Protecting Black Women Includes Protecting Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner has probably played the best basketball of her career this season. Still, that hasn’t stopped the parade of idiots from harassing her in ways that are very misogynistic, homophobic and racist.

What boggles my mind is the stream of endless attacks coming from Black men who purport to “protect Black women,” but lean into attacking this particular Black woman who doesn’t meet their unrealistic standards of femininity. This is the type of hypocritical bullshit seen daily on social media and in the press.

Brittney doesn’t owe you anything and the jokes about her as a woman aren’t just jokes. They are hurtful, they are cruel and wreak of small “d” energy. If her height is what intimidates you, then you have short man energy, too. As a Black woman who writes, I deal with racism and misogynistic attacks because my work triggered some man, so I feel her struggle in my soul.

It has never really been about her femininity. It’s about you, your insecurities and a toxic masculinity that is rooted in white supremacy. Black women don’t have time to deal with your issues when we are too busy trying to save a world that often excludes us and shows no deference towards our pain.

Unsettling to me, too, is that many Black men have fallen down this rabbit hole of disrespect toward Brittney— especially when they have Black mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and others in their lives. When the world looks down on Black men, it is Black women who lift you up. But, many behave as if their support of us is something that is an option based upon what we give for men to gaze at in return (like wanting the WNBA to change their uniforms so that you can gawk at their bodies instead of watching them play the game).

Most don’t even realize that Black Lives Matter was founded by three Black queer women who were trying to save the lives of all Black people, but it was co-opted by Black men. Meanwhile there are Black women, including Black trans women, who are also being murdered out here in these streets.

Basketball is not just a man’s sport and the majority of the women in the league are Black women. The league as a whole did more to support the Black Lives Matter movement than any other sports league. They continue this work in their advocacy for women’s rights.

Brittney, herself, has been one of the more vocal players on many of these issues. She has used her platform wisely and opened up parts of her private life to the world, not for the purpose of expanding her celebrity, but to help. Some have used this openness as an avenue through which they antagonize and ridicule her, thinking that her celebrity is enough to protect her. It is not. If anything, it makes her more vulnerable to attacks on her femininity, her skills as a baller, her appearance and her life as whole.

When celebrities and professional athletes invite us into parts of their lives, it doesn’t mean that we are entitled to all of it. I say this because I know there’s the crowd that will chime in and use her previous marriage as an example when trying to prove a point. Look, none of us were there, we don’t know everything and, truthfully, I always thought it was an invasion of privacy that was used for the entertainment of heterosexuals. As a writer, I felt it was such an intrusion that I refused to write about it (actually, I was given the choice of writing it or being fired, so I quit).

All people deserve respect. To use Brittney, who admittedly takes pride in caring for herself as a Black woman, as the vessel for unloading your personal shortcomings is trite. The constant demands that she prove she is a woman are weird, grotesque and hinge on being predatory. Those demands cause me to worry for her safety because you are demanding she proves to your satisfaction (via nude photographs or inspection) something that is biologically true. Please tell me how that is not weird? You have no right to her body, it is hers.

There is not just sexism in this, there is also gendered racism at play.

Black women already have to contend with being considered lesser women than our white counterparts. Denying Black women the right to be authentically ourselves in our own bodies is an extension of this. Black women’s bodies were subjected to indignity and scrutiny on the auction block. So why are you doing the very thing that was done to us in slavery by demanding Brittney show you her body to prove her womanhood? The generational trauma of this exists on its own, in each of us as Black women— we don’t need you out here creating further doubt and discomfort for us when it comes to our bodies.

This is a societal issue as a whole when it comes to the treatment of Black women. However, it is also our problem as Black people. If you want to protect Black women, start here. Stop harassing Brittany Griner. Let this “proud, out Black woman” live her best life. When people chime in to harass her, step in and defend her, protect her. Let the world know that when it comes to the lives of Black women, hers matters, too.



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Aisha K. Staggers

Aisha K. Staggers

Mother. Fisk University Alum. And occasionally, I write some stuff! All things Prince are welcome!