This recurring feature directs Harpy readers to important feminist thoughts and concepts as spoken by some of our favourite feminists on and off the web. The appraisal of the value of these snippets is, of course, entirely SarahMC’s, and does not necessarily reflect the views of other Harpies. Feel free to discuss in the comments here.
Today’s Feminist Food for Thought comes from Kimberly Springer’s essay “Queering Black Female Heterosexuality” in the anthology Yes Means Yes. Springer argues that “in a culture that makes us believe that someone else’s wants are our needs” (love that line) … “it is time to change how the dominant culture perceives black female sexuality.” Easier said than done, but Springer believes the catch-22 black hetero women face is a crisis situation.
To wit, Springer testifies that many heterosexual black women use silence as a strategy to combat negative judgements about their sexuality: hypersexual (the Jezebel) or asexual (the Mammy). “Between respectability and silence, black women found little space to determine who they were as sexual beings.”
She asserts that depictions of black female sexuality in pop culture have not moved far beyond the stereotypes forged in the post-Civil War South. Springer sees the characters played by Queen Latifah as modern day asexual mammies, and the women who perform in music videos playing the jezebel role. “…The main way of viewing black female sexuality is as victimized or deviant.”
To be sure, Springer does not place all or even most of the blame for negative representations of black female sexuality at black women’s feet. But she does call for black women to speak honestly about their private sexual practices as a sort of reclamation (hence the “queering” terminology). “Speaking about black women’s sexuality today should be as much about pleasure as it is about resistance to denigration.”
I loved this essay. Each one really does give me a lot of food for thought. What are your thoughts?