Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Black women and our bodies

So, I woke up this morning and read one of my readings for my Women and Sexuality class. This particular reading was entitled "Continued Devaluation of Black Womanhood" by bell hooks, my favorite feminist writer. In the article, hooks (yes, her name is always in little case letters) discusses the history behind the objectification of Black women, originating in the slave South. She also addresses the power dynamics between White men and Black women. This is why I am writing this entry.

I was deeply disturbed, not because I disagree with her in any way, but because I, a Black woman, am in a relationship with a White man. According to hooks, relationships like mine were historically prohibited in that they threatened white dominance. Any legitimate relationship between these two parties threatened the belief that Black women weren't human and, therefore, incapable of being loved and respected as such.

Now, this is all fine and dandy as history, but as I continued reading, I began to internalize the information and view it on a personal level.

After finishing the hooks reading, I immediately moved on to read another by Patricia Hill Collins, also an amazing feminist writer (btw, these women are both Black). This article is called "Black Women and the Sex/Gender Hierarchy". Collins addresses much of what hooks does, except she talks about the infamous Sarah Bartmann.

For anyone who doesn't know, Sarah Bartmann was an African woman who was put on display for White people at parties because of her rare body shape. She had an enormously large bottom and was often placed as a live display,
fully naked. Once she died, her body was (get this) dissected and her genitals and buttock were placed on display in a Paris museum!!!!!!!!!!!!! This in itself is the most disturbing piece of information I've learned in a very long time. I hope for France's sake that that woman's body parts are not still on display for every fucking Tom, Dick, and Harry to see because if so, So Help Me God, I will find a way to make it to Paris and protest that shit if it's the last thing I do with my life!

*taking a deep breath and trying to calm down* Ok........So, as a result of Sarah Bartmann's situation (more popularly known as the Hottentot Venus), Black women were expected to all have the same body features.
This is where the infamous "Black Booty" comes from!!

Black culture has internalized this idea that Black women are suppose to be voluptuous, full-bodied, big bootied, big-hipped women! And no one ever stops to think "Well, where the hell did we get THAT shit from?"

Well, people, it all came from the fucked up objectification of our ancestors! And I for one am through participating in their continual objectification. Did you know that even after slavery was over, Black women became the most sought after victims of rape? Wanna know why???
Because we had
no worth in the eyes of the White community. This, hooks explains, is why the White man-Black woman relationship is so rare. It got so bad back then that Black parents started warning their Black daughters not to ever be alone on the streets or even in the presence of a White man.

Now, how many of us knew THAT lil bit of history?! Not many, I bet. That's because this is the kind of shit you only get to read about maybe once in your life. This never gets taught in schools. And it's f-ed up because the Black community needs to know WHY our society devalues Black women, or even recognize that it does. I mean, I've gone through my entire life yearning for the big Booty because as a Black woman, that's what I thought I was suppose to have. Well, fuck that now...

Ok, so how many music videos have we all watched or pictures we've seen where Black women's asses WEREN'T the main attraction??? yeah, don't worry....I'll wait why you try to answer me that one ............................................................NONE, right?? RIGHT! It seems that every Black woman on any music video MUST have the "Black Booty" to be sexy. And why? Because we have internalized our own oppression. We forget the sexism that runs rampant in our own culture as a DIRECT result of the racism we face.

Now, I would like to post a picture of Sarah Bartmann, not in disrespect to her, but to raise awareness of the issue which subtly suffocates Black womanhood. I ask that you view this sketch with the utmost respect and that you go away from it a little more educated about the history of Black women than you had before you read this post...


Anonymous said...

uuuuummmmmmm....wow. Thank you for this information. bell hooks and Pat Hill Collins are amazing to read. I googled why bell hooks does the lower casing of her pen name. Here's why- the name's unconventional lowercasing signifies what is most important in her works: the "substance of books, not who I am."

And yes I did just Wikipedia that!

Michael Faris said...

Hey there dear! I miss you! And excellent post!

Are you taking feminist philosophies this term? It looks like it. :)

Randa said...

I AM taking feminist philosophies! And Women & Sexuality...it's all so very overwhelming :)

Michael Faris said...

I imagine it is overwhelming. Stick with it — fantastic courses, and it seems like you're doing well.