Saartije “Sarah” Baartman

“Deelishis animates long-held stereotypes about Black women as unbridled sexual
animals who invite physical objectification (Giddings, 1984; Hill-Collins, 2004;
hooks, 2004; Jhally, 2007; Morgan, 1999; Neal, 2006, Omolade, 1994; Rose, 1994).
Holmes (2006) and Netto (2005) remind us that the 19th-century exploitation in
European sideshows of the ‘‘abnormally’’ large posterior of Sarah Bartman, the South
African ‘‘Hottentot Venus,’’ set in motion the stereotype of Black women as
hypersexual and of this hypersexuality as something to be gazed upon and
commodified.” – Performing Race in Flavor of Love and The Bachelor (Dubrofsky And Hardy, page 384)

Sarah Baartman was tricked into leaving her home of South Africa by a European showman who displayed her as part of his freak show. People would good money for “private viewings” of Sarah as she danced around in skimpy “traditional” attire. Such abusive and exploitative behavior lead her to alcoholism. In summary: her entire life was shit because she was treated like shit. Even after her death, the exploitation didn’t stop there. A plaster cast was made of her body and along with her skeleton, brain, and genitals (which were both pickled in jars) were put on display in a museum. She’s relevant because her abnormally large posterior was seen as an sexual oddity, and in modern times many celebrities and regular women alike strive for similar results without knowledge of her existence or relevance. If that’s not objectification, I don’t know what is.

-Edgar Nava

 

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