When do we start protecting Black women in real time?
The misinformation and the unusual fixation on Megan’s personal life is misogynoir.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated following the conviction of Lanez on December 23, 2022.
Daystar Peterson (known professionally as Tory Lanez) is charged with three counts of criminal conduct against Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete. He was charged with assault with a semiautomatic firearm, carrying a loaded unregistered firearm in a vehicle, and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, according to prosecutors, according to CNN. As the jury was deliberating on a verdict, journalists criticized the misinformation propagated by popular blogs that have gone from an unusual fixation on Megan’s sexual history to misreporting the verdict.
What this shows is that not only is media literacy in a deficit, but Black women’s misogyny is racialized. From the alarming rates of femicide to the discrimination Black women have faced in the court system, in the workplace, and even on social media, this has been apparent.
In 2010, Moya Bailey coined the term misogynoir, which is a specialized form of prejudice Black women face on account of our race and gender simultaneously.
While Black men face racism, they do not experience the same level of gender-based violence that Black women do. Last June, The Guardian published an article noting how homicide rates for Black women rival those for Black men. According to the article, “[f]ive Black women and girls were killed each day in 2020, most of them with guns.” They further noted that “the [homicide] rate for Black women and girls rose 33%” in 2020.
These are U.S. statistics, but gender-based violence affects Black women globally too. To understand it more critically, Rwebel spoke to Angela Karanja, a UK-based adolescent psychologist. Karanja said that gender-based violence is “rife” and a “learned phenomenon.”
To Karanja, this violence stems from older generations of Black parents ingraining the ideology “till death do us part” to justify bad marriages. She said psychologists see the “proverbial till death do us part…as what propagates abuse from one generation to another.”
It’s not about what you’ve done wrong. It’s about the insecurity in the other person, and only they can heal from that.
This aligns with the case of Peterson. Kojenwa Public Moitt, a public relations professional who is familiar with Brampton, Ontario, wrote the following in an email interview:
The borough [Brampton] is typically hallmarked for less affluence and carries an ideology that runs counter-culture to the ‘soft life’ mainstream insofar as relationships are concerned. I would say that Torey’s [sic] mothers’ death may have influenced how he views women and there may be residual anger there for having been abandoned by her.
In a follow-up interview, Moitt said Lanez’s upbringing could have contributed to his violent behavior. After the passing of his mother, Lanez “lived in Montreal before moving to the states with his father and they moved many times – a deeply unsettling pattern for development. He was on his own from 15-18, looking for someone to take him and it was every man for himself at that time, no grandma, no mom, no dad.”
While Moitt attributed Peterson’s upbringing to his violent behavior, Karanja said Tory’s challenge was his ego.
“The ego is the persona, the public relation, the identity we have taken on as…this is my bubble. This is who I should be. I should not be questioned for anything.”
She mentioned that toxic masculinity was also likely a factor in the shooting. Under its rules, “if someone injures your ego, the way to respond is violence.” In testimonies, it was revealed that Pete and Peterson got into a dispute about their individual careers, and Pete allegedly told Peterson that his only accolade was being on the “What’s Poppin’” remix with Jack Harlow.
When the ego is bruised in this way, “the bubble [the abuser] has built has been perforated and therefore they fight back,” Karanja added. This is what likely led to Peterson firing five rounds into Pete’s feet. Shooting this area was intentional, Karanja mentioned.
For abusers, “they’ll pick up the thing that is likely to elevate you” and sabotage that. Shooting Pete in this critical area was an escalation of the violence. According to Karanja, Peterson likely realized, “that is her skill. That is what she uses to dance. That is what people applaud her for. If I disable that, [she’s] nothing.”
Despite this traumatic ordeal, Pete still chose to protect Peterson initially, which is not uncommon in abuse cases. In 2020, Meg had just lost her mom, and she and Tory trauma-bonded over the shared loss of their mothers. Due to this bond and the climate of police brutality at the time, Pete chose to lie to police in an effort to protect not only Peterson but also her former friend Kelsey Harris.
In domestic violence situations, Karanja mentioned, “you are so confused,” which explains Pete’s imperfect victimhood. She lied about stepping on glass, and she was not forthcoming about her relationship with Peterson, so some have questioned if she is actually a victim.
As we take in this historic verdict, some blogs have been falsely reported that Peterson was acquitted, adding to a long list of disinformation spread during the trial. According to NBC News, one blogger had seven tweets reported by Pete’s legal team as abusive behavior, and her account was locked for 11 hours.
This same blogger, whose username is Milagro Gramz, has been identified as friend of Peterson. Other friends of the defendant include blogger Akademiks, who tweeted about having DNA evidence proving Peterson’s innocence and received backlash when it turned out this was false.
For people with platforms of Akademiks’ size (1.3 Million followers) this misinformation is dangerous and unaligned with ethical standards most journalists follow. Nonetheless, Pete has rallied digital alchemy, or online support, in the wake of the trial and the social media malady. As #WeStandWithMegan trends across social media, I wonder when we will actually protect Black women in real time.