In calling Quvenzhane Wallis a cunt, The Onion perpetuates status quo on black femininity


The Onion tweet

So, The Onion during the The Oscars last night decided to turn its online gaze to a 9-year-old black girl.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the satirical news agency took to Twitter to refer to Quvenzhane Wallis as a cunt. Yes, the only word in the English dictionary used solely to communicate one’s complete lack of respect for women.

Ah, how fucking edgy for The Onion to go after and attempt to demonize the femininity of a 9-year-old black girl. How clever for The Onion to say what everyone in America was so afraid of: that a 9-year-old rising actress is “kind of a cunt, right….”

Anyway, the Associated Press reported the tweet was taken down after an hour it was posted. However, it had already been retweet 500 times and favored by another 400.

I can’t, for the life of me, justify in my mind why The Onion would even think it would be okay to call Quvenzhane a cunt. Or why it would even be okay to single out a child in their satire. Or why it would be okay to call any woman or girl a cunt, period.

But, wait. I can see why they would have had no problem singling out a black girl and degrading her with such a horrendous word designed to do nothing but blatantly disrespect women. Black women and girls’ femininity continue to be devalued and degraded in the good ol’ U.S. of A. and they are just towing the line on how we all are treated in society.

I am hard pressed to believe that The Onion would even contemplate such an attack on the likes of Dakota Fanning, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, et al if they were coming of age during the second decade of the 21st century.

I’m also hard pressed to believe the folks at The Onion will even understand the error of their ways. I’m sure The Onion and its defenders won’t understand why their act was sexist and racist since people get bent out of shape when you actually label them a racist or sexist for doing, you know, racist and sexist shit.

From the time they can walk and talk, black children are never portrayed or viewed with the innocence often given to white children. Mainstream media, whiteness and the public at large often portray black boys as hypersexual beings by the time they get into kindergarten and black girls as sassy little versions of Sapphires.

A short piece by Tami Winfrey Harris at Clutch Magazine pretty much makes my point. When she was shopping for a birthday card, Harris stumbled upon something that reflects how corporations continue to perpetuate young black girls as, well, not sweet, innocent little girls:

I noted how many cards were illustrated with cherubic, little, white girls–all curls and blue eyes, surrounded by hearts and kittens and flowers. High up in the racks, I spied a sliver of brown skin and reached for it. This is what I found…

…a screw-faced, afroed, cursing black girl. On its own, the item from Carlton Cards is perhaps unremarkable, but in the context of all those other cards idealizing white girls as the embodiment of childhood innocence, sweetness and girlitude, it stinks.

Black women have long carried the burden of the neck-twisting, ball-busting, curse-you in-a-second, Sapphire stereotype. The card above is illustrative of how early our humanity and our femininity get stripped away…of why it’s so easy to demonize black women and girls

The Onion’s labeling of as a cunt pretty much goes hand-in-hand with whiteness and racism deciding on its own that the portrayal of black girls as young, sweet, and innocent isn’t fit for our black skin, kinky hair and thick lips. Whiteness decided long ago that black girls aren’t worthy of the same respect and worship society places on young white girls.

Even black male patriarchy has decided that it’s all fine and dandy to continue to portray black women and girls as oversexed Amazons who just love to be used and abused by our own men.

The Onion’s slander of Quvenzhane goes hand-in-hand with the racist and sexist stereotypes of black women and girls, which renders us as fair game for society to violate and destroy our bodies and souls. It fits perfectly with the notion that black girls and women’s femininity doesn’t belong to us and can be revoked or ignored anytime men want to take their sadistic physical and psychological forms of torture out on us.

But, I digress. No one will come to the defense of Quvenzhane and the racist and sexist attack on her character. I’m sure the white feminist blogosphere will mostly remain all but silent as they focus on Seth McFarlane’s racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist jokes he dished out throughout Hollywood’s annual prom night. I’m sure some white feminists will defend The Onion and say how it was just a joke and how we black women need to get over ourselves. Just like they continue to ignore the relentless attacks on First Lady Michelle Obama’s body, womanhood and femininity.

White women and feminism have not and will not come to the defense of black femininity and womanhood. Recognizing black women and girls as equal, thus worthy of protection, puts white women in danger as they would risk losing that all-too-precious pedestal they cling to while ignoring their privilege.

Business will go on as usual because no one, not even black men, values and respects our femininity enough to take on whiteness and the degrading forms of oppression it inflicts on black women and girls. Sure, they’ll be a few black male bloggers, pundits, actors and entertainers who take on The Onion. However, most black men–and women, to be honest–will go on as if the attack on Quvenzhane isn’t a reflection of how their own femininity isn’t respected by black men and society as a whole.

The Onion will go on because it knows all to well that society doesn’t give two shits about black women. The Onion knows it will most likely walk away from this bullshit unscathed because black women and girls, our womanhood, our identity as black women and our femininity doesn’t belong to us and is fair game to be mocked and ridiculed as a form of entertainment for the masses.

The Onion will go on because little girls like Quvenzhane don’t stand a chance to be seen on equal and deserving of respect as long as whiteness, black male patriarchy and racism continue to dominate–and subjugate–our communities.

16 comments on “In calling Quvenzhane Wallis a cunt, The Onion perpetuates status quo on black femininity

  1. I agree that this was a disgusting thing to tweet. Horribly sexist and something undeserved by anyone, especially a 9 year-old child. But even after reading your article, I really don’t see how her race was a targeted by these comments. I think this would have been wrong regardless of race.

    1. Did you read what I actually said? I clearly pointed out why her race and gender makes it such a racist and semester attack. The history of being a black woman and a black girl in this country demonstrates how it is racist and sexist.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I did. The history of discrimination toward black women isn’t something I’m debating, but I think the tweet and the “joke” (as if you could call it that) was focused on her sex and age rather than her race. I think it was meant to highlight the absurdity of calling a child a cunt because it is so clearly wrong and undeserved (and that is regardless of race). In any case, I didn’t find it funny.

        I also vehemently disagree that it would have been perceived as any more (or less) offensive, or they wouldn’t have ever considered the tweet if she was white.

        Additionally, I don’t think it is correct or helpful to say that white feminists refuse to come to the defense of black feminists because they are afraid of losing their “pedestal”. That’s offensive to me. Tearing down other women doesn’t increase anyone’s equality.

      2. Your discussion on the history of sexism and racism targeting black women is poignant and accurate. However, it’s simply not applicable to this particular situation considering the culprit. Their intentions were the exact opposite of “demonizing” her. It would be like trying to analyze Stephen Colbert’s 2004 Pess Core speech, operating under the belief that he is actually an extreme right wing politico.

      3. It’s only racist, if they meant it. The joke is on the absurdity of the situation and how very real bloggers/news/twitter posts say such things about adults.

        THAT’s the joke. The absurdity of targeting a child, the same way many target adults. It has nothing to do with her being black, and that’s just an easy smokescreen to cover your own bigotry and righteous cause this week.

        The Onion goes after EVERYONE. I don’t see you angry when they say far worse things about Honey Boo Boo. The real racism is from people like you, who feel the need to throw the race card down any time a black person is included in the same satire and ironic parody that does NOT discriminate.

        All you saw, was a fellow black female, targeted with a type of humor you don’t understand. And if it weren’t for being a black girl, you’d have kept right on walking.

        Special treatment is racist.

  2. This piece did a thorough job exposing this outrage and double standard. You didn’t stutter or stumble, however, reading Matt’s comment reveals what we’re up against here. We can’t always control what others think or say but we must continue to speak out for as Lucille Clifton, an esteemed poet who is no longer with us stated at the end of her poem ..”Come Celebrate With Me”; “come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed”.

    I will continue to share this article !

  3. I disagree. I don’t really see a link between race and this specific “joke”. Now, this was a horrid joke, yet I thought that since ‘The Onion’ was a site for satire, that the joke was in reference to the not so humble nature of the child prior to the start of the Oscars and a complete reversal on the media’s fawning of her, even when she’s only appeared in one film role. Also, I don’t really understand why the word “Cunt” shouldn’t be used at all. Would that also go for the word “Dick”?

  4. This piece did a thorough job exposing this
    outrage and double standard. You didn’t stutter or stumble, however,
    reading Matt’s comment reveals what we’re up against here. We can’t
    always control what others think or say but we must continue
    to speak out for as Lucille Clifton, an esteemed poet who is no longer
    with us stated at the end of her poem ..”Come Celebrate With Me”; “come
    celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has
    failed”.

    I will continue to share this article !

  5. There tweet was completely tastless, but it’s also clear many people are totally unfamiliar with the onion. They are not edgy or crass, they are all satire. I think they would have been totally ok if they simply used a word like “a-hole” , “jerk” or “snob” to describe her. Then they would have made their point in true Onion fashion, “this talented, sweet little positive girl is as adorable as apple pie.”

  6. There tweet was completely tasteless, but it’s also clear many people are totally unfamiliar with the Onion. They are not edgy, or crass, they are all satire. I think they would have totally been ok if they simply used a word like “a-hole”, “jerk” or “snob” to describe her. Then they would have made their point in true Onion fashion, “this talented, sweet little positive girl is as adorable as apple pie.”

    If you believe they were attempting to demonize her by calling her a bad name then your whole op-ed is based on analyzing something where you don’t understand the subject.
    I just believe using the c-word in regards to a 9 year old little girl is always tasteless, no matter your intentions.

    I also don’t understand the unrequited grenades launched at the entire sex and race of black men. This is half the problem with large a sections of society. The idea that your race and gender automatically makes you incapable of anything other then socially predesigned group-think is ridiculous. I am not even sure where all of that came from in your piece, It was a complete non-sequitur. Even if you did discuss the issue with one or more black males and that is where the animosity was spawned, there beliefs are solely a reflection of
    themselves as individuals and not entire race of people.

    I am sure there are plenty of black men who disagree with me. As I am sure that there are plenty of black women who are familiar with the Onion, and while they may find their tweet tasteless, disagree with your opinion of the Onion’s intentions. Difference in opinion doesn’t make someone a sellout, racist, stupid, or anything else. It genuinely scares me when people
    are so dug into their vacuum perspective, that any other competing perspective is met with rage and insolence.

  7. It continues to amaze me that some folks don’t get it or care to fully understand the ramifications of this faux pas! My previous comment made on this topic was removed, however, I’ve referenced this post on Twitter and Facebook and other blogs for I feel this perspective must be acknowledged and not allowed to be swept under the rug, although, there was a apology issued by the CEO. This, appaently, didn’t sit well with those who were responsible or supportive of the original tweet by The Onion regarding this young actress.

  8. I think a huge point was missed. It was not that (so much) the onion targeted a Black female child as much as why the did it. We are an unprotected class and so very little to no consequence will happen to those who choose to degrade us. Often when we defend ourselves (as in this instance) we are told to “take it easy” we are being to “sensitive”. Here we are a few months out and I have yet to hear any white feminist calling out or just noting that this Onion incident has happened. Let this have been a white female child actor and the world would have stopped with demands for apologies and boycotts of the Onion…..one only as to look at the “slut” incident with that Limbaugh douche to see the difference in how females are treated by race.

  9. basically the protection comes from peers. good this was spoken out on. that 9 year old african-american young lady is fantastic and beautiful. the person who wrote that hateful mess mistakenly identified him/herself. sorry lost person that they are.

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