Some things to muse on….

// 28 October 2008

Racialious has an interesting piece here on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Woman is the Nigger of the World and thoughts on oppression, misogyny and racism. Worth a read and a ponder, really it is.

In the same way Stroppyblog has done an analysis on women and the economic crisis. It starts off with comments about how the hold of flexible working for parents will disproportionately affect women.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 28 October 2008 at 7:19 pm

Re: John Lennon’s racist and misogynstic song title. As always it is those who have more power and privilege who are the ones claiming certain sexually and racially insulting terms are not ‘racist or misogynstic.’ Once again those who are most directly affected are rendered invisible and none more so than non-white women who experience both misogyny and racism.

Just as so-called liberal men claim that making sexually degrading comments and insults to women is just ironic or humorous (ergo Brand and Ross) so Lennon used his white male privilege to once again define non-white women from the white male perspective. Another example of patriarchy claiming something which does not exist but still insisting it does exist. Which is certain terms are supposedly not racist/misogynstic but if one cared to ask the group which is the subject of such continuous attacks – then the answer most definitely would not be ‘no.’

Louise Livesey // Posted 29 October 2008 at 8:13 am

Not defending the sentiment but it was Yoko Ono who coined the phrase in an interview prior to the writing of the song. How does this affect our understandings of it?

And the phrase is something which bell hooks has criticised in terms of its appropriation by the white majority as a way of signifying their “oppression”/”solidarity” in various contexts. My concern is how it reinscribes racist hierarchies (by saying “nigger” is the lowest class) without challenging it. However in terms of locating women in a class structure it works, but by reinforcing race structures.

spiralsheep // Posted 30 October 2008 at 11:05 pm

Louise: “it was Yoko Ono who coined the phrase in an interview prior to the writing of the song. How does this affect our understandings of it?”

Erm, you know she’s not black, yes?

Louise: “However in terms of locating women in a class structure it works”

No it doesn’t. It implies that “nubians” (I’m not using racial slurs even though you are) are men, and women are white, which renders black women functionally invisible and is therefore racist AND sexist as Jennifer Drew has already pointed out.

Louise Livesey // Posted 3 November 2008 at 11:51 am

“The black-white – or any other – binary paradigm of race not only simplifies analysis dangerously, presenting racial progres as a linear progression; it can end up injuuring the very group, for example, blacks, that one places at the center of discussion. It weakens solidarity, deprives the group if the benefits of the others’ experiences and makes it excessively dependent on the approval of the white establishment, and it sets up for ultimate disappointment…binary thinking, which focuses on just two groups, usually whites and one other, can thus conceal the checkerboard of racial progress and retrenchment and hide the way dominant society often casts minority groups against one another to the detriment of both” Richard Delgado & Jean Stefancic (2001) Critical Race Theory: An Introduction

As Bhopal and others have argued “black” is, in some circumstances, a term which is inclusive of all non-white populations and this was certainly the way I understood the term being used in the late 1970s and early 1980s as opposed to more nuanced understandings of black african or black carribean heritages. For example Southall Black Sisters describes themselves as

“Southall Black Sisters, a not-for-profit organisation, was established in 1979 to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women.”

Where is it you see me using “racial slurs”? I am truly concerned if that is perceived in my writing and would like to address that.

Kath // Posted 3 November 2008 at 4:01 pm

I’m not saying that the title of the song isn’t offensive at all, but I do agree with Louise that the song title works as a description of the position of women in the class structure. The point of using an offensive term is that that is how some white people treated black people. It does render black women invisible, but again isn’t that the point? They become the ‘nigger’s nigger’. Like James Connolly’s ‘slave of a slave’ (to describe working class women).

spiralsheep // Posted 5 November 2008 at 9:58 pm

Louise – “it was Yoko Ono who coined the phrase in an interview prior to the writing of the song. How does this affect our understandings of it?”

Louise – “”black” is, in some circumstances, a term which is inclusive of all non-white populations”

You appear to be lumping a Japanese woman, who grew up within a culture where she was part of the majority, with black people (used in an obviously specific sense in this context to mean those habitually called the n-word, i.e. black minorities in English-speaking “western” countries) in an attempt to defend your repetition of a racial slur and appropriation of black people’s experiences for white women. I suggest that instead of quoting other people’s words, you consider very carefully why you personally are choosing to do this. What do you get out of it and at whose expense? If you can’t explain that in your own words then I suggest to you that you haven’t thought it through enough.

Also, your appropriated racial slur now appears on this post 4 times: twice from you and twice from another defender of appropriation and not at all from anyone else.

Louise Livesey // Posted 6 November 2008 at 10:53 am

Actually Ono’s biography is slightly more complex than that – during her childhood she spent five years in the US. However you do make an excellent point I hadn’t considered (sorry and I do fully appreciate it is not beholden on you to do this and I am immensely grateful that you did).

I’d also further it by saying her class background was also not one of oppression or enslavement either in the US or Japan.

On the other note I am sorry you think I was supporting Lennon/Ono’s statement, that wasn’t my intention at all and I obviously miscommunicated it. I was putting it out there for debate not because I agree with it. I strongly believe in my ethic and my practice that appropriation of cultures is absolutely wrong and is a form of continuing coloniality which I abhor. However I don’t agree that reading around topics, asking questions and being informed is the bad thing you seem to suggest of it here.

Kath // Posted 6 November 2008 at 1:27 pm

Hi, having re-read and thought about the other comments on this thread I now understand that my comment was appropriating black people’s experience for non-black women. I think it would be good for people to recognise that this site (and life) is a learning curve for most of us and that we may be exploring ideas we don’t normally come across. Sometimes we post comments that may not be thoroughly thought-out but without realising that is the case.

With regard to using racial slurs, I don’t think I agree that it’s necessary to euphemise the ‘n-word’ if quoting, discussing or criticising its use but would be interested to know why others appear to think it is.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds