My Anaconda Don’t Want None Unless You Got Buns, Hun: The Objectification of Black Female Bodies

Remember the lip challenge?  Girls posting videos of themselves putting their lips inside shot glasses and sucking as hard as they could so that they could have bigger and fuller lips like Kylie?

Remember when Kim made the cover of Paper magazine? Or, to be more exact, remember when her butt made the cover of Paper magazine?

Remember when Serena Williams sported a black spandex suit and bleach-blonde braids, and was criticized for being “tacky” and an “inappropriate display of sexuality?”[1]

And remember when Serena had to defend herself by stating that all she wanted to do was be comfortable?

It’s simple.  White women want features that black women have.  Big butts, full lips, boxer braids, darker skin.  But here’s the catch: “Black women’s features and styles are in demand…as long as they’re found on other people.”[2]

Historically, black female bodies have been labeled “strange,” “unfeminine,” and “grotesque.” The “Hottentot Venus” is the perfect example of this phenomenon.  During the 19th century, a South African woman named Saartjie Baartman, became the most famous black woman in Europe solely based on the attraction to her large buttocks. Baartman was forced to put on a show to appease white Europeans, and her body became no more than a source of curious and scandalous entertainment.[3]

Today, that “scandalous” entertainment has filtered into and has been perpetuated by hip hop and rap culture.  For example, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” music video has been a source of consistent criticism for its obsession with butts.  The song begins with a sample from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s song “Baby Got Back.”  In the beginning of the original song, two girls talk about a Black woman’s butt.  “Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt.  It is so big.”  Diana Veiga, a writer for Clutch Magazine, explains: “There is disgust for this full-figured woman who does not fit into their standard of beauty, a Eurocentric standard of beauty.  Minaj [then] channels that disgust from twenty-two years ago and flips it to fit today’s standards.” [4] Although Minaj has been compared to Baartman, the difference between them is that Minaj is able to control how she portrays her sexuality, whereas Baartman was displayed directly as a result of colonization.  At the same time, however, Minaj maintains the idea of the black female body as a platform for the ‘savage’ femininity that Baartman was forced to assimilate to.  But she does it on her own terms, and as a result, she is severely criticized for it.

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Thus, the attention to Baartman’s backside is a two-fold ongoing theme: While the focus of the black female body is viewed as a dehumanized and hyper-sexualized “ugly” object, it is also labeled as a “deviant sexuality” because white culture desires and thirsts for black women.  Additionally, during Baartman’s time period, white women who possessed a large butt were considered prostitutes. Thus, “both white men and women, when labeled deviant, were aligned with ‘black’ sexuality.”[5]

However, this didn’t stop middle-class white women (of the period) from wearing bustles – padding added to the seat of the dress – to fake a large backside. The desire to have the features of a black woman but still maintain the purity of whiteness is a central theme of white female society.  “Black women are so often shamed and penalized for the same physical attributes that are then praised, and made trendy for white women.”[6] Black female features are sexy and beautiful when a white woman dons them. For example, Kim Kardashian’s extremely fake ass is seen as “hot,” while Serena Williams is viewed as trashy for wearing a tight-fitting outfit.

Black female features are objectified so often that they have been narrowed to a type of commodity that is selfishly consumed by mainstream white society.  It’s a ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ scenario.  Black female bodies are hyper-sexualized, criticized, judged and hated.  BUT, they are also lusted after and desired ONLY when it benefits white society.  White females shudder under white male gaze, and because white males lust after black female bodies, white women want what black women have.

 

 

CHECK THIS OUT: Photographer Daniel Stewart created a provocative series of photos to demonstrate the luring power of black female bodies and the obsession white women have with black female bodies.

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[1] Janell Hobson, “The ‘Batty’ Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body,” Hypathia (2003): 87.

[2] Clutch Magazine, “New Photo Series Illustrates How Black Women Are Shamed For Features White People Want,” Clutch Magazine, March 3, 2016, accessed April 28, 2017, http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2016/03/new-photo-series-illustrates-black-women-shamed-features-white-people-want/.

[3] Cleuci de Oliviera, “Saartjie Baartman: The Original Booty Queen,” Jezebel, November 14, 2014, http://jezebel.com/saartje-baartman-the-original-booty-queen-1658569879

[4] Diana Veiga, “It’s a Skinny Shame: Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” Clutch Magazine, August 13, 2014, accessed April 28 2017, http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2014/08/skinny-shame-nicki-minajs-anaconda/

[5] Janell Hobson, “The ‘Batty’ Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body,” Hypathia (2003): 96.

[6] Cleuci de Oliviera, “Saartjie Baartman: The Original Booty Queen.”

 

 

 

 

 

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