Megan Thee Stallion’s fight for justice was a test. This time we passed.

On Friday, Tory Lanez, legally known as Daystar Peterson, was found guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion, legally known as Megan Pete, in the summer of 2020.

It is encouraging to see that as a society we are less accepting of men abusing women with impunity. While the #MeToo movement brought public attention to the ongoing abuse women face, primarily at the hands of men, the voices of black women have often been excluded from that conversation. This case was a test of our willingness to seek justice for and publicly acknowledge the pain of a black woman, and thankfully we did.

Even with all the ways Lanez’s defense team and supporters have tried to obfuscate the fact that Megan Thee Stallion is a victim, the multiple social issues that lead to black women not being protected are very clear.

But there were times when Megan Thee Stallion failed during this ordeal, and we must not forget that.

In a New York Times video accompanying an article she wrote in October 2020, she asks the question, what does it mean to be a woman of color? In the video, she answers her own question. It’s “constantly having to prove she’s a victim, because society sides with a man.”

These poignant words describe exactly what she went through in her quest for justice.

Although the question of who shot Megan Thee Stallion in the summer of 2020 has been debated since details of the incident became public knowledge, there was little disagreement that she was shot. She had to have surgery to remove bullet fragments from her foot, so she was clearly a victim, but it’s her sexual history that was on trial.

Throughout the trial, Lanez’s defense attorneys characterized the violent incident as a jealous dispute between two women and argued that Kelsey Harris, Megan Thee Stallion’s former friend, was romantically linked to Lanez. She revealed during her testimony that she had an intimate relationship with Lanez after previously denying that they were more than friends.

Her response to why she hadn’t previously shared the extent of their relationship was indicative of the internalized shame women who speak out often feel: “Because it’s disgusting at this point. How could I share my body with someone who could do this to me?” She said.

What happened inside the courtroom has not only shamed a woman who experienced violence, but outside the courtroom, in the court of public opinion, where social media rules, many have vilified and mocked Megan Thee Stallion. She was “wrong” to keep talking about what happened to her. She was “wrong” to fire back at people for trying to downplay her pain. She was “wrong” to be sexual.

Megan Thee Stallion testified that the ordeal had greatly affected her mental health, with the rapper saying: “I feel disgusted, I feel dirty, my own partner is embarrassed.” She also said, “I wish [Lanez] would have just killed me, if I knew I would have to go through this torture.”

Even with all the ways Lanez’s defense team and supporters have tried to obfuscate the fact that Megan Thee Stallion is a victim, the multiple social issues that lead to black women not being protected are very clear. Black women are more likely to be killed by men than their white counterparts and experience higher rates of violence compared to women overall. They are also more likely to be labeled as hypersexual.

Megan Thee Stallion’s case isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of slut. It is visible in many lawsuits involving a woman who has been sexually assaulted or subjected to gender violence. When we blame a woman for violence committed against her, we buy into the problematic idea that only certain kinds of women can be considered victims. Statistics say that more than 1 in 4 women worldwide experience gender-based violence, and guess what? Every one of them deserves grace and compassion. The slut-shaming that Megan Thee Stallion experienced is the latest public example of society trying to divide women into two narrow categories: virginal madonnas or whores.

In her songs, Megan Thee Stallion has promoted the idea that women should feel comfortable and deserve to embrace sexual freedom. Yet this trial showed that as a society we are still willing to punish women who do not fit into the stereotypical gender roles we have created for them. Megan Thee Stallion is a grown woman who is not only sexually active but dares to publicly promote the idea of ​​women enjoying sex.

When websites that have supported her career all of a sudden list men she has reportedly dated, they strip her of power and cultural cachet. The public exalted Megan Thee Stallion for her message of freedom, but when it came time to truly protect her freedom, it fell back on societal norms that see women through a thin binary.

Toxic masculinity is an important part of this equation. When we slut-sham women, we are also protecting a specific version of masculinity that relies on the subjugation of women. One detail of the case that kept coming up that encapsulated this was the comment she says Lanez spat at her before he shot her: “Dance, b—h.” On a literal level, the words seem to have been a warning to her to run or move her feet, but if you look deeper, it alludes to a kind of performance – dashing and looking helpless – for the male gaze.

Thankfully, a jury voted to hold Lanez responsible. But in the aftermath of the ugly trial, which Megan Thee Stallion said left her feeling embarrassed and like she wanted to die, we should continue to reflect on what it means to be women, and especially women of color, going up against a legal and cultural system which are stacked against them.

Shaming women for violence committed against them will not protect women from further violence. An imperfect victim does not deny that they deserve justice, and not believing in black women will not result in anyone’s liberation.

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