With “Donda,” Kanye West’s 10th studio album, set to drop next week, the fan and media frenzy is heading off the charts, with wild speculation, retrospectives, collaborator interviews and conversations covering every possible angle. Missing from most of those discussions? West’s recent history and questionable antics. Not too long ago, he labeled slavery as a choice, publicly allied with Donald Trump and joyfully endorsed the right wing-aligned MAGA hat. If those stances hurt his career or reputation, it’s hard to see now.
While there’s a large spectrum of those who approve and disapprove of Mr. West, in some corners of Twitter, his resurgence was the catalyst for a conversation regarding the misogynistic patterns of “cancel culture” in entertainment. More specifically, it raised the question, “Why do we always forgive and believe Black men but not Black women?”
While I’m a Kanye fan myself, I’m a Black woman first and I will never ignore the uneven distribution of hate female entertainers receive.
For context, when singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele performed at Donald Trump’s inaugural ball in 2017, she was publicly ostracized and still is today. She hoped to “be a bridge” between Donald Trump and the Black community; instead, it completely derailed her career. Kanye’s? Not so much.
While both entertainers were connected to Donald Trump and acted in ways the Black community didn’t support, only one was able to bounce back, just one example of the way Black women in the public eye are given more scrutiny and less leeway.
In 2010, Moya Bailey, a Black queer feminist, scholar, writer and activist coined the term misogynoir. While the term misogyny encompasses the idea of having a dislike or ingrained prejudice against women, the suffix noir combines race and gender, and acknowledges the bias against Black women specifically. Though it’s visible in society as a whole, misogynoir gets magnified in entertainment.
Watching ya’ll’s interaction with Kanye is EXACTLY why I won’t let anybody tell me who not to listen to when it comes to female artists.— DarianJamar (@juss_DJ4ever) July 23, 2021
I’m listening to Doja, Snoh, Chrisette Michele and anyone else I want to.
Ya’ll quick to cancel women but quicker to ? ride the men. pic.twitter.com/GjVP47y61X
Like I said, don’t talk to me about cancel culture.— Preston “Boycott Nellie’s” Mitchum, he/him (@PrestonMitchum) July 23, 2021
Unless we lead with “Black women are the most likely to be cancelled.” Because: Chrisette Michele.— Preston “Boycott Nellie’s” Mitchum, he/him (@PrestonMitchum) July 23, 2021
Even I was disappointed in Chrisette’s decision back in 2017. But the fact that people were done (like completely) with her based on one action. Meanwhile, many continue to give Kanye chance after chance despite him bear hugging white supremacy. It’s abhorrent.— Preston “Boycott Nellie’s” Mitchum, he/him (@PrestonMitchum) July 23, 2021
One of the most infamous dichotomies dates back to 2004, when singers Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Superbowl XXXVI performance broke news after an intended costume reveal went awry, resulting in the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” on live television. Although both musicians were involved, Janet Jackson was the sole recipient of blame and criticism as her career plateaued and Justin Timberlake’s increasingly climbed.
In a more recent case, female rapper Meg Thee Stallion underwent public scrutiny following the alleged shooting between herself and rapper Tory Lanez in 2020. The altercation between the two artists quickly grew into a Twitter debate between Black men and women, arguably showing the lack of protection and grace extended to Black women.
While misogynoir is not new, the digital age allows for more visible dialogue surrounding it. And often, these conversations highlight the unfair treatment Black women face compared to their male counterparts, which leads to another question: “Does cancel culture really exist, when cancellation is applied so unevenly?”
In my opinion, this answer isn’t black and white but is full of cognitive dissonance, ambiguity and nebulous rhetoric. Where is the line between accountability and grace? Is grace even ours to give? Should we separate the artist from the person or is that situational? If someone is wrong personally, does that mean they’re wrong professionally? Who are we to even deem something as wrong? Do I cancel someone because you cancel them and if not, am I a bad person?
I don’t believe cancel culture exists because it shouldn’t be considered culture but a personal choice instead. One thing I do believe in, however, is being fair and keeping the same energy all around, especially in regards to the protection, forgiveness and acceptance of Black women.
As stated before, I’m a Kanye fan, but I’m an even bigger fan of Black women. So, I’ll give “Donda” a listen — but I’ll keep Chrisette Michele’s soulful songs on my playlist, too.
Sierra Allen is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a creative by nature and storyteller at heart. As a Black culture enthusiast, she writes with purpose and passion while highlighting local and national community-centered topics.