Clubhouse was meant to be a safe space for Black women – and then it wasn’t
The invite-only, voice activated app has become a toxic place for Black women, writes Nikki Onafuye.
18 Dec 2020
Image credit: Canva
Clubhouse is the new social media app that has transcended the way people talk online. Imagine a combination of Twitter and Zoom, but with extra sauce. You’re in a digital space, there’s a panel of nominated people discussing a topic and others listen in. And there are all sorts of conversations – ranging from the morning ‘Affirmations For The Day’ to ‘Building Your Media Company’. One room is even dedicated to a Love Island-esque dating show.
But not everyone can get a Clubhouse account just yet. As it stands, it’s an exclusive, invite-only app available on iOS devices. Right now, Clubhouse is used by celebrities like Drake, Virgil Abloh and Oprah, and in the UK, a large portion of the users are people of colour. So it would be easy to assume that from the way it functions and the current users on the app, Clubhouse is a safe haven from racism unlike Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Yet, disappointingly, it has proved to be just another toxic platform traumatising Black women.
It all started a few weeks ago, with a room titled: ‘Is Kevin Hart Funny?’ It was created a room to discuss the comedian’s latest Netflix special, Zero Fucks Given, in which he calls his daughter “a hoe”. The chat went left as soon as Kevin entered. Many were annoyed that men who were fans of Kevin kept shutting down, writing off and silencing Black women who criticised him. Things escalated when a Black woman joined the stage to call Kevin out on the toxic culture he perpetuates. With over 5,000 people in the room, Kevin openly gaslit her, trying to silence her every time she spoke. Afterwards, people went on Twitter to call out Kevin and everyone else in that room.
Then, just last weekend, a man named Marc Cuban made a room called ‘Are Black women crap in bed?’. With over 4,000 people in a room, he openly attacked Black women. Although he later claimed that he was just trying to come up with an “attention grabbing” chat title, it became clear the room was really an avenue to slander Black women. “Black women don’t know anything. Black women are not worthy of my time,” he said.
“It makes me wonder; are there any digital spaces left where Black women can go to and just be?”
It wasn’t even the fact that Cuban – an influencer and alumnus of controversial YouTube chat show Bkchat – was spouting narcissistic, misogynistic and condescending nonsense against Black women, but that a random Latino woman was talking on Black experiences just because her “boyfriend is Black.” Cuban was continuously saying things like, “Black women are the problem” while in agreement with her.
The tweets calling out Marc Cuban flooded my TL. Let-me-land Twitter was on ropes. Twitter users, myself included, were disgusted – I couldn’t believe my ears. In 2020, people are still trying to downplay Black women’s worth by calling us gold-diggers, and saying we do not bring anything to the table in a relationship. Even being in the room, I was appalled at what I was hearing. A grown Black man with a Black mother obtusely slandering Black women. Most people I know were left feeling exhausted. Black women are tired of educating people about misogynoir in 2020.
After hours on end and multiple spin-off rooms, the conversation finally died down, but the sour taste was still in my mouth. Why do Black women always bear the brunt of these rooms? It’s so disheartening and distressing to continue to see the slander we receive. Speaking in our individual group chats after everything unfolded on Clubhouse, my friends were virtually screaming things like, “isn’t his mum Black?!” and “is he confused?” It was truly baffling.
It seems that even in spaces that are highly vetted, Black women will always be the target. Though the app and admins have responsibility to moderate these spaces, this problem isn’t exclusive to Clubhouse – it happens on Twitter too. And really, the source of misogynoir begins offline as it’s embedded in our lives outside the internet. But it’s more hurtful and shocking to hear these dangerous rhetorics voiced by real people in real time. Even worse coming from our own communities. It triggered me and took me back to the time in my life when growing up as a dark-skinned Black girl in Essex, I was continuously called names like “monkey” and “gorilla” by the Black boys from my area.
In the early days of using the app, I was joining rooms that were championing our experiences, networking and talking about TV shows like Insecure, Girlfriends on Netflix and even the messiness of Real Housewives of Potomac. The app started to become a place to escape to and just relax and join in on the conversations. But this was too good to last.
It makes me wonder; are there any digital spaces left where Black women can go to and just be? As soon as this toxic discourse against Black women arises, we need to step away and not give these people the time of day, refusing to entertain such damaging conversations. We can only hope and pray that one day Black women won’t be the butt of jokes on every social media platform. In the mean time, let’s continue to uplift ourselves because we know our worth.