There's Nothing Funny in the Misogynoir of Crossdressing Instagram "Comedians"

By Hilary Christian

Funnyman Chris Rock once said in an interview that men dressed in drag is one of the oldest tricks in the book to get a laugh. Comedians and actors alike have donned dresses and wigs in movies and television shows, raking in millions, largely at the expense of women. Lately, however, there have been more and more comedians on social media using cross dressing as a way to get a laugh, but unfortunately it is at the expense of Black women. While their Instagram pages have garnered quite a following, their portrayals paint Black women as angry or unfeminine, thus fueling the negative stereotypes of Black women in the general media.

Instagram “comedians” @blameitonkway and @tim_bae have become instant stars.The characters in their videos – reminiscent of Jamie Foxx’s Wanda on the 90’s show In Living Color – are loud and brash, complete with bad wigs, neck rolling and causal use of the words bitch and ho. They are also hypersexualized, manly and purposely unattractive, thus perpetuating long-held beliefs about Black women. Is this how our Black men really view us? Given the thousands of followers these “Insta-stars” have (@blameitonkway is nearing the one million mark), one could assume so.

Men dressed in drag as a means of entertaining the masses is nothing new and even pre-dates Shakespearean times. In more modern times, there was Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill, Dustin Hoffman in the movie Tootsie and the late actor and comedian Robin Williams who played the lovable father turned nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire to name a few. However, the depictions of Black women by Black men seem to be skewed more towards the negative: from Tyler Perry’s gun-toting matriarch Madea to Martin Lawrence’s male mammy in Big Momma’s House to Wesley Snipes’ drag queen in To Wong Foo. These stereotypical and one-dimensional characters are largely what the general public sees and believes about Black women.

Granted filmmaker Ava Duvernay and television developers Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris (creator of Black-ish) are just some of the pioneers helping to change the perception of Black people in mainstream media. But there is still a huge racial gap in Hollywood and most movie studios and networks are reluctant to invest in projects made by and featuring minorities. With social media being a more viable platform of expression and storytelling, it’s disheartening, to say the least, to see Black men also use it as platform to assault and dehumanize Black women under the guise of comedy. And while that may not be their intent, the question of intentionality goes out the window when the end result is still the same: misogynoir.

All women experience misogyny in some form; however, the experience for Black women is inherently different. Misogynoir, a term coined by activist Moya Bailey refers to the racialized sexism Black women face and the societal hatred thrown at us from non-Black people. This specific form of misogyny influences our presence in pop culture. We’re either the sassy Black woman or the angry Black woman. The aggressively sexualized woman or the asexual mammy/matriarch. We are reduced to caricatures and our womanhood is erased, all in the name of comedy. This Instagram trend is just misogynoir at it’s best (or worst) with Black women as the punchline.

Obviously there are many who find these new Instagram comedians harmless and funny. Admittedly a few of @tim_bae’s videos in which he plays multiple characters made me chuckle. But to leverage oneself by distorting the image of Black women and at the same time reinforcing stereotypes is nothing more than modern day cooning. (Tell me this video of @Blameitonkway’s Titi wears light-colored lipstick isn’t reminiscent of Blackface). And there is nothing funny about that.

Photo: Instagram

Hilary Christian is a freelance writer and fundraiser from Chicago who is a regular contributor to For Harriet, and her work has also been featured in Wild Sister Magazine and Corset Magazine. Check out her site, follow her at @HilChristian and like her Facebook.

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