Skip To Content
The Schmooze

Bette Midler’s ‘Women Are The N-Word Of The World’ Tweet Was Inspired By John Lennon

Bette Midler’s got a big mouth. Sometimes, what comes out is gold. And sometimes, it’s just dreck.

The Divine Miss M landed in hot water yesterday afternoon when she tweeted:

Image by Screenshot

Midler’s fury and pain seem so genuine. But she also seems out-of-touch to the point of blithe, unconscious racism. The problem here: black women are women too. In a few strokes of the keypad, Midler’s tweet neatly erases the existence of black women and uses the history of black suffering as a prop. It’s what the kids are calling “white feminism.”

While we’re here, something that might have gotten lost in the Twitter jumble is that the most offensive line from Midler’s tweet actually comes from the song “Woman Is the N****r of the World,” written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1972, based on a phrase Ono said during an interview two years before. Some scholars see this phrase as a bastardization of something a character in Zora Neale Hurston’s “There Eyes Were Watching God” said: “De n****r woman is de mule uh de world so fur as ah can see.” The evolution of the phrase, of course, separates black identity from female identity.

Reactions to Midler’s tweet were swift.

The gif says it best but we’ll try to add: racism and sexism must be overthrown together, or else feminism will just be another form of white supremacy.

Happily, Bette deleted the tweet and issued a thoughtful apology.

We hope it was a growing experience for her. Remember — Bette Midler is 72! If she can hear critiques about her unconscious racism, apologize and learn, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us, too.

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.