David Davis is the favourite to lead the Tories after Theresa May. But Davis’s comments on Diane Abbott’s appearance should disqualified him. It was a personal attack on a black woman. That is extremely significant because of the historic brutalisation of black women at the hands of white men. Davis is part of a wider political movement, giving permission to vent misogynistic and racist views. There is a danger of it being normalised and it particularly affects black women. As a woman broadcaster who is also black, I hear by the absence of women’s voices, how it silences. The tirade of abuse experienced especially by black women in every walk of life must end. The end begins with leaders who disrupt misogyny not who promote it then apologise. Sorry doesn’t make it right or stop the trauma that women experience.
Diane Abbott is not just the first black woman MP, that does not do justice to her remarkable achievements. Ms Abbott has overcome many obstacles. From a working class black family, she attended Cambridge in the 1970’s to read History. Ms Abbott had successful careers including journalism before she entered politics.
Even the media who scorn her have recognised her talents. The Telegraph said Ms Abbott was one of ‘Labour’s best frontbench performers’. Her speech on counterterrorism and civil liberties won the Spectators Parliamentary Speech Of The Year. Clearly, Ms Abbott is a high achiever.
So what gives Davis and men like him the right to monster women like Ms Abbott? Black women have little social currency. It is a lingering effect of slavery. Davis, who is no oil painting, denied hugging Ms Abbott in condescending terms. He concluded by saying had he ‘hugged’ her it would have made ‘A good Optical Express advert’. Davis apologised but it was the kind designed to shut down the confrontation not show contrition. It may be the mild end of abuse that black women receive but it should never come from a leader.
Abusing Black Women
Men liberally use the C word and threaten violence, rape and death against women for deigning to hold an opinion. Black women like Ms Abbott are targets far more than white women for injurious displays of white masculinity. They also endure slurs on their race and appearance. Ms Abbott’s insults include being called a ‘Monkey-faced black slut’ and a ‘ Black whore’ because ‘whore’ is not enough. White men also order Ms Abbott to perform fellatio for them. No action has been taken against the abusers despite the relentless attacks. Ms Abbott is not alone.
While curating the @Ireland Twitter account men bombarded model, Michelle Marie with such abuse that she had to stop after just eight hours. Comments included calling her a ‘Black camera slut’. The position is no better across the pond. Actress and comedian Leslie Jones fended off a deluge of racist attacks. In the end, she retired from Twitter.
Abuse is not just a case of name calling. Men are neurobiologically attacking women. The abuse causes their cortisol levels to spike. So, women’s emotional and mental well-being is adversely affected. Maybe it’s a contributory factor to why black women disproportionately self-harm.
It also curbs women’s freedom which impacts on women participating politically and professionally. Consequently, it will have an economic effect.
Male abuse is so dire that it requires the law to be enhanced to reflect our notions of hate speech. But it must also be actively policed and financially resourced. In so doing we remove the right to criticise half the population and black women in particular.
In the meanwhile, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts can make a change. We can object to men attacking women, especially black women. We must close that chapter of black women’s history. Men in prominent positions can make a giant leap forward by throwing their weight against gender abuse as it is happening instead of being part of it and leading attacks on black women.
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White Boy Abusing Black Woman
Warning strong and offensive language.