Despite my confidence is knowing that I am a beautiful Black women, the recent media scrutiny of Black women — the latest from Psychology Today and Satoshi Kanazawa’s post in which he stated that Black women were “objectively” less attractive than other women– is trying to chip that away and it has me fuming! A few days ago, I read an interview at Cease Fire Magazine that reminded me that this mistreatment and degradation of Black women is sadly nothing new. It is the reason behind Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech, “Ain’t I Woman” and it still resonates today, especially with Kanazawa article.
The Cease Fire interview mentioned Saartjie Baartman, also known as the “Hottentot Venus,” a South African Khoisan woman who was taken from her village to England and exhibited as a freak show attraction because of her physical features: a large behind (steatopygia), and enlogated labia. She died in 1815 and her skeleton, brain, genitals and a molded cast of her body were on display in Paris’s Musee de l’Homme until 1980s. However, her body was not returned to South Africa until 2002.
Black women all over the world have looked to Baartman as inspiration. Last year, I attended a symposium about Baartman at NYU where presenters, including Rene Cox and Elizabeth Alexander, gave performances, film, panel discussions, speeches and poetry dedicated to Baartman, and connected her to the portrayals of Black women today in art, music, fashion and film. I also bought the book, “Venus 2010: They Called Her ‘Hottentot'”, which has several moving essays and poems dedicated to Baartman.
What connects Baartman to Kanazawa’s article is the use of science to try to claim that Black people are less than human or not as good as other humans. Baartman was examined by French zoologists, George andFrederic Cuvier, who used her physical attributes to compare her to wild animals. In his writings, Kanazawa used faulty scientific methods, analysis of surveys and claims to state that Black women are the least attractive of all the women in the world and to claim that the reason is that we have more testosterone, aka we are more masculine than than the average woman. Seeing that post from Kanazawa reminded me that not much has changed and we still have a long fight ahead of us.
If you want to know more about Saartjie Baartman, you should definitely see “Venus Noire,” a 2010 French film about her life. Here is the trailer:
And sign the petition for Psychology Today to set stricter standards for the posts that are published on their website.