need to get as far away from feminism as possible!!! Claiming to be a feminist will only further enslave you.

    Let White Women fight their Man on their own, don’t get involved in their bullsh*t! “Black” Men don’t have the ability to oppress you and if they do it’s only because Whites have allowed them to.

  2. Well, one of the prejudices is that 50% of single Brazilian women gets passed over for matrimony because of skin color. I promise you this percentage does reflect a trend based on stereotyping based on the women’s’ race. In the reading of Viviane de Paule, she encourages the applied science of “mulatologia” to grasp a deeper understanding of Black women’s ideology of today. This means the Black woman’s voice not only merits a lot of attention but a deeper need to LISTEN to their suffering to grasp a sincere understanding the need to be heard.

  3. I definitely agree with the idea that Black women are silenced in the feminist movement. The remarks that the blog included such as “You see prejudiced in everything” or “we all go through the same thing” definitely put the silencing in perspective. Those remarks implicitly demand that Black women stop worrying about racism. Those remarks are similar to the idea of a color blind society; very insidious. The white feminists who tell Black women not to worry about racism are stuck in the color blind mentality. They fail to acknowledge the deeper plight of women of color. Black women are exotocized and hypersexuallized; that can be shown by the Brazilian psedu-science of mulatology.


  4. I thought this article did a really good job of digging deeper into the issue of women’s voices being silenced and the discrimination black women face on the daily basis, and continue to encounter till this day. I think that some of the main points that stuck out to me were the rape culture facts, and the percentages on domestic violence. The facts were surprising to me, and something I did not know the depth and the problem of. I think one of the most important points this writer makes is the part where white women do not have the place to say they go through some of the same problems/discrimination that black women have and still do. I think that no matter how far we come with racism, white women will never understand what it was like or is like to live in a world as a black women, and that’s the sad truth. Skin color should not be the deciding factor of how you are treated.

  5. This article shed light to a concept that I thought I was aware of, but obviously has more to than meets the eye. Women’s marginalization has been a broad concept that is seen as affecting ALL women. One thing that is often left out is the race component of it, which was something that I can say never really thought mattered in the case of women’s issues. That fact that 60% of domestic violence cases occur to black women is mindboggling and so is the fact that black women seem to by more hypersexualized than white women. Women’s bodies as a collective are always sexualized through the media, but the fact that black women’s bodies are always associated as having particular attributes and sexualizing that while at the same time being one of the races with the higher domestic violence cases, should be an eye opener that obviously as a society we are placing our priorities on the physical aspects of a person, rather than who they are.

  6. Very insightful article. I have to say, I believe the issue with white and black women who are collectively involved in the feminist movement is the fact that both sets of women experience different social issues alongside sexism. As the article stated, white women are not typically subjected to racial discrimination but rather gender discrimination. By the same token, however, they are granted white privilege (therefore, this would allow them to benefit from racialized categorization). Black women, on the other hand, have to confront injustice on more than one front. The pre-existing stereotypes/ mythology that has preceded black women in their quest to gain racial and gender equality is what makes it harder for black women to overcome the obstacle of being relegated to second-class citizenry.

    Also, I’m not sure if white women can be blamed for their lack of empathy towards the black feminists. Personally, I would expect them to not really understand the magnitude of being black and female in a society that caters to the advancement of the white male. White women are less likely to discuss racial discrimination because it more than likely doesn’t apply to them, or it doesn’t happen to them often enough for them to know that it actually exists. Also, one of the reasons that racial issues aren’t addressed and eradicated is because there is a large number of people (particularly whites) who seemingly benefit from the racial divisions. Thus, can we expect women to address an issue that they would typically benefit from?

    Finally, considering the heterogeneity of the feminist movement, if the women of the movement cannot attempt to simultaneously attack both the gender and race-related issues that exist amongst the respective members of the movement, then how can the feminist movement prove effective? It’s almost as if a rather large portion of members are pushing for the revolution of a movement that they will barely benefit from.

  7. African women should not be excluded in their voices and opinions for feminism. they have faced a lot of oppression stemming from slavery. I believe that all women should have equal opinions when developing feminist theories. they should talk about their experiences for all races, black, Latina, white, Indian, etc.. All women have experience sexism against them. to point the finger on who had it worse would deviate from the cause.

    however today currently, African women do face racism that whites don’t have to face. the way they are depicted sexually in the media does bring that group down because Africans have so many good things about them that should be put in the media. in order for this to stop, African women need to target a media to enforce change.

  8. I have come to agree with many of the things that were outlined in this post. While I do not pretend to speak for Black women simply because of my status as a Black man, I have heard many of the sentiments of the writer in my every day interactions with my significant other, my mother, my cousins, my aunts, etc. Feminism, like most institutions led by people, is a tricky thing. On one hand, I would like to think most progressively-minded people would favor women having equal rights and, as such, I don’t tend to shy away from labelling myself as a feminist, usually defiantly in circles with other men who would look at that term as a perjoratve. On the other hand, it is a peculiar situation to see that very same ideal, which purports to be a bastion of equality, in many ways marginalize the Black women and other women of color that are in my community and life. I am reminded of Sojourner Truth’s quotes revolving around the concept of her womanhood as it relates to mainstream feminist movements.

    • This is one of the quotes I was referencing:

      “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I could have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

  9. Side note: Identity politics and power dynamics also make this a weird issue as far as men of color are concerned. I mean, the man of color (in a way) also benefits from the subjugation of the woman of color. It becomes odd and potentially problematic (to say the least) to be a Black male and give my honest opinion to a Black woman who seeks out mainstream feminism because sometimes I may think those movements were not created for her, have no intentions of ever holding her as an equal priority and, thus, she might want to place her efforts elsewhere. It is precisely because of the privilege I have as a man in that interaction that things get hazy. I mean, how exactly would she know that my motives are genuine and not based on increasing my own stock by delaying theway she believes she can become empowered?

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