Woman is the “N” of the World?

In 1969, Yoko Ono coined the phrase, and I quote, “Woman is the N****R of the World.” Shortly thereafter, she and her husband, the late John Lennon, wrote and he recorded a song with that same title.

According to Wikipedia (which is ALWAYS questionable), at that time (don’t know where they would stand today) Dick Gregory and Ron Dellums defended the song.

Several Black feminists, including Pearl Cleage, challenged Yoko Ono’s racist (to Black women) statement. “If Woman is the “N” of the World, what does that make Black Women, the “N, N” of the World?”

Fast forward 42-years later from when it was originally coined, and a White woman decides to create and carry a placard of the quote to SlutWalk NYC.

I’ve been informed that one of the (Black) women SlutWalk NYC organizers asked the woman to take her placard down. She did. However, not before there were many photographs taken.

My question is, Why did it take a Black woman organizer to ask her to take it down? What about all of the White women captured in this photograph? They didn’t find this sign offensive? Paraphrasing Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I A Woman (too!)?”


How can so many White feminists be absolutely clear about the responsibility of ALL MEN TO END heterosexual violence perpetrated against women, and yet turn a blind eye to THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO END racism?

Is Sisterhood Global? This picture says NO! very loudly and very clearly.

The fact that this quote originates from a woman of color, Yoko Ono, really underscores the work that we women of color must do to educate each other about our respective herstories. This photograph also underscores the imperative need for hardcore inter-racial dialogues among all of us in these complicated movements to address gender-based violence in all of our non-monolithic communities.

Co-signing with my Sister Andrea Plaid that at the fundamental level this photograph speaks to the very sobering reality that there is a level of acceptable racism going on within (some?) SlutWalkS (not a monolith).

There is something deeply uncanny that, in 2011, this White woman would think it was OK to create and carry a sigh with the “N” word at a SlutWalk. What on earth was she thinking? Who in the United States of Ameri-KKK-a doesn’t know that the “N” word is NOT okay to use, most especially if you’re not Black.


POSTSCRIPT: I have supported and still support the premise of SlutWalks. In August I participated as a speaker at SlutWalk Philly.

I discuss the reasons why I, as a Black feminist lesbian incest and rape survivor, have supported the premise of SlutWalks in fairly great detail in my September 30 interview with Where Is Your Line?

At the same time, I think it’s very important that everyone read and discuss the very important and poignant concerns raised in Black Women’s Blueprint’s “Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk.”

Clearly there is an urgent and non-negotiable need for dialogues to happen in the immediate future.

 This post originally appeared at AfroLez®femcentric Perspectives.

UPDATE: Kimberlynn Acevedo, one of SlutWalk NYC’s organizers has posted a statement in response to the sign, and has announced plans to continue the dialogue. Here is an excerpt:

One of our march’s participants last Saturday held up and promulgated a racist, offensive sign. She was asked to take it down by one of our organizers as soon as it came to our attention. This sign symbolizes many of the critiques about SlutWalk not being a safe space for people of color, in particular Black women. We are taking it seriously and we absolutely condemn it and are horrified by it. This sign opposes the mission of SlutWalk NYC and its message is in direct conflict with the beliefs of its organizers. …

We are meeting with many of the groups which have critiqued SlutWalk NYC directly. We are meeting with Black Women’s Blueprint. We are attending an open meeting with Sister Song. We are holding a completely open meeting on October 13 at Walker Stage from 6-8 p.m. in order to discuss how to build a fighting movement. Further, we encourage everyone to take a look at the transcripts and videos of the speeches we have posted on our website and Facebook. We know we need to grow. We have been working on growth from the beginning. There were powerful, diverse and engaging speeches at the rally, many of which directly hit upon critiques of SlutWalk. THESE are the seeds of growth in our organization. We want to start a movement that passionately wants include the voices of all people, of all survivors, of all individuals who see merit in what it is that we are choosing to combat.

We hope you will join us.


  1. When I see this, I think: “negative attention seeking stunt” & it’s not funny.
    Why would ANYone want to claim that word? In any form? “Who in the United States of Ameri-KKK-a doesn’t know that the “N” word is NOT okay to use, most especially if you’re not Black.” I don’t think anyone should want to use this word in ANY form. Period.

  2. Which women are we talking about? A woman like Michelle Bachmann who can rail against minimum wage, food safety laws…etc and never notice the public reaction to her position?

    It is another reason why the phrase, song…etc is problematic.

  3. One more thing – why would you cite a source like Wikipedia and then say “always questionable?” If it’s questionable then you shouldn’t mention it in the first place. The only reason you would is because you can’t be bothered actually finding a real source – because then you might have something that disputes your faulty premise that no black person would ever support this song. Your belief is that John Lennon, Yoko Ono, the woman in the photo and I – and anybody else who disagrees with you are RACISTS. And nothing is about to change your mind.

  4. Personally I think the sign (and the phrase) make a good point.

    In America especially the word (and I deplore censorship in all it’s forms so I will use the “N” word as I believe that fearing a word gives it more power than it deserves) ‘nigger’ is used to disparage and tromp on an entire race of people. It’s meant as an insult and to inform the person who it is being leveled at that the personnusingnit considers him/her to be less than or ‘other’.

    Saying that woman is the nigger of the world is succinctly saying that although nigger is used to disparage people of colour in America. Woman is used to disparage people with uteri everywhere.

    Just my two. I don’t think the sign holder meant offense to anyone.

    Also, I’m unhappy with her being told to take the sign down. Isn’t the point of slutwalks to encourage women to be free and safe to express themselves without fear of punishment?

    Btw full disclosure I’m Caucasian and live in Canada where the word nigger doesn’t have as much power as it does in the states.

    • Wow. you actually took the time to type that. How sad for you.

      • Ange,
        How is it sad that I voiced my opinion? Would it be less sad if I toed the party line and sycophantically agreed with what the op was saying? I find it sad that you find it sad that i have a differing opinion on the subject.

        I honestly don’t understand what the fuss is about. If someone could enlighten me I would honestly appreciate it.

        • If you were really interested in being “enlighted”, you would do the research yourself. It is not a Black woman’s job to teach a white woman about racism. People of Color have had to learn to about racism by living it; it isn’t going to hurt to pick up a book or do a Google search.

        • miserychick says:

          You guessed right – this song is a new litmus test for racism and you fail! Therefore it’s sad that you even dare call yourself a feminist if you don’t denounce John Lennon, Yoko Ono (who has magically become a white woman in this!) and anyone who doesn’t consider the song pure evil. It’s just that simple!

          • You obviously don’t seem to realize that Japan (where she is from) is far more racist than America is. White people are not the only ones that are racist, even in America.

        • “Nigger” is offensive, but “slut” is not? Give me a break… Both words were used to shock people into thinking about the status quo. Both are equally valid in that context.

    • Why is it that every time someone says something like “we don’t those things in my country”, that person is always white?

      For a Black Canadian woman’s perspective on racism in Canada and the U.S., please read Womanist Musings.

    • The Questioner says:

      How about you ask a Black Canadian whether or not the n-word still has power or not? Their response may surprise you.

    • Michelle Scott says:


      I am going to address a couple of things you have said. You’ve made a few assumptions in your words.

      I am aware that I have white privilege based on the colour of my skin that women of colour do not have based on the colour of their skin. I am aware that I am oppressed by my gender and women of colour also oppressed by the their gender. I cannot speak for all women because we all have different experiences in the world.

      I feel the statement you made, that the N-word does not have as much power in Canada… That is simply not true! You don’t speak for all of Canada, that statement doesn’t include me and I’m Canadian. The word is hateful as it was in the past and it is presently. You cannot compare racial oppression to gender oppression, these are not the same. I feel that word is one of many tools used to colonize, demonize and marginalize people of colour.

      If you need to know what the fuss is about, I suggest pick up a book by Angela Davis, bell hooks. How about learning about becoming an ally to women of colour, learn about their history and experiences and then continue to be an ally to learn about the genocide of the Aboriginal people in Canada. Some really horrific shit has gone on in both Canada and US and the legacy of said shit continues today. Just thought you ought to know.

      Lastly, by using the N-word in your statement, I feel you didn’t acknowledge how this would affect others and their experiences seeing this word because you don’t believe in censorship.

    • I know I’m extremely late, but I’ll take the step of explaining this, even though I shouldn’t have to this far in humanity. The N word (as a black woman, I hate even the site of that word, so I will refuse to type it) does not, and will never (and, for emphasis, WILL NEVER) translate to other minority groups. It was used to dehumanize black people, plain and simple. While it can appropriately describe the stuggles of black people or even just black women, no other group has the same struggles as the people that the n word dehumanizes. As a white woman, you still have white privilege that isn’t spread to my people, nonetheless the women who share my skin. Same for an Asian woman, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, etc. Cultures around the world usually place black people on the bottom rung because of the historically Caucasian-run influence that has permeated it. So no, as much as you feel that as a woman you feel like the world treats you like less than, you still have your skin to humanize you in the view of the world. Don’t be so presumptious to make that assertion, because you simply don’t have the experience to back it up. And not using the n word isn’t a thing of fear, by the way. It’s respect for the people that acknowledge what that word represents in their history, something white feminists still have yet to learn.

      • All women have the same history that black people (both men and women) have had, even white women. Slavery, rape, beatings, dehumanizing language, white women have gone through this too. But No one cares or acknowledges this history and still ingrained sexism because they’re women and no one cares about women. The reason people care about racism, ableism, ageism, etc., is because men experience oppression through those categories. Anything that has only affected women is just naturalized. Wake up. All women are coming out of slavery, brutality, rape, etc. I get how Yoko’s phrase excludes black women but she was referencing a form of racial category and wasn’t intersecting it with sex on purpose. She was saying how sexism is parallel to racism but no one cares because it’s just women.

        • Stop subverting black women’s problems by making it about you. Yeah, “all” women may have gone through similar things, but not to a degree that black people (especially black women) go through. Black people, and black women particularly, are subjected to so much marginalization than other racial groups, on top of the “all women are coming out of slavery, brutality, rape, etc. “.

          If you want to say and sexism and racism are parallel, say that. But using black people as a “token oppressed” example and perpetuating it is not going to help stop the racism/sexism going around.

  5. Janell Hobson says:

    So, Sarah, in the words of Pearl Cleage, if “Woman is the ‘nigger’ of the world,” what does that make me a black woman: a “nigger nigger”?

    Seriously, how does that race-gender analogy even work for women who are already called the N-word?

    It didn’t make sense when Yoko Ono and John Lennon said it back then, and it sure as heck doesn’t make any more sense today!

    • Janell,

      It doesn’t make you, a black woman anything. As a person of colour ‘nigger’ is used against you (by idiots and assholes) to inform you that they think you’re less than them.

      If someone were to call you a nigger bitch it would be to inform you that the person thinks you are less than them for 2 reasons. The first being that you’re a person of colour. The second being that you are a woman.

      All: The sign and the phrase aren’t implying that nigger should be used in place of woman to describe women. The phrase implies that the negative connotation of nigger towards poc is generalized towards all women. Essentially, without minimizing the shit that poc go through/have gone through it’s saying that as far ad the patriarchy is concerned we’re all in the same boat.

      • The phrase implies that the negative connotation of nigger towards poc is generalized towards all women.

        And that’s BULLSHIT. White people have never been and will never be harmed by the word “nigger”. Straight people can’t claim the word “f*****” and say it’s “generalized towards all people” because they have never been harmed by that word. Able-bodied people can’t claim the word “cr*****” because it’s never harmed them.

        The privileged do not get to define the oppression at the expense of the oppressed. And that’s exactly what’s going on here. I don’t care who said it first. I don’t care about intent. IT’S RACIST.

        Essentially, without minimizing the shit that poc go through/have gone through…


      • The Questioner says:

        Sarah—we women AIN’T all in the same boat, okay? If we were, female stock traders on Wall Street would not have joined their male colleagues in bullying the #Occupy Wall Street protestors with insults and champagne. If we were, female Klanswomen, female Nazis, and female slave masters would have never existed. Some women have white privilege, some women use that white privilege for inhumane ends, and some women are part of the greedy one percent who exploit and rob the ninety-nine percent majority of the world’s people.

        A white woman marching with a placard bearing the word “nigger” has a disgusting and deadly history in the United States. There is nothing even remotely positive about such an act. Plenty of the women marching at Slutwalk are old enough to remember Jim Crow. Can you imagine how they felt seeing this clueless kid with that sign?

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Unless you’ve actually BEEN a nigger, you don’t know what you’re talking about. As far as white supremacy is concerned, only Black people are niggers. There is no way around that history. Besides, who in their right mind would want to identify with such a dehumanizing, atrocious slur?

  6. I have long said that, “Women are the cunts of the world.”. You shouldn’t be allowed to use that word either unless you have/ are one. And it would be an appropriate placard for the slutwalk.

  7. I’m tired of people trying to justify the sign and invalidate black women’s response to it instead of taking an honest look at why it’s problematic.

    Sarah – it’s not about fearing the SLUR. It’s about being respectful of people for whom the SLUR is often used. Furthermore, how do YOU as a Caucasian woman personally know how much power the n-word holds?

    “Saying that woman is the nigger of the world is succinctly saying that although nigger is used to disparage people of colour in America. Woman is used to disparage people with uteri everywhere.” Where do Black women fit into this equation here? Do you see how exclusionary your line of thinking is?

    • Buzz: I don’t see how my reasoning is exclusionary. I think it brings all women, whatever race, together. Think that women, again, of any race are able to understand the way poc have been marginalized because women, of all races, have been marginalized too.

      • It’s exclusionary because you and everyone else who has defended it, have been ignoring the Black women who say “FFS! Just stop it!”

        Think that women, again, of any race are able to understand the way poc have been marginalized because women, of all races, have been marginalized too.

        White women do not – and will not – know what it is to experience racism


        White women do not know what it is to experience racism.

        Have white women been oppressed by patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny? Absolutely! Can they *empathize* with the oppressions of POC? Sure! But…

        White women do not – and will not – know what it is to experience racism.

      • Sarah, I don’t buy this, because if white women were able to understand the issues faced by people of color, we wouldn’t see white women talking down the concerns voices by women of color in situations like this.

        Instead, what I see are white women enacting the same sort of behaviors we decry in men who relate to women through a lens of sexism and misogyny. It would be nice if more of us white feminists could understand this, but the fact that I keep seeing the same arguments over race played out time and time again tells me that white feminists are NOT getting it.

        P.S. What’s with the attachment to the n-word? People tell you it’s hateful, yet you persist in using it? You aren’t taking the power away from it, you know. On the contrary, in fact.

      • The Questioner says:

        “I think it brings all women, whatever race, together. Think that women, again, of any race are able to understand the way poc have been marginalized because women, of all races, have been marginalized too.”

        Clearly that’s a lie, because you still don’t get what Black women are saying about our own reality. If you REALLY understood how people of color are marginalized, you wouldn’t keep defending this ridiculous racist stunt.

  8. This debate has really challenged my commitment to calling myself a feminist, since the feminism I grew up with and am often called to participate in makes space for this kind of behavior. Generations of women have invested themselves in pointing out why the blind participation in racism and defensiveness when called out for it is unacceptable and ineffective. Why are people still doing this?

    I am struggling right now to figure out how to think of/locate a space where there’s accountable action on racial justice among white feminists. At least nationally. It degenerates so quickly. I’m working to speak out and step up as a white feminist but “as a white feminist” I see little I recognize in the behaviors of many people who would probably count me as part of their movement. There’s privilege in that distancing but also the anger that many white women still seem unable or unwilling to do the work required.

  9. Aishah Shahidah Simmons says:

    Hello, Sarah, your “word n****r doesn’t have much power as it does in the states” disclosure is deeply troubling. I don’t have to be Jewish or lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (though I am a lesbian) to understand that anti-Semitic or heterosexist/homophobic comments are NOT okay.

    I wonder if the woman carried a sign that said “Women are the _____ (choose an anti-semitic comment) of the world,” or “Women are the _____ (choose a homophobic comment) of the world, if that would be okay. I’m interpreting your using your disclosure to both absolve the woman and yourself from any responsibility for the impact of a racist word on the lives of Black (American) women.

    As I’ve posted on various facebook walls “I wouldn’t use the word Sqaw, Jap, Chink, or Towelhead” to underscore my oppression as a Black feminist lesbian. I wouldn’t use those terms because they are both offensive and insensitive to painful her/histories and contemporary realities of many of my Indigenous, Asian, and Arab Sisters (and Brothers).

    I don’t have to be you or even share your herstory to understand and respect your pain. As long as we say, that’s not my herstory or context, therefore, I’m not responsible for your pain, we’ll never eradicate all forms of violence perpetuated against all of us.

    To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “(We are) caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…”

    Coincidentally, I’m presenting at a “Sexual Assault In Marginalized Communities” conference in Edmonton. While n****r may not have the same her/history in Canada as it does in the States, there is clearly a need to talk about the unique ways sexual violence impacts members of marginalized communities.

    I invite you to also consider reading the words of other Black (American) feminist women who have weighed in on the horrific impact of both the sign and the defense of the sign.

    Crunk Feminist Collective “I Saw the Sign but Did We Really Need a Sign?”

    Akiba Solomon’s “More Thoughts on SlutWalk: No Attention is Better Than Bad Attention” – COLORLINES

    LaToya Peterson’s “Which Women Are What Now? Slutwalk NYC and Failures in Solidarity” | Racialicious


    “Slutwalk, Slurs, and Why Feminism Still Has Race Issues” | Racialicious

    • Aisha: In all honesty, talking to people all over the world, I’ve never known anyone other than an American get offended by the word nigger.

      I have African friends (who live in Africa – Tanzania, Nairobi and South Africa) who don’t get why nigger is such a powerful word. My cousin is from St. Vincent and he thinks American poc are nuts (his word, not mine) for being so “obsessed” (again, his word) about the word.

      Also, as I mentioned in another reply. I don’t think the sign has anything to do with the word nigger. If the slutwalk was being held in a country where “kyke” had the same connotation as nigger has in the states then it would make perfect sense in that context.

      • It’s awesome that all of your Black friends things you’re cool. But you’re lack of knowledge in racism is painful to read.

        Please. Just Stop.

      • Sarah, what some people you know in Africa think has nothing to do with this. I could go to Spain and tell people I meet there that I think they’re craaaazy for eating dinner so late. Don’t they get hungry by 5pm??? Because I sure do…They must be nuts!

        Things are different in different places. That fact changes nothing about the reality of a given situation in a given place.

        If I told Spanish people that they eat dinner far too late, that people I have spoken to in America and all over the world eat dinner much earlier, I would look like an ignorant fool. And they would most likely continue eating dinner whenever the hell they wanted.

        Instead of trying to come up with reasons why what Black women are saying about their experience is not valid, or that somehow they don’t understand the meaning of a word that is and has been used to oppress them for centuries, why not try listening instead? Aishah has given you plenty of excellent resources. If you’re that invested in this discussion, why not try to figure out exactly where the women who are offended are coming from, instead of assuming that you know best how Black women in America should feel about something you have never experienced?

      • I can tell you that black people all over Europe are highly offended by that word. There is a huge history of colonization and slavery behind that. So please stop trying to silence actual WoC when they’re voicing THEIR EXPERIENCES! It is painful to read what you’re writing even as a white person.

        Educate yourself. And please read this: http://www.derailingfordummies.com

      • “I have black friends” does not magically make you not racist.
        I am a Filipina woman and even I understand why the N word is a shitty thing to say if you’re not black. (BTW, people say N word not because of censorship; it’s out of respect jhc.)
        Those who have words used against them can take those words and wear them as armor. That’s why me and my friends call each other tough bitches and cunts. We use it to empower us with that which others deem weak.
        If a man called me a bitch, my knee will not reach his groin any faster.
        When the people who oppress you take your word and parade it around as “empowerment” when they have all the power, it will fucking piss you off. This is why some POC are “nuts” about it.
        P.S. (I like how you shove off all responsibility onto your friend as if you want nothing to do with the phrasing yet you post it anyway.)
        P.P.S. A few POC telling you the N word is ok to use doesn’t *give* you the ok to use it because news flash a few POC do not represent all POC
        P.P.P.S. Lemme say that again a few POC do not represent all POC
        Happy Holidays

        • mespringer says:

          Doesn’t it matter HOW words are used? Is a word expected to have the same EXACT meaning regardless of context? In the context of the phrase coined by Yoko Ono, “nigger” means slave, someone less than, someone with less value. OF COURSE, no one wants that word to be directed at them! No one WANTS to be identified with the shame of being ostracized and marginalized and everything else that happens to a person or group that is not considered equal or to have value. In the phrase “Woman is the nigger of the world.” this is the group that Ms. Ono describes – I don’t believe she is referring to the color of a person’s clothing, eyes, or skin.

      • These comments may have been a while ago, but I highly doubt that Sarah has changed or realize how her ignorance are causing more harm than good.

        Sarah, it sounds like you’re either sea-lioning (which, by the way, is not surprising with white feminists) or you’re just plain stupid. Either way, non-black women like you are part of the problem marginalization continues to exist — especially, among black people and black women.

        I say “non-black” because other races have a deep history of anti-blackness (as demonstrated with Yoko Ono), whether they know it or not.

  10. I don’t think that white people truly understand how triggering racism is. Not only do they glibly play with stereotypes and tropes in public, in the media, online, and in schools, they refues to acknowledge that to some of us, this shit is painful.

    And what really hurts is that this is not the only time that this happened. And because of the responses here and on the Slutwalk NYC Facebook page, this won’t be the last time.

    It’s like screaming at a brick wall. My voice is getting hoarse.

    And the awful thing about it is that many of the organizers for Slutwalk have tried really hard to listen to the criticisms from Women of Color all over the world. Many of them have been really working hard towards making the Slutwalks a place where all women can feel comfortable in letting their voices be heard.

    And then this shit happens.

    I’m so over it. I’m done.

  11. There is no hierarchy to oppression. If you want to be free from it then you need to stop participating in it.

  12. Sarah. K BUT U RONG DOE

    when WOC are telling you it’s wrong it’s wrong.

    Point blank.

    Yoko Ono is not black, any place you look at for definitions even wikipedia it says ‘Nigger is a racial slur used to describe people of african descent.’

    stop being so blind to your own white privilege

    WOC have a voice. Listen to what we are crying out. Damn!

  13. I am a White, American female. I try not to be racist, I try to be the opposite, but sometimes I fail out of ignorance.

    I was initially really puzzled by this post, and by the comments. Why were people so angry at “Woman is the N****R of the World”?

    After thinking about it for a while, I thought of how I would feel if a man said to me, “Black people are the bitches of America” or “Black people are the cunts of America”. I would see the point he was trying to make, but I would also be like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I would be offended. I would be hurt that he was using those words.

    This is just an analogy. Hopefully not an offensive one. I’m not trying to say that it’s equivalent to what happened at SlutWalk. Maybe not even close. It certainly doesn’t address Pearl Cleage’s point, “If Woman is the “N” of the World, what does that make Black Women, the “N, N” of the World?”

    However– maybe it helps me (and would help others) understand this issue a tiny bit better?

    I will go find out more about white privilege. I hope Ms bloggers will also do more stories on it.

    • After thinking about it for a while, I thought of how I would feel if a man said to me, “Black people are the bitches of America” or “Black people are the cunts of America”.

      I get what you are saying, and I appreciate you trying to getting a better grasp on what’s going on here. But even with that analogy, Black women’s lives are erased.

  14. White female here. I understand what Yoko meant when she said it. Racicm, specifically the N word sums up the negative connotation some people put upon black people. Woman can have a similar connotation. Historically and presently, both African Americans and Women have had torture, enslavement, rape, human trafficking, discrimination, and bias used against them based on their outsides. I always felt like her use of the N word was to shock you into noticing her real message, which it that a woman can be any color and be discriminated against because she is a woman, and that needs to change. But we all have heard that before, so she said it again with provocation. “This is a man’s world” and all that. I hate racism, and I can understand the N word upsets people. It upsets me very much. But I’ve always gotten why she said it, there really isn’t another metaphor that fits as well for her purposes.

    • You keep mentioning “black people” and “women”, “African Americans” and “Women”. You, and everyone else who keeps defending the sign and the song, keep forgetting that the two are not mutually exclusive. All Black people ARE NOT men, and all women ARE NOT white. I’m tired of our existence being erased.

      • When I first heard the song in question, my first thought was “man it must double suck to be a black woman in that case.” It was the first time I had ever considered the plight of women of color in my 9 year-old brain. Women of color not only have to deal with racism, but sexism too — marginalized by society and in their own homes, “slave of slaves” in the words of the song.

        When women got the vote for the first time, some women of color tried to vote but were turned away because of the color of their skin. From this discussion I can see that this rift between white women and women of color still exists today. There’s an obvious (unfortunate) difference in the way society treats the two groups.

        The sign was wrong because it was being held by a white woman. A black woman probably would never have considered holding such a sign, because really, what would it mean to her? It doesn’t make any sense. To hold that sign would be to call yourself the word that I am forbidden to say and don’t even want to type.

        I think I get it now. The phrase is racist because it makes the word real, solid, valid because it implies that “n*****s” exist and are a class apart from everyone else and women are in that group too though you may not realize it. It seems like the song is saying, “women shouldn’t be in that group but we’re not going to say anything about racism because racism is valid.”

        I don’t think the British guy and the Japanese woman (herself a victim of racism, remember the British hated Yoko and made many racist comments about her when she married John Lennon) were trying to be racist, but clearly they wrote the song in ignorance of how it would make women of color feel all these years later.

        Tell me I’m ignorant and all of that if you want. I’m just trying to understand.

    • Well said Angel H.! In addition, I wonder why sexism even needs a metaphor. Certainly, racism didn’t need a metaphor for the Civil Rights Movement to flourish.

      • Because people don’t “get” sexism. While society generally accepts that we can’t treat POC like shit (that doesn’t mean society actually DOESN’T treat POC like shit –they really do!), but at least “on paper”, society accepts that. But with women, well, women are just a bunch of whiners who need to stop whining. Sure, when it comes to women wanting things that men want, then society will see the value in that: equal pay, becoming scientists, becoming CEOs. But when women want things that men don’t want, society doesn’t give a F. e.g. flexible work hours for parenting, maternity leave, tax-free tampons/pads, etc. Women’s equality is only okay when we want what men have. When we want something uniquely woman, men tell us to figure something else out so that we can bend to the man’s world. “It’s a man’s world,” as James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome would say.

  15. Ok, so basically the sign was offensive because “Woman is nigger of the world” is saying that “woman” is used the same as “nigger” in the rest of the world as a derogatory term, which is ridiculous because I’m pretty sure there are black people in different countries around the world. I kind of get the jist of what Yoko Ono was trying to say, that women around the world are treated less than men, but if you’re saying something against sexism in general, it shouldn’t of had any race brought into it, because obviously there are women of many different races!

  16. Black woman speaking here- the song and phrase are not racist and are not meant to be. Instead of harping because the word nigger is used, actually think about the specific context in which the word is being used. Just as persons of color are looked down upon or mistreated in this country, women are looked down upon and mistreated the world over. This song was written during the time of the civil rights movement, or shortly thereafter when being a “nigger” and the treatment of persons of color, specifically in this country was under scrutinization so, this song is simply saying, hey, this is the way persons of color are being treated in this country, let’s look at the way women the world over are being treated. That’s it, point blank.

  17. I didnt read all the comments and this thread is probably long past its prime, but I must say something, even if its to myself…ha. I think the reasoning for Ono and Lennon to choose such a horrible word, was to get across the point of the horrible treatment women have been given in history. Of course some women have gotten way worse treatment due to their color, but in general, as a group, gender, women have been enslaved by men for thousands of years. White, black, yellow, red…all women. So I think she picked the N word for 2 reasons… one that word is one of the worst most degrading words we have in our English language, and therefore mirrors the horrific treatment of women… the word matches the treatment, ie rape, prostitution, slavery, incest, etc… The second reason was to take that horrid word away from blacks, so that it would no longer just be associated with black people and therefore hopefully take the crushing, demeaning sting out of the use of that word for black people. Just my thoughts…. peace and love to all in all colors, sizes, cultures!

  18. “Woman is the nigger of the world” is exclusionary if you think that “woman” means “white woman”, and you might assume from the context that it at least doesn’t mean “black woman” since it compares women to “niggers” (i.e. black people; implying that women and black people are separate; implying that black women aren’t women).

    I get that.

    As a white woman, I have privileges that black women don’t have. From the small things, like “flesh coloured” (i.e. white flesh coloured) products, to the large things, like not getting man-handled in a bikini by a white male police officer for being at a pool party.

    I get that too.

    My thoughts on the song itself are that it’s powerful. In terms of context, it was written during the civil rights movement, when people of colour; especially black people, were mounting support in the struggle for equality which continues today. People were just becoming aware of human rights issues in the mainstream, and white people who were born with privilege through existing structures of power were aligning themselves with black people who were born disadvantaged through existing structures of power. To say that “woman is the nigger of the world” is to say that, “Hey — while you’re thinking about all the shitty things we oppress black people with, why don’t you spare a thought for how women-in-general are treated?”

    Even today – people post pictures on facebook of women in bikinis fighting in soapy bubbles while they slip all over the place, while a man in a suit rings a bell, trying to get a ball to squeeze into their chest with their chins. Imagine if those were black men being forced to wrestle for cotton. It would not go down. But for some reason, women — whether white, black, or any ethnicity — still have their personhoods treated as consumable and tradeable objects which exist to pleasure and entertain and serve. Black women racism added on to that.

    I get that the statement, “woman is the nigger of the world,” sounds exclusionary. But given the context, and given the reality that women as a sex class experience, I think the contextual statement is justified and meant to shock. The oppression of all women is so hegemonic that people don’t even notice it. To compare gender inequality to racism (even if the people whose race is being compared includes those whose gender is unequal) was effective.

  19. Shit I was thinking “who wrote that smart comment there?” Oh shit I’ve already commented on this article lol! Please delete most recent one hahaha.

  20. I think it was me? Now it looks like someone else’s avatar. I have no idea. Haha.

  21. Just FYI… there IS a John Lennon interview in YouTube from the Dick Cavett Show available for all masses that explains the reason for this song. that including the aforementioned quote from an African-american congressman that did not feel offended by the word, on contraire, he saw it as a way to explain a situation on the steaming political movement of the 60’s.

    If you define “niggers” as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society are defined by others, then Good News! You don’t have to be black to be a “nigger” in this society. Most of the people in America are “niggers”.
    Ron Dellums
    on the outrage about the song “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” by John Lennon

    Also, to make things clear, I am not North American, I am not Canadian, I am not Japanese, I am Mexican (yep, born and living here), we are not a very welcome race in the U.S. either I am considered a minority there even if I only go as a tourist, and tbh I really don’t care where you are born or what skin color you have, as long as you do not contaminate this world with hatred you are welcome to speak your mind freely and I will respect you. And I agree with Miche’s comment (November 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm), it has always made me very uncomfortable and disappointed that other women feel OK and even proud to use of the word SLUT , now I know this is only a game of words and it’s point is to make men feel uncomfortable, but hey, guess what? That term could be offensive too, I feel offended however I go by very comprehensive and support your cause and the reason why you are using the word, not it’s millennial significance.
    Please don’t fight over a word, look further than what you see in front of you. If you feel uncomfortable say so, but don’t judge… we have enough of that no matter the race or sex.

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