How do you solve a problem like hoteps? Complaints about a passage in Issa Rae’s 3-year-old book are part of a larger problem of misogynoir

For some reason, a passage from The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, the memoir Insecure creator Issa Rae published in 2015, began trending on Twitter recently.

It’s a funny, honest, fairly anodyne work. But it turns out that some Twitter users took offense to a passage in which Rae recommended that black women and Asian men start dating each other more. In 2014, OKCupid released a study which found that those two groups were, by quantitative standards, the least desirable groups using the service. Rae wrote a chapter riffing on this data, and three years later, someone on the internet decided this meant that Rae hates black men, and here we are.

At first glance, this is the sort of thing that merits an eye roll and little else. Classic hotep, Ashy Twitter nonsense.

Except for one small problem: internet misogyny has a way of spilling into real life, something that writers such as Amanda Marcotte, Amanda Hess, and Lindy West have been writing about for years. We have plenty of examples of men who commit deadly acts of violence in real life, motivated by hateful ideology they ingested and espoused online.There’s Elliot Rodger, the man who killed six people, and then himself in 2014, because women wouldn’t have sex with him. George Sodini targeted an all-female aerobics class in 2009 for the same reason. There’s the man who threatened to bomb Utah State University because feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to give a speech there. The latest example is Alek Minnasian, a self-described “incel” (involuntary celibate) who allegedly recently drove a van into a crowd in Toronto and killed 10 people, and who thought of Rodger as a hero.

OK, you say. But all of these guys were white. What does that have to do with hoteps? There are various strains of internet misogynists: incels, GamerGaters, pickup artists, white supremacists obsessed with the 14 Words, etc. Hoteps are just a little more specialized — they tend to be black men who hate black women, and especially mouthy black feminists. They traffic in what many online black feminists call “misogynoir.” Most hoteps can be found on Twitter because that’s where the majority of black public discourse on the internet takes place.

While they may be small in number, they are loud. You know the type: They’re the ones who say that there’s a conspiracy to lock up Bill Cosby because he was going to buy NBC.

  • They blame all of Kanye West’s inchoate, misogynist, faux-deep nattering (“I had to take 30 showers” after being with Amber Rose) on the death of his mother, Donda.
  • They cheer when accused rapist Kobe Bryant wins an Oscar in the midst of the century’s most high-profile movement against sexual harassment and assault.
  • They blame R. Kelly’s victims when they come forward to tell reporters the singer held them in a “sex cult.”
  • They’re the reason black feminists are constantly explaining that racial liberation is not “black men get to behave with impunity like white men who exhibit unethical and abusive behavior.”

Even in the absence of a mass killing in the vein of Rodgers or Sodini, black women still experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence of any racial group. When we normalize rhetoric based in gendered resentment toward black women, it’s a piece of a larger puzzle that contributes to their victimization. That’s why it’s up to all of us to push back against misogynoiristic vitriol. Just because the physical results of such rhetoric have yet to make national televised news doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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