FYI: The images used in this post are Rated R per nudity.
When 20 year old Sara Baartman got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would never see her home again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw what had become her home disappear behind her, could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 100 years.
Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—“Hottentot” considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love. While in her teens, Saartje migrated to an area near Cape Town, where she was a farmer’s slave until she was bought in Cape Town by William Dunlop, a doctor on a British ship. At age 20, Saartje headed for London with Dr. Dunlop where, it was agreed, that they would get rich by displaying her body to Europeans; catering to the people’s’ sexual fascination with aboriginal peoples. Prancing in the nude, with her jutting posterior and extraordinary genitals, she provided the foundation for racist and pseudo-scientific theories regarding black inferiority and black female sexuality. The shows involved Saartje being “led by her keeper and exhibited like a wild beast, being obliged to walk, stand or sit as ordered.” Saartje’s predicament drew the attention of a young Jamaican, Robert Wedderburn, who was agitated against slavery and racism. Subsequently, his group pressured the attorney general to stop this circus. Losing the case on a technicality, Saartje spent four years in London and then went to Paris where she was exhibited in a traveling circus, and seen frequently controlled by an animal trainer in the show.
It was here that she crossed paths with George Cuvier, Napoleon’s surgeon-general, who was also considered to be the dean of comparative anatomy. In his capacity of social anthropologist, he arrogantly and erroneously concluded that she was the missing link. She turned to prostitution and when she died poor in 1816, almost immediately Cuvier had her body cast in wax, dissected and the skeleton articulated. Her organs, including her genitals and brains, were preserved in bottles of formaldehyde. Her remains were displayed at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris until as late as 1974.
“Stay on guard this wicked land will try to strip your soul… got our men selling blow our women on the stripper pole. Once your morals hit the floor do anything to pay the bills, 400 years still ain’t on the level playing field.”
While one cannot control what is forced upon them, one can make the decision to choose a different path. While the treatment of Sara and the retaining of her body parts were horrific, we cannot neglect her choice to prostitute herself. We have all been in positions where we felt we did not have a choice, for struggle and oppression has a tendency to do away with all logic. But what I would like to remind us of today is the importance of not making excuses for those choices. There’s a difference between making a mistake and making a commitment to willfully do. Often we set out to blame outside forces for what we have become because we’ve been deceived into thinking we have no choice. This is not to judge the actions of Sara as a slave, but what we need to understand is that today many Black women are slaves and they are slaves without permission or coercion. There is little difference between Sara Baartman and the current Video Vixen. They are both slaves. Today, the Black woman’s mentality leaves her shackled to a mental incapability of thinking outside of the way she was taught to do so within the physical institution of slavery. She cannot think independently on a physical, mental, or spiritual level outside of what her captives have taught her because of her unwillingness to take responsibility for her own ignorance.
As a result, every time someone attempts to show the so called Black women the error of her ways she is apt to point to an instance, circumstance, person or persons outside of herself. She may very well bring up facts, but she is unable to see the role she plays to make manifest those statistics. It is always a situation where men have abused or disrespected her. It is always everyone else fault except hers. Either a man did it or the white man did it. Many of the women seen on TV, such as the Niki Minaj’s are showing women examples of what it means to be a whore, to prostitute one’s body and to be proud of it. Sadly, many of you idolize these women. You sit back and you allow your little girls to be entertained by such filth. Beyonce is a married woman (allegedly) and yet she prances around the stage half naked and you think it’s cute. You do not teach your little girls about Proverb 31 women and about the Sara Baartman’s; you teach them about the Beyonces. As a result, many young women, crossing all ethnicity’s, grow up with aspirations to put basic morals and values on the back burner while they twerk.
The reality however is that everything is not a stereotype. It is not all a conspiracy. Abuse exists but there is still a choice we must begin to understand about the role we play in deception. It’s not always about deception, but it is also about our willingness to be deceived.