not funny: what’s up with the twitterverse justifying quvenzhané wallis being called a “cunt”?

February 25, 2013

During last night’s Oscars ceremony, satirical publication The Onion called 9-year old actress and nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis, a “cunt” via its Twitter page.

By: Justin Allen, AFROPUNK Contributor

As a Black male, I was at first hesitant to write this. It is not my place to speak for Black women and girls. I was raised by a Black woman and my closest friends are Black women. I have listened to their experiences and have learned to see the world through a critical perspective that is sensitive to and considerate of their experiences. I write this with respect to them and all Black women.


Many people on Twitter dismissed the Tweet, given the publication’s frivolity. What the sender of the Tweet did not consider was the social context in which they used this word, particularly given Wallis’ race.

Our society does not value Black women and girls. Throughout media and social interactions their physical appearances are often exoticized, eroticized, objectified and fetishized when they are not scrutinized in relation to white beauty standards. Their individual personalities and achievements are obscured by stereotypes of aggression and their intelligence, called into question. Such racist sexism is evident in such incidences as Regis Philbin smacking Nicki Minaj’s butt on national television, theoveremphasis on Gabby Douglas’ hair during the 2012 Olympics, Dutch publication Jackie referring to Rihanna as the ultimate “nigga bitch” and a movie such as Dutch romantic comedy Alleen maar nette mensen (Only Decent People) in which Black women are depicted primarily by their breasts, behinds and showed growling in a manner akin to wild animals.

Wallis has encountered success in a racist and sexist movie industry that finds it appropriate to cast Angelina Jolie as biracial journalist Mariane PearlZoe Saldana as Nina Simone and in which Viola Davis’ commentary on racism within Hollywood was hushed by a panel of white actors. Wallis triumphed last night, regardless of the actual awards. The Onion’s tweet echoed in many Black women the ever-present racist misogynist sentiment that we all must work to undo—the sentiment that works to counter the success of Black women and girls and deny them their humanity.

Another point that many Twitter-users pointed out was how many peoples’ reactions to this tweet would have been less unbiased or more vehement if Wallis were white. This point is best supported by the public’s reaction to Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 VMAs. West received backlash to the point of President Obama calling him a jackass. And somehow the fact that a 9 year-old Black girl was called a “cunt” last night is, to many, somehow excusable.

To Quvenzhané Wallis, stand with your head raised high.