But Megan’s online presence took a solemn turn earlier this month as the rapper (born Megan Pete) shared harrowing accounts of being shot several weeks ago. She first recounted the “traumatic night” in a July 15 Instagram post, days after TMZ reported the rapper’s feet had been injured during an alleged altercation outside of a Hollywood Hills mansion. The Los Angeles Police Department has released scarce details about the July 12 incident, but said in a news release that officers had conducted a traffic stop in the neighborhood early that morning during a “shots fired investigation.”
Rapper Tory Lanez, who was in videos posted earlier on Megan’s Instagram account, was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle. TMZ’s initial report, citing unnamed “law enforcement sources,” said Megan had cut her foot on broken glass inside the vehicle. The LAPD release made no mention of anyone suffering from gunshot wounds but noted “one person was transported to the hospital and received medical treatment for a foot injury.”
While fans have rallied around Megan, who told followers she had been the victim “of a crime that was committed … with the intention to physically harm me,” the rapper has also been the subject of cruel jokes. “Black women are so unprotected & we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own,” the rapper tweeted two days after first posting about her injuries. “It might be funny to y’all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized.”
Her words were especially resounding for Black women, many of whom recognize her treatment as a representation of the vitriol they often encounter when they are victims of violence. Though Lanez’s alleged role in Megan’s attack — and the nature of his relationship with the rapper — remains unclear, the incident and its aftermath has also served as a stark reminder of the disparities Black women face when it comes to gender-based violence. According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are more likely to be killed by violence, and more likely to be killed by an intimate partner, than white, Hispanic and Asian woman (American Indian and Alaskan Native women also experience violence at disproportionate rates).
Wagatwe Wanjuki, an anti-rape activist and survivor of domestic violence, said it has been “very difficult” to see the vile jokes Megan has endured over the past few weeks. “It was a reminder of how unprotected I feel, how unsafe,” she said. “It’s very hard for Black women to garner sympathy. It’s very hard for us to be seen as victims. It’s easier for us to be mocked, than for us to be cherished or treated with compassion.”
Megan made an emotional and triumphant return to Instagram this week, further detailing her ordeal in a live video. “I was shot in both of my feet,” she said, pausing as she began to cry. “I had to get surgery … to get the bullets taken out, and it was super scary.” She added that she was grateful the bullets did not “touch bones” or “break tendons.”
Even as she detailed what she called “the worst experience of my life,” Megan struck a defensive tone. “It’s not funny. There’s nothing to joke about,” she said. “There was nothing for y’all to start making fake stories about. I didn’t put my hands on nobody. I didn’t deserve to get shot.” For Black women already horrified by the jokes being made at the rapper’s expense, that last line — “I didn’t deserve to get shot” — was salt in a long-festering wound.
When Black women are the victims of violence, “it’s usually framed as a situation of mutual combat or provocation,” said C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
That unwillingness to see black women as victims “is really deep-rooted within in our culture” and goes back to the combination of misogyny and anti-blackness (or misogynoir, to use the term coined by Black queer feminist scholar Moya Bailey) that Black women face. “It’s not just the Black culture, it’s the larger culture that doesn’t value women,” Mason said.
In Megan’s case, “the scrutiny has been on Meg and not where it should be, which is on the perpetrator,” Mason said. “Some people have justified what happened to her by using her art, her power, her sexuality against her.”
“That’s problematic in and of itself,” Mason added. “The way she talks about her romantic relationships, where she’s in control, she’s in the driver’s seat — that’s one of the main reasons that her music has connected with women,” Mason said. “What this might say is that it’s dangerous for women to do that. When you own your power, when you own your sexuality, when you’re in the driver’s seat in a relationship, it can be deadly.”
The cruelty directed at Megan is reminiscent of what other prominent Black women, including Rihanna and Tina Turner, have endured after being abused by men. And the virulence hasn’t been limited to social media jokes: In 2018, nearly a decade after Rihanna’s ex-boyfriend Chris Brown was charged with brutally assaulting her, Rihanna slammed Snapchat for featuring an ad that polled users on whether they would want to “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.”
Turner has, for decades, endured similarly pervasive jokes in the pop culture sphere. The violence she repeatedly suffered at the hands of her first husband, Ike Turner, has essentially become a meme, in part because of an over-the-top scene in the 1993 movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” When Jay-Z compared himself to Turner’s abusive ex in his and Beyonce’s raucous 2014 collaboration, “Drunk In Love,” the reference sparked debate, but Jay-Z wasn’t the first or last artist to invoke Ike Turner’s fury. A New York Times profile last year recalled Turner’s initial reaction to the “Drunk in Love” line: “Yeah, I’m not surprised.”
One of the jokes told at Megan’s expense referenced another famous Black woman who experienced violence at the hands of a partner. “I predict that they had some sort of Bobby [Brown] & Whitney [Houston] love that drove them down this type of road,” Draya Michele, an actress and model who appeared on the first season of VH1′s “Basketball Wives,” said in a recent podcast. “I’m here for it. I like that. I want you to like me so much you shoot me in the foot, too.”
Michele apologized after facing a backlash. Chrissy Teigen also apologized after sharing an ill-timed joke unrelated to the incident that led to Megan’s injuries. After Megan’s Instagram address on Monday, 50 Cent apologized for sharing memes about her being shot. And in a year that has seen the deaths of more than 25 transgender and nonconforming individuals, according to the Human Rights Campaign, rapper Cam’ron drew ire for sharing a transphobic meme that mocked Megan.
The casualty with which society dismisses the suffering of “these well-known women who have created art that’s been so cherished and loved as part of our culture” sends a dangerous message, Wanjuki said. “It teaches communities that it is okay to treat Black women this way, it’s okay to abuse Black women because no one will take it seriously.”
“They think we can take it, we’re strong, we’re resilient, or we’re liars or we’re aggressive,” Wanjuki added. And that ambivalence is rooted in the same racist stereotypes that underscore other disparities, including the alarming rates of pregnancy-related deaths among Black women. That, too, is an issue that has touched the rich and famous — as Beyoncé and tennis phenom Serena Williams publicly proved two years ago when they spoke out, in separate Vogue interviews, about surviving dire pregnancy-related conditions.
Beyoncé was among the famous Black women, including Rihanna and Lizzo, who sent gifts to Megan following her emotional Instagram video. The rapper featured flowers the singer had sent — along with a card that read “Queen, sending you all my love” — in a later update.
As she ended her Instagram Live on Monday, Megan told fans she is “ready to get back to regular programming.” But, she added, “I’ve definitely learned that I don’t have to be so nice to … everybody. This ain’t going to stop me from being nice, and it’s not going to stop me from being Megan Thee … Stallion.”