Misogynoir in the 2020 Election

Profile of Kamala Harris against a black background. She wears a navy and black suit.

After months of speculating who would be Joe Biden’s running mate, the news finally became official with a historic first last Tuesday. Many took to the internet to celebrate Kamala Harris’s selection as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, the first Black and South Asian woman to receive the nomination.

In an Instagram post following the announcement, Michelle Obama posted about what Harris’s role could mean for the next generation, saying, “I’ve been thinking about all those girls growing up today who will be able to take it for granted that someone who looks like them can grow up to lead a nation like ours. Because @KamalaHarris may be the first, but she won’t be the last.” Senator Elizabeth Warren also shared support for her former presidential opponent, stating, “[Kamala] has been unafraid, and an inspiration to millions of women who see themselves in her.” However, with history made, it’s no surprise that there were people opposed to this progress for women in leadership.

Sexism and racism came out in full force almost moments after Harris’s announcement. Many of us are familiar with the term misogyny (or the hatred of women)—but there’s a word for the combination of sexism and racism that Black women face. Coined by Moya Bailey, “misogynoir” (from the words “misogyny” and the French word for black, “noir”) refers specifically to the experience of anti-black sexism that Black women experience. And as we edge closer to election day, it’s time we understand misogynoir and how it hinders Black women from taking political leadership.

Political pundits, everyday people, and even the media let their misogynoir flag fly, leaving only the public to call them out on it. Minutes after the news, edits were made to Harris’s Wikipedia page calling her sexist and racist slurs. A GOP leader in Virginia shared a sexist meme of Harris that has since been deleted. Mayor Barry Presgraves referred to Harris as an “Aunt Jemima.” Even in our own comments on social media, Twitter trolls took a birther approach similar to a recent Newsweek op-ed and questioned the legitimacy of Harris’s identity. These are all examples of combined sexism and anti-blackness that we must be aware of in order to call it out and bring gender justice to all women.

Take Action! Learn more about the many forms of misogynoir here. Use the TIME’S UP hashtag #WeHaveHerBack to show support to Kamala Harris and other women running for office against these sexist attacks. And use our hashtag #RepresentHer to demand fair and accurate coverage of women in politics!