Dark Side of the Moon: Black women in Wonder Woman

Welcome to my first mini-series! I’ll be writing some short essays that take an intersectional feminist view of Wonder Woman over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

I’m going to discuss the occasional presence, and notable silence of black women, and their role in Wonder Woman. I’ll focus on two black female characters; Diana’s sitter, and a black female warrior. These are the only black women that had any measure of importance in the film. I will not discuss any other women of colour as there were none that had any significance to the plot.

Although the Amazons of Wonder Women have existed in total seclusion, the white patriarchy has mysteriously crept in and pushed black women down in order to raise white women up. Who woulda thunk? Black Amazons do not have the privilege of the blank slate afforded by a society in theory unmarred by patriarchy. In their precious few appearances, they are regulated to supporting the white female leads. They are the nanny, raising Diana while the Queen is on official business. They are the powerful, muscular warriors that Diana defeats in order to show her own strength. These characters form the stepping stones for Diana’s character development, and as she leaves Themyscira, they fade into the background, forgotten both by Diana and the audience.

The first black woman we see (and notably, the only one with more than one line) is Diana’s sitter. Black women in the US have historically cared for white children, either under slavery, or a lack of opportunity. As a result, the Unfriendly Black Hotties note that while using a black woman to be Diana’s caretaker is at best, iffy, they were happy to see that one of the most important women in young Diana’s life was a black woman.

Certainly, caretakers have an important role in any child’s life. But not in Diana’s. Diana’s caretaker’s one line is to scream her name over, and over again, as she races all across town to recover her charge. It would have been so easy to include her as a valued part of Diana’s childhood. So many questions go unanswered – “How do her values and beliefs shape how she helps raise Diana? Does she agree with the Queen’s protectiveness? Does Diana continue to disrespect her throughout her childhood?”  

 

But Wonder Woman is so much more deep than that. I must commend the creators of Wonder Woman for making the difficult, trailblazing (and of course, unexpected) choice to make a black woman’s existence revolve around a bratty white girl.

Thanks to the sacrifice of this vital black female character, Diana can truly shine. Diana’s rebellion shows hints at the tenacious, independent woman that Diana becomes. Her willingness to go her own way, even if it means forcing your minder to chase you across an island, foreshadows Diana’s bold move to leave the island, and the only home she’s ever known, in order to do what she thinks is right – whether that’s running away to do the training your mother forbids you from, or to take the destruction of Ares into your own hands.

Thank goodness the writers used, and then promptly discarded this black woman. Without the disrespect Diana shows her, how could she ever have any credibility as an independent thinker?

Wonder Woman‘s treatment of this sitter as subordinate to a white woman, and as being disrespected by Diana, mirrors the way black women have, and are being treated by US society at large. Black women are often silenced, used, and shut down.  This is obvious in Diana’s sitter, who disappears as quickly as she appeared once she’s no longer useful. Black women are not allowed the complexity, or character development of their white counterparts. Tied in with the history of black women caring for white children, Wonder Woman repeats the mistakes of our white female past and present, by continuing to use black women as tools for our own gain. Whether it occurs in the form of cultural appropriation, gaslighting, or blatant racism, us white women continue to disrespect, ignore, and devalue black women and their personhood.

Further reading

See Girussy by the Unfriendly Black Hotties for their thoughts.

Black Cultural Heritage and the Subversion of the Stereotypical Images of the Black Woman in Toni Morrison’s Sula by Mona Faysal Sahyoun.

Cameron Glover’s take on why Wonder Woman is Bittersweet for Black Women.

Check back next week for the part 2 of this essay!

This week in links: Alt-right male insecurity, Saudi Arabian women, and modern-day slavery

Racist, sexist and sexually insecure is no way to go through life, alt-right dudes.

Kat Blaque explains the GOTCHA!!!! of Saudi Arabian women’s oppression.

David Greene from NPR interviews the Russian LGBT Network’s communications manager and their efforts to evacuate Chechen gay men.

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi discuss the limitations of white adaptions of Austen’s works, and how they have been co-opted by the alt-right.

Phoenix A. M. Singer explains why the Democrat party has failed to make concrete change for the working class and other marginalised groups..

Alex Tizon describes the life and abuse of his family’s slave, Eudocia Tomas Pulido. See responses here.

David A. Graham argues that Trump’s administration has fallen apart.

Featured image of Eudocia Tomas Pulido, from Alex Tizon’s biographical article. 

 

This week in links: Online humiliation, Miley retires her cheap dreads, and more Beyoncé

Akilah takes a well-aimed jab at Donald Trump’s VOICE program.

Amelia Tait at the New Statesman looks at the disturbing trend of boyfriends humiliating their girlfriends on social media. (Content note: Tait blames the girlfriend in question for ‘allowing’ the degrading to occur)

 

Jagger Blaec examines the gentrification of hip-hop and rap by white musicians, in the face of Miley Cyrus returning to her squeaky clean white “roots.”

George Monbiot breaks down the history of neoliberalism and how it has failed us.

Michael Cragg explains how Beyoncé’s 4 marked the turning point in her career.

Yes, another essay on Lemonade – Rawiya Kameir looks at the political significance of Bey’s latest album.

This week I’ve been listening to 4 and Humanz and I’ve been absolutely living.  is such an underrated album and there are so many absolute bangers. My favourites are Love on Top,  Lay Up Under Me, Countdown, I care, and 1+1, AND Grown Woman which isn’t on Spotify and that breaks my heart.

Featured image from Refinery29

 

 

This week in links: Effective allyship, protest, and Rachel Dolezal strikes again

The brainchild of Leslie Mac, and Marissa Jenae Johnson is the Safety Pin Box, a subscription box designed to give white allies an effective way of supporting racial justice. The proceeds are used to give one-time financial gifts to black women and femmes that are actively campaigning for Black liberation.

Safety pin box

Ijeoma Oluo does the tiring work of interviewing Rachel Dolezal, who has no qualms about dying on her transracial stump.

Zoé Samudzi discusses callout culture and the trivialization of abuse in social justice circles. Click the timestamp to see her thread. Want more? Check out Prefigurology’s post and Restorative Justice.

Jeff Yang at qz.com explains why whitewashing is both racist, and unprofitable.

Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times gives a brief overview of effective protest in the age of Trump.

Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi, explains why white supremacy can’t be ignored into non-existence.