Saartjie, “Sarah” or “Sara,” Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman used as an exhibition in the early 1800s of Black woman’s disfiguration and difference. The point of the exhibition was to exaggerate the features of the Black woman in comparison to European females. At this time, White men controlled female sexuality and reproduction for all women, Black and White. However, this public display of unclothed, and scantily clad Black women as suggestively robust gave way to the idea that we are not women by definition.
The White female, by historical definition and demonstration, are vulnerable to being polluted, as white womanhood as an idea should reproduce purity. But, the Black female, by one’s historical definition, is the very portal through which slavery was born. Her identity includes the duality of producer and reproducer — producer for the global market, and reproducer of the slave system cycle. Under patriarchal control, the Black woman has caricatures or myths created for her that constitute the counter image of the Victorian lady. However, it needs to recognized that these caricatures and myths are constructed identities, not a real embodiment of the Black woman.
The viewing of unclothed Black women derived from having to
come up with a reason why Black enslaved women were so often raped and abused. It had to be their fault; the sexual act had to be their initiative. For she is not strong, but animalistic. This philosophy does not acknowledge the possibility for rape, because she was always “asking for it.” This is the same philosophy to later birth the idea that women who are scantily clad, or who have invitingly irresistible features of Black woman (that no poor man can resist), cannot be raped because they are always “asking for it.”
We are challenging this narrative by retaking control of our sexuality, reproduction and display of our Blackness. My body, your body, is no longer an object to be owned, a spectacle to be gawked at, or a justifiable means of disruption. We are challenging the narrative by asserting our Black features, our nudity, our expression of our bodies – that it is our turn to determine our own sexuality, reproduction and expression of own self.
Is my butt too big?
but should that limit
my range of expression?
The answer is no.
I am no object;
I am no quest.
No matter how wide my hips,
Or how succulent my breasts.
I am my own,
and I am making myself
So, I choose to move through this world
Of how uncomfortable
may make you.