At this year’s Essence Music Festival songstress Jill Scott, and others, addressed a panel concerning the media’s portrayal of black women in popular music and videos. I was thrilled to see the attention given to this topic. Such a platform is long overdue.
The promotion of black women as body parts with a particular emphasis on the buttocks has a painful place in our history. In 1810, Saarjite Baartman (also known as Sarah), a Khosian woman, was taken from South Africa to Europe to be publicly displayed because of her steatopygia, or enlarged buttocks. Known as “The Hottentot Venus,” she was exhibited naked in a cage for more than five years. After Saarjite’s death, her genitals were removed and dissected as European scientists sought to understand the “primitive sexual appetite” of African women.
Black women’s thrusting, vibrating buttocks are the primary object in many of today’s videos. These videos perpetuate the continued assault on the sexual integrity of black women’s bodies. It is not simply the depiction of black women as big booty, scantily clad, gyrating, voiceless sex toys. But, there is little to counter these images anywhere else in the media. Consider the role that garnered actor Halle Berry an Academy Award. It involved an animalistic sex scene suggesting something primitive about the sexuality of black women.
I’m led to wonder about the impact upon black girls absorbing these images.
Although a link has long been suspected between sexually charged images in the media and the socio-emotional development of adolescent girls, empirical evidence is beginning to establish a correlation. And as you may assume, black girls don’t fare well.
A study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health found that black girls who view more rap videos are more likely to get in trouble with the law, take drugs and become infected with sexually transmitted diseases. “We can see there is some link, some association,” says study co-author Gina Wingood, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Emory University in Atlanta.
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