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The black female sexual stereotype, music videos and their effects on young black women’s sexual decision-making
Transcript of The black female sexual stereotype, music videos and their effects on young black women’s sexual decision-making
The world’s preoccupation with Black women, their bodies and sexuality can be traced back to the Europeans’ initial contact with the African continent.
Dreamworlds 3: The Fantasy vs. Reality
Sarah Baartman: Hottentot Venus
Sarah Baartman was before on a unknown date in 1790 and died on December 29 1815
She was born in an area situated near the Gamtoos River Valley in what is now the Eastern Cape of South Africa
She is the more famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited in Europe at freak show attractions for the amusement and entertainment of European patrons.
She was working as a slave in Cape Town when she was "discovered" by British ship’s doctor William Dunlop
He wanted to display her because Baartman had unusually large buttocks and genitals and because in the early 1800s Europeans were arrogantly obsessed with their own superiority, and with proving that others, particularly blacks, were inferior and oversexed.
The black female sexual stereotype, music videos and their effects on young black women’s sexual decision-making
“Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word black. It’s always something degrading, low and sinister. Look at the word white. It’s always something pure, high, clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight. I want to get the language so right that everybody here will cry out, “Yes! I’m black. [And] I’m proud of it.”-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The power of representation
• She was called the "Hottentot Venus", 'Hottentot' being a name given to people with cattle. Venus is reference to the Roman goddess of love.
• She spent four years in London, then moved to Paris
• In Paris she attracted the attention of French scientists, in particular Georges Cuvier.
• Once the Parisians also got tired of the Baartman show, she was forced to turn to prostitution.
• Baartman was given no peace even in death.Cuvier made a plaster cast of her body, then removed her skeleton and, after removing her brain and genitals, pickled them and displayed them in bottles at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris.
• They were on display for a 160 years before they were finally removed from public view in 1974.
19th century French print "La Belle Hottentot" of Saartjie Baartman.
These images are taken from Volume II of the "Illustrations of the Natural History of Mammals."
In the nineteenth century, the black woman was originally reduced to her individual parts and likened to a prostitute in popular imagery vis-à-vis the capture and public display of the “Hottentot Venus” (Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman).
Baartman became an object of leering and abuse as she was paraded around Europe for exhibition—so the European masses could see firsthand her “abnormal and primitive” buttocks and genitalia.
Observers considered her genitalia and that of other African women evidence of their voracious sexual appetites.
The abovementioned racist beliefs would become the basis of Western thinking and dictate its treatment of the Black female body.
According to scholarship on this subject--by the end of the nineteenth century European experts in academic fields ranging from anthropology to psychology began to “scientifically” conclude and perpetuate that the black female body embodied the notion of uncontrolled sexuality (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 113).
Enslaved Africans were labeled ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ because doing so justified the status quo i.e. them not being able to control their own bodies validated the need for and necessity of white ownership and domination (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 113).
Over time, there have emerged several sexual stereotypes about the primitive nature of women of African descent. The basis of said stereotypes can arguably be traced back to above mentioned historical period (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 112).
The History of The Black Sexual Stereotype Cont'd
“…Jezebel is a biblical figure in the book of kings. By manipulation or seduction, Jezebel was accused of misleading the saints of God into [the] sins of idolatry and sexual immorality. In Christian lore, a comparison to Jezebel suggests that a person is a pagan or an apostate masquerading as a servant of god. As a cultural symbol, Jezebel is associated with false prophets and fallen women. The jezebel stereotype is the most overtly sexual stereotype associate with black women. She is depicted as a loose woman who is unable to control her sexual drives. When associated with enslaved African women, this image is promoted the notion that these women had insatiable sexual desires” (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 113).
The Jezebel Cont’d
The previously mentioned stereotype of the black woman as a loose, untrustworthy and sexually voracious Jezebel persists until now. In contemporary representations (in popular culture) black women are most often depicted as freaks, gold diggers, divas, and baby mamas.
These are new adaptations of a old trope.
The sexual objectification of black women begins in girlhood and also has its roots in slavery. Wilma King notes, “…once slave girls reached adolescence, they faced the possibility of sexual exploitation"(Dagbovie-Mullins, 2013, p. 749).
Another scholar posits in his work, an analysis of Jezebel images [in twentieth century racist paraphernalia], young black girls have been depicted in popular cultural representations in sexually disturbing contexts(Dagbovie-Mullins, 2013, p. 749).
For instance, black female caricatures have been drawn in the past with the bodies of adult women i.e. exposed adult female buttocks and prepubescent faces(Dagbovie-Mullins, 2013, p. 749).
These representations are exceptionally harmful in that they promote negative stereotypes and prejudice that is ultimately internalized by both society and black women (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 113).
According to scholarship on this topic sexual behaviour is highly influenced by sexual stereotypes. Black female respondents in individual interviews and focus groups admit to seeing a connection between such stereotypes and their sexual decision making (i.e. increased risky sexual behavior).
The consequences of the black female stereotype
Research on this subject finds that as a consequence of the sexual stereotypes in question black women, “…have been, and are still, unable to effectively negotiate sexual encounters resulting in their increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs)" (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 113).
A study on the highly sexual content of rap music and its effects on black female adolescents’ sexual attitudes and choices found respondents between the ages of 14 and 18 years old exhibited higher rates of risky sexual behaviour and laboratory confirmed STIs (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 114).
Over a 12 month period 37.6% acquired a new sexually transmitted disease, 4.8 % assaulted a teacher, 12.1% were arrested, 14.8% had sexual intercourse with someone other than their partner, 44.2% reported using drugs, and 44.4% consumed alcohol (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 114).
Researchers conducting the study concluded that, “…the women in rap music videos model behaviour that is salient to young black women.[ And that ]the highly explicit sexual images may have long term effects on young [black] women’s self perceptions and sexual decision-making” (Davis & Tucker-Brown, 2013, p. 114).
Today in North America, Hollywood films and television programs have practically substituted the church and other religious institutions as the creators and enforcers of moral value. Most children by the time they become adults on average have spent more time watching television than at school receiving an education. They can instantaneously summon a celebrity’s face or readily quote their most popular film. Their minds are constantly occupied with the voices of virtual strangers. This is the power of representation, the mainstream media’s awe-inspiring power literally to create our social reality (O'Brien & Szeman, 2004, p. 71). For good or for ill, it is influential in forming our most sacred beliefs, natural behaviours, greatest desires, and fears (O'Brien & Szeman, 2004, p. 71).
Tell the truth and shame the devil
Certain prejudiced and/or omitted representations in the mainstream media can perpetuate and even condone untoward relations of power.
Because the members of society with credible representation have the most power and can delegate and preserve the status quo in their favour.
African Americans are exceptionally underrepresented in almost all facets of the entertainment industry. Whenever they do partake, it is in the undistinguished position of performer rather than producer.
This as a result also detrimentally affects the cultural types of narratives told and in what manner, instead of producing positive stories; pop culture propagates more films (and music videos) featuring idiocy, casual sex and violence.
The black woman in popular culture is quintessentially undeserving (of respect) and too insignificant to have a complete identity. As Sut Jhally relates in his film, Dreamworlds 3: Desire, sex and power in music video, “… they have literally been reduced to one part of their bodies [their asses]”(Jhally, 2007).
This is a result of their lack of control over the production, distribution, and exhibition of their bodies and sexualities.
The power of representation cont'd
Why should teachers care?
10 Things I Want To Say To A Black Woman by Joshua Bennett
"[Because] when you dishonor the the utter glory and majesty of black people, you lie. Your heart lies to you and you let it."--Sinead O'Connor
Coloroso, B. (2003). The bully, the bullied and the bystander. New York : Harper Collins.
Dagbovie-Mullins, S. A. (2013). Pigtails, Ponytails, and Getting Tail: TheTail: The Infantilization and Hyper-Sexualization of African American Females in Popular Culture. The Journal of Popular Culture , 745–771.
Davie, L. (14, May 2012). SouthAfrica.info. Retrieved March 14, 2014, from Sarah Baartman, at rest at last: http://www.southafrica.info/about/history/saartjie.htm#.UmPqGHA3uSo
Davis, S., & Tucker-Brown, A. (2013). Effects of Black Sexual Stereotypes on Sexual Decision Making among African American Women. Journal of Pan African Studies , 111-128.
Jhally, S. (Director). (2007). Dreamworlds 3 : desire, sex & power in music video [Motion Picture].
O'Brien, S., & Szeman, I. (2004). Popular Culture: A User's Guide. Toronto : Nelson.
In the reading entitled–Caring Schools, Involved Communities–the author states that as teachers we ought to educate the whole child by tending to their social and emotional development not just their grasp of academic subjects (Coloroso, 2003, pg. 182). He goes on to relate that, “…while schools teach math, reading, social studies and science, perhaps the most important thing for students to learn is how to interact effectively and peacefully with each other and the world at large” (Coloroso, 2003, pg. 177). And we can start this process off by modeling and demonstrating the power of caring, respectful, and responsible behaviour.(Coloroso, 2003, pg. 182) For example through deconstructing as a class why the latest hit rap song is hurtful and harmful to certain people.