What the Megan Thee Stallion Discourse is Missing

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Stacy Lee Kong

Jan 06 2021

7 mins read

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Content warning: This newsletter contains references to sexual violence and transphobia.

I‘ve been thinking about Megan Thee Stallion for weeks. Okay, I’ve been thinking about her for longer than that (mainly because I was hoping 2020 would be Hot Girl Summer 2.0, SIGH) but after she was shot on July 12, it was less fun, more worry.

In the aftermath of the shooting, she was turned into a meme, her fans dragged her for only speaking up about violence against women when she became affected by it and random men on the internet—at least one of them a fellow rapper—made transphobic jokes about her.

As writer Tayo Bero pointed out in the Guardian earlier this week, “there is a painfully obvious lack of care when we talk about violence that is perpetrated against Black women; almost like society is unable to reconcile the gravity of the violence with the humanity of its victim.”

But for some Black women—those with the “wrong” build, too-strong features, dark skin and an assertive personality—it’s not just misogynoir. It’s also transphobia.

Meg’s body, facial features and attitude don’t fit with stereotypical ideas of femininity

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It’s also not new.

If you are one of the youth, you may not remember this, but when Ciara first came on the scene, there were all sorts of rumours that she was trans. That language wasn’t necessarily mainstream—it was 2004—but I remember people expressing the idea that she “wasn’t really” a woman with conviction, like, “Oh, she’s actually a man.”

The rumours must have started with the release of her first two songs, “Goodies” and “1, 2 Step,” because by early 2005, Snopes had waded into the debate. But I still remember her next single, “Oh,” being used as proof that she wasn’t who she said she was. She was too tall, too muscular and her features were too strong for her to “really” be a woman, which was deeply problematic on two levels: it implied there was a correct way to be a woman (there isn’t) and that trans women aren’t women (they are).

And Ciara was not a one-off; as Twitter user @BasicBitching pointed out in a July 1 thread, similar rumours have circulated about Toni Braxton, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Nene Leakes, Wendy Williams, Lil Mama, Michelle Obama, Leslie Jones, Serena and Venus Williams and, now, Megan Thee Stallion.

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Megan for sure received transphobic comments prior to being shot—the internet is nothing if not predictably trash—but after she was shot, they were everywhere. So many men joked (“joked”) on Twitter about seeing rumours that she was trans right after jerking off to her twerk compilation, which wasn’t creative or funny the first time I saw it, much less the twentieth. And rapper Cam’ron reposted a meme on Instagram that straight-up said Tory Lanez shot Meg because he found out she was trans. In addition to all the other things that are wrong with making light of a woman being shot in both feet, allegedly by someone she’d been dating for the past eight months, the subtext of that post is that Lanez was justified in shooting Meg because she’d tricked him, furthering the stereotype of trans women as duplicitous and sneaky. That’s an incredibly dangerous idea, and one that is directly responsible for the torture and murder of trans women, especially Black trans women.

A lesson on ungendering

Last week, writer and Kultur’D co-host Bee Quammie introduced me to a new (to me) concept that explains some of what’s going on here: ungendering. Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers first used the term in her 1987 article, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” where she argued in part that slavery stripped all Black people of their genders, since as property, slaves were interchangeable in their labour. For Black women in particular, this meant they weren’t understood as women in the way white women were, and they were not eligible for the same kind of societal protection that white women received.

This dynamic didn’t go anywhere after slavery. It’s right there in the way Black girls are considered less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. And, as Julia Craven broke down in HuffPost, in “the ugly truth that Black women experience violence at a rate disproportionate to our white peers… Black women are 8 percent of the population but 22 percent of homicide victims as a result of domestic violence and 29 percent of women victimized overall. [And four in ten Black women] have been raped, beaten, stalked, or experienced some combination of the three by an intimate partner.” And it’s there in the idea that Black women who aren’t dainty and delicate, who have dark skin, whose features don’t fit Eurocentric ideas of beauty and whose attitudes are “masculine” aren’t real women, and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated as such.

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Like, I literally saw a man make that argument on my Twitter timeline this week 🤦🏽‍♀‍ And I just know he thought he was being profound.

So, what do we do?

What we always do, Pinky: Hold our heroes to account. Okay, maybe Cam’ron is not a hero, per se, despite my enduring love of “Hey Ma.” But he is a famous rapper with a big profile, which means it’s even more important to draw

attention to his missteps.

We should also continue supporting organizations that serve trans folks, like the U.S.-based Okra Project, which pays Black trans chefs to provide one healthy, home-cooked and culturally specific meal to a Black trans person who is experiencing food insecurity. And in Toronto, Supporting Our Youth is a really cool program run out of Sherbourne Health that empowers queer and trans youth to “restore, maintain or improve [their] health and well-being” through programming, tutoring and mentoring.

We also have to call out anti-Blackness, misogyny and transphobia where we see it, whether that’s online, in-person or in ourselves. As Twitter user @IAmBumblee pointed out last week, cis Black women can be transphobic, just like anyone else. But it’s in their best interest to stand in solidarity with trans Black women, because they have a common enemy: misogyny.

And the rest of us should be right there with them, tbh.

A Thing I Like

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And Did You Hear About…

This Vulture piece on Netflix’s watch metrics, which are bonkers, but also indicative of a shift in what we consider a “hit movie.” (This is extra interesting to me considering how many Emmy nominations the streaming platform got this week.)

Taylor Swift fans harassing a music reviewer because they thought her review of Folklore was too negative. (She gave it an 8/10.)

Jezebel’s smart critique of 90 Day Fiancé—and the way Westerners expect immigrants to assimilate, but refuse to do so when they’re the ones moving to a new country.

The female athletes who are visibly protesting anti-Blackness without credit (or, let’s not forget, equal pay).

This update on Kevin from Mean Girls.

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