Hoes Be Winning: The Case for Blac Chyna and Amber Rose's Intersectional Feminism2/11/2016
by Ashleigh Shackelford Blac Chyna and Amber Rose are two Black women that have not only challeng...
by Ashleigh Shackelford
Blac Chyna and Amber Rose are two Black women that have not only challenged society’s anti-Black misogyny, but have flourished in the wake of the world trying to hoe-ify them into shame. The two women are challenging the misogyny behind the label of “hoe” by reclaiming the term in locution. Their claim for respect in their autonomy and right to merely exist as mothers and sexual beings—worthy of love and relationships—is powerful and necessary. Blac Chyna and Amber Rose are seen as hoes because they do what they want, wear what they want, and do not allow their experiences with men or ex-partners to define them. They exist for themselves. The very public journey of their resilience through the trials and tribulations of heartbreak, friendship, revenge, and their ability to thrive despite it all provides a deep understanding of how Black feminism is given power by Amber and Chyna, and how they’ve used Black feminism as a means of survival.
Amber Rose used the past year to get back on her feet after her marriage with Wiz Khalifa ended, and after feuding with Kanye West over comments she made about rape culture and old men preying on young girls—a reference to Kylie Jenner and Tyga’s relationship. The feud was instigated when Kanye pulled out the Misogynoir Wild Card by attempting to strip Rose of her autonomy, credibility, and worth by saying that her career was successful only because he provided her with opportunities by dating her. In his interview on the Breakfast Club, Kanye went on to say, “She’s just soaking in the moment. If Kim had dated me when I wanted, there would be no Amber Rose.”
Kanye’s intention was to convey that Amber Rose’s career—and thus, validity as a woman—took off solely because of him, and that was merely a stand-in for the woman of his dreams… even though the pair dated for almost two years. Yet, Kim Kardashian’s career was also based off of the misogynistic consumerism of her body resulting from the widespread leak of her sex tape with Ray J. Kim Kardashian’s career evolved largely due to her relationships with (Black) men more famous than her—including the fact that she made a sex tape with Brandy’s little brother. This is how anti-Black misogyny works: We praise women like Kim, because she is not seen through the lens of hoeness. Because she is not read as Black. Amber Rose called this out, and made sure to cultivate conversations around hoe-ness and how women deserve to be respected regardless of what they’ve done, who they’ve dated, and how they survive.
Amber Rose demands due credit for her own trajectory because she’s actually a person outside of her relationships with Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa. In response to the back and forth with Kanye, Amber took it upon herself to not only publicly speak out against his misogyny, but also took on Khloe Kardashian in a Twitter clapback when Khloe tried to shame Amber for being a stripper. In response, Amber Rose decided to create a platform to discuss the autonomy and agency that women and femmes deserve everywhere by hosting the Amber Rose LA Slut Walk. Amber acknowledges how white supremacist patriarchy tries to control, violate, and consume women of color, especially Black women. Amber has also shown up for her best friend, Blac Chyna. Through Blac Chyna’s hardships with her ex Tyga, Amber continuously dragged this nigga whenever it was necessary, using Black feminism to empower both herself and her best friend.
Similar to Amber Rose, Blac Chyna’s year was marked by the continued dissolving of her relationship with Tyga and her former friendships with the Kardashians. Chyna was betrayed in the worst way by her partner and father of her child, Tyga. He not only cheated on her, but also began publicly dating the underage sister of Chyna's best friend, Kim Kardashian, behind her back. (Tyga also knew Kylie Jenner since she was at least 14 years old. Gross.) The relationship between Tyga and Kylie forced Chyna to not only lose her friendship with Kim, but also her relationship with the entire Kardashian family subsequently. Chyna went through—and still goes through—a series of back and forth shade with Tyga publicly that eventually proved Tyga ain’t shit and reaffirmed for the world that he’s anti-Black and a pedophile. But being in the public eye, many onlookers (including other Black femmes) wanted to drag Chyna because she's a Black femme seen through the gaze of hoe-ness and her response to Tyga’s behavior proved "she still cares" or "she's mad that she's not Kylie."
Chyna continuously dealt with the white supremacist gaze that her Black beauty and her Black body will never be more worthy than a thin white girl with a waist trainer and lip shots. Ultimately, the idea that she must be a white girl in order to be praised for her body and sexuality, or to be seen as worthy or loved, is violence that she is continuously surviving.
When Tyga "bought" Kylie a Ferrari for her 18th birthday, it represented that Chyna will always be the baby mama but never the girl you'll go bankrupt for/risk your entire career for. Chyna and Amber Rose channeled their resilience in a powerful Black feminist statement by showing up to the VMA's in custom made gowns adorned in the words often used to shame Black women with their kind of serxual agency: hoe, whore, gold digger, slut, and so forth. This was a powerful statement for all pro-hoe Black femmes who demand sexual agency, body autonomy, and respect.
To recap: Blac Chyna was cheated on by her pedophilic ex-boyfriend, and then dumped for an underaged girl (who was also her former best friend's sister and a part of an anti-black media conglomerate that has major influence in mainstream white media)… and yet, she is dragged for being a “hoe” and “ugly” because she’s a Black woman. But what does she do? Dates Rob Kardashian. She will now be at every family function seeing her ain't-shit baby daddy and his new found “family” created out of betrayal and misogyny. Whether her intent is revenge or true love, her ability to find happiness and means of surviving heartbreak are definitely Black feminist goals.
In looking at both Amber Rose and Blac Chyna’s stories of survival and thriving, there is a structural context of anti-Black misogyny framing them as exploitative gold diggers and attention whores too consumed with their ex’s rather than their own lives. We’ve seen both women compared to their ex-partners’ current love interests (who are also white women). In these comparisons, we see that Kanye West is praised for “upgrading” to Kim, because while she emulates Blackness as cultural currency and relevancy through her body and relationship to Blackness, she cannot be separated her from whiteness. Kardashian is seen as white acceptable—never Black and therefore undesirable—though her perceived racial ambiguity differentiates her from other white women as exotic. Kylie has been put on a beauty standard pedestal for young girls (read: white girls) through her appropriation of Black culture and Black features, while still maintaining whiteness enough to hold all the cultural positioning and power it confers.
These direct comparisons reinforce that Black women will always be the baby mama, but never the wife, and that Black women ain’t shit unless someone else deems them worthy.
The world is afraid of hoes winning. The world is afraid of Black women and femmes who know their worth and demand their agency in a society seeking to destroy and silence them. We fear Black women and femmes obtaining happiness, sexual agency, financial stability, love, and family. The hatred and other-ing of Chyna and Amber is a reflection of racist misogyny that places sexualization, dehumanization, and limitation upon Black women—including our bodies, autonomy, and sexual agency. So when Chyna and Amber not only reclaim their agency as Black women, but challenge the world that seeks to destroy their ability to “win” or love themselves – it’s revolutionary.
We’ve been so ingrained into believing that respectability wins that when we see exceptions to these unspoken cultural rules (re: white supremacist patriarchal violence), we feel like everything we’ve ever worked towards is a waste. We feel like our worthiness, our journey, and our moral compass is questioned. To see Amber Rose and Blac Chyna being carefree, freely sexual, loving parents, and independent women, we feel like something has been stolen from us. Somehow we believe that Black women and femmes who are deemed as “hoes” and who are “winning” (read: succeeding, enjoying financial stability, and remaining happy, unbothered, and unbossed) must mean we’re losing. We’ve internalized ideas of anti-Black misogyny that frames our understanding of Amber Rose as an ain’t-shit stripper that was never worthy of the relationship, love, marriage, or family she acquired. Our internalized ideas of Black women have allowed us to believe that Chyna was always out to get Tyga’s money and that she is nothing more than a bitter stripper solely out to get revenge because she’s jealous of a white girl and wants her ex back.
We have internalized and perpetuated the hegemonic white supremacist patriarchal views that create a hierarchy of worthiness when it comes to women. We reinforce the virgin-whore dichotomy by making sure that we separate ourselves from the hoe-ness of someone else to subsequently uplift ourselves closer to pureness. We distinguish what body types are acceptable, specifying thinness and whiteness as beauty ideals – thus, leaving Black women’s bodies codified as ugly, and yet fascinating and tantalizing enough to recreate our features on non-Black bodies. Our society continues to mark Black women as a problem, regardless of what respectability we attempt to achieve. When we spend our lives navigating and surviving within white supremacist patriarchy as Black women and femmes, we normalize the idea that we must embody a culture of dissemblance.
In her piece “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West,” Darlene Clark Hine defines this as rejecting stereotypes used to violently define Black women and femmes to the point that you become the exact opposite of that stereotype. We protect ourselves from being seen as sexual because anti-Black misogyny (including white supremacist patriarchy and “plantation politics”) tells us we’re hoes before we’re born. As Black women and femmes, we’re all codified as hoes under white supremacist patriarchy. When Amber Rose and Blac Chyna demand their autonomy and agency, it pushes mainstream feminism and spaces for body autonomy to new levels for all of us.
Whether they know it or not, Blac Chyna and Amber Rose are challenging anti-Black misogyny and ultimately claiming agency that they and every Black woman or femme deserve. We've seen extensive back and forth shots thrown at Blac Chyna and Amber Rose on Twitter and Instagram. In these exchanges, the power of Black womanhood—through ultimate carefree Black girl clapbacks and the camaraderie of "hoes before everyone else"—has made people question, "How is it possible that these girls don't care? How do they manage to be happy and uplift one another through all the hate?"
Blac Chyna and Amber Rose are nothing short of powerful and resilient. Their challenging of society's standards and misogynistic ideals for women, specifically Black women, within popular culture makes them worthy as role model feminists who are actively being radical in their everyday existence. We need Blac Chyna and Amber Rose because they contribute to our own personal liberation to be free in who we are. They remind us that our agency is imperative and that we have every right to exist how we want.
If they can win, then we all can.
Photo: Tinseltown / Shutterstock
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, agender Black fat femme writer, artist, and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at For Harriet, a community organizer at Black Future, and the creator of a body positivity organization Free Figure Revolution. She is a Ratchet Black Feminist dedicated to dismantling anti-Blackness. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com.