As a woman of mixed race I often fall into the beautiful, complex intersection of black and white and cultural divides. Finding your way through that, and allowing your body its own dignity of expression is a deeply personal, and sometimes arduous adventure. My experience navigating these two identities, and their attendant standards of beauty can be a nagging part of my personal development Which brings me back to my ass, this luscious part of me that rests above my thighs and below my back. It has begged me to look at the larger, historical context and I have obliged.
Have you seen this video about Sara Baartman? Do you know who Sara Baartman is? A few years ago this video was circulating around and it was the 1st time I had heard of her. She was a South African woman who became a spectacle because white Europeans had never seen a black woman’s gorgeous naked body. She was subject to the ultimate objectification when, posthumously, her body was made into a cast and exhibited for people to gawk at. There is so much to her story and knowing who she is is a must in my opinion. Sara’s is a name one should know. (So when you’re done reading this article, go research her!)
As I watch this video about Sara Baartman, I’m reminded of a powerful quote from Harriett Tubman, and it echoes through me. Tubman said, If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more. I wonder how many of us are aware of why certain things feel uncomfortable, why certain images kick up such a deep response. I wonder sometimes if some of us have forgotten what it took as black people and women in this country to have the freedoms and rights we have today. The objectification of the black woman’s body is still a part of our culture and has taken on new dimensions lately. The author of this video, using Sara Baartman as a reference, spoke to the fact that history is repeating itself, in that black America is slowly killing the black woman with [their] blatant disrespect for black womanhood.
I don’t know that I totally agree with this statement, but personally I think it’s something to explore as a woman, as a black woman, as an actress and as a culture. Unfortunately, these conversations usually carry a lot of venom, blame and anger. But I’d like to talk about this from a place of curiosity and self-love. I am a champion for sexuality and expression. So I have no interest in this being a dialogue about suppression, judgment or finger pointing. But, like many of us, I’m not a fan of how women’s bodies are oversexualized and fetishized, how our bodies have become a commodity. I don’t love the fact that women are being (and have been) rewarded for exploiting themselves. And yet it is not up to me to decide what the right choice is for anyone but myself.