Two separate high-profile incidents broadcast this week highlighted the criticism black women regularly face in the workplace and spurred many to share their own experiences on social media.
“It’s high time that people recognize it’s not just happening on television — it’s happening at the cube right next to them, and they have something they can do about it,” says educator and activist Brittany Packnett.
On Tuesday, Fox News host Bill O’Reillydismissed commentsabout President Trump made by Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, mocking her hair and saying, “I didn’t hear a word she said, I was looking at the James Brown wig.” O’Reillylater apologized.
I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere.#BlackWomenAtWork
The same day, at the daily White House briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer lectured veteran reporter April Ryan as she pressed him on the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia during the campaign.
“Please, stop shaking your head again,” Spicer told Ryan, who reports for American Urban Radio Networks. At the next day’s briefing, Spicercalled on Ryan firstin an apparent attempt to smooth over the incident.
Watch The Full Exchange Between Sean Spicer And April Ryan
The White House viaYouTube
To many black women, including Packnett, the treatment both Waters and Ryan received while doing their jobs was not surprising. Packnett encouraged women to share their stories with the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork.
Packnett said that, like many black women, she had been told that her natural hair, or wearing it in braids, was unprofessional.
me: Wears hair natural to work.
Boss: You look like a jungle princess.
me: **hardest eye roll since teenage years**#BlackWomenAtWork
Others shared stories online about being told they were too intimidating or having people assume they were the cleaning staff or an assistant when they’re actually the one in charge.
“This idea that a black woman’s presence is to be policed or politicized in the workplace is what we’re talking about,” Packnett said. “The idea that Sean Spicer can tell April Ryan what to do with her face, irrespective of her years in journalism, the idea that Maxine Waters’ voice is less important than her hair, is what black women are experiencing every single day.”