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I am a feminist/aspiring public intellectual/ godmother/friend/diva/ free-spirit committed to eradicating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, poverty, and other inequities and disparities. I am an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at University of Missouri-Columbia. I believe in the power of words, images and of informed action. My interests are broad and encompass the significant and the trite. Follow me and get the "diva feminist" perspective on what's going on in our communities!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Diva Feminism in Motion!?!?






How do we as feminists grapple with "booty politics" when thinking about black female bodies in motion? Let us imagine the possibilities of embracing gyrating black females bodies as both a site of engagement and empowerment. Now I know this can be difficult because of any number of factors: the exploitative nature of global capitalism, stereotypes of black female hypersexuality, the dominance of a patriarchal, heteronormative gaze on black female bodies as sexual objects... the list goes on.... With this in mind, does the elimination of economic gain (e.g. black female pornography actors, black female performers in music videos, or black female strippers) from black female gyrations such as those displayed in the African Soukous Dancer video produce a more "acceptable" context, in which feminists explore the potential for pleasurable objectification? And if so, are we limiting how we think about how black women derive pleasure from controlling/manipulating/exploring their physicality?

Black Entertainment Television banned Ciara's "Ride" video (the 2nd video), stating that "the visuals are too risque." One only needs to watch BET's flagship show, 106&Park to see/hear music videos with explicit sexual content and innuendo. So what in particular about this video resulted in BET deciding to wave the censorship flag? Would BET ban the video of Chantal, the African Soukous Dancer? What differs about her presentation of her body in motion to that of Ciara's? One could argue that the skill sets/levels differ, but what connects both performances is the presentation of the black female body, and in particular the moving hips and buttocks of black women. The performances of both Ciara and Chantal be situated within a black feminist performance aesthetic that simultaneously recognizes the inglorious history of the sexual exploitation of black female bodies AND the empowering potential of black women functioning as authorial subjects who use their bodies as sites of expressivity and engagement.

I know both of these videos inspire me as an artist and scholar. It will also be in constant rotation as part of my Diva Feminist fitness program!

1 comment:

  1. "The performances of both Ciara and Chantal be situated within a black feminist performance aesthetic that simultaneously recognizes the inglorious history of the sexual exploitation of black female bodies AND the empowering potential of black women functioning as authorial subjects who use their bodies as sites of expressivity and engagement. "

    Word. After all, both videos also have as their pivots women who are claiming the fullness of that skill (and their bodies) for themselves and centering themselves--not being turned into tools to further the fullness of a male gaze or voiceover. Which is interesting--and aesthetically I am fascinated by how--because both videos feature men in prominent though not central roles (male voice over in the first, male rap verse in the second).

    Then there's the historical context--after all, WE were doing this polyrhythmic booty-centric body worshipping movement long before it got stigmatized by a white male gaze.....which makes my love these videos even more (for their ability to bring us back to that)...

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