Megan Thee Stallion, Digital Labour & Anti-Blackness

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My goal for this monthly newsletter is to share a sociopolitical critique on an issue pertaining to my research interests. That mostly means the content here will focus on black women. I think it’s important for us to cultivate an open safe space and one which prioritises the thoughts and experiences of African-Caribbean women across the world.

Thinking about Megan Thee Stallion’s trajectory as a black female artist is important to me because Megan does not fit hegemonic definitions of femininity. We know that the origins of these words and definitions are rooted in colonialism. Understanding how these articulations of gender come to the forefront when we speak about a 5ft 10” racially unambiguous black woman is a different conversation. There has been so much controversy around a young woman being shot, this is testament to an abundance of things: racism, misogyny and anti blackness in public forums. Now, I’m not saying anything new here by identifying this. What I would like us to consider, as consumers and as black women, is the way in which Megan’s symbolic welding to becoming the spokesperson for black feminism has continued to reify digital labour and black women’s role in such. Historically, women’s work has not been seen as a legitimate form of labour, thus we see motherhood, caretaking and household work as extensions of femininity, of women’s intrinsic nature — rather than the intensive lifelong labour that it is. This has developed alongside the growth of digital forms of work. Women’s work online as social activists is seen as an extension of themselves, rather than a worthy and reputable form of labour. The implications of this, both for black women and the marginalised groups we discuss, is that they continue to be seen as an alternative. Western feminism does not do the necessary work to include black women in critical thinking and frameworks.

Maria Mies reminds us that the historical development of the sexual division of labour was not evolutionary nor peaceful, instead it was “a violent one by which men, and certain people were able to establish an exploitative relationship between themselves and women”. Consider this when we talk about Megan’s work as an artist, and how social awareness of violence against black women has now become her brand. We wanted Megan to be a happy carefree black girl that made music, like Saweetie, or Mulatto. Instead, the mechanics of colorism and misogyny have made it clear that in this predatory mode of production, Megan’s work has become intrinsically tied to her worth, moreover, her ability to be carefree, or careless — is particularly stunted by her blackness. This reminds us that femininity, as understood in European definitions, is not designed to accommodate the lives and experiences of African-Caribbean women across the diaspora.

Considerations of the modes of violence Megan was and continues to be subjected to begs us to ask ourselves a difficult question. How much of ourselves can we see in Megan? In the way she has been treated, in the way that the expectation of her to produce work and labour (despite losing family and being violently attacked) continues to be at the forefront of conversations about her. Megan’s tears on social platforms serve to remind us of the dehumanisation of black women, but also the dispensable nature of black pain. We are asked to consider what makes Megan human? What makes a human? Getting at the core of these issues will push us to question who created humans, and does that word include black people? I am getting into Afro-Pessisism here and don’t want to distract from the topic of this month’s newsletter! I will include links to some readings below. Take care of yourselves this month — we’ll meet again in December.

Reading list:

Maria Mies — Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale

Shoniqua Roach — Black Sex in the Quiet

bell hooks — Feminist Theory & ain’t I a woman?

Patricia Hill Collins — Black Feminist Thought

Great place to access articles from journals:

Interested in beauty capital and postfeminism, caribbean women’s history and black british women’s history