Monday, March 24, 2014

Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture

Greetings, Class Community. 

We are reading Janell Hobson's Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture.  Please comment on the following considerations in the comments post below.  

In your first comment post, please post at least three facts that associated with the iconic historical figure of Sara Baartman, "Venus Hottentot".

In your second post describe how the ideas steatopygia and sexual fetish are conflated?  And how do the conflation of ideas impact intersectional identity (such as being black and a woman) and ideas of beauty in popular culture? 

In your third comment, please describe the relationship between Sara Baartman and Cuvier i two or three sentences. 

Yours truly, 

Dr. Hill 


  1. 1. Baartman was a African woman who was put on display in a freak show to display her big butt- steatopygia- which was considered disfigured.
    2. George Cuvier was the anatomist who dissected, preserved and then put Sara Baartman's brain, and genitals on display to show the differences between Africans and Europeans.
    3. Baartman's vagina was also a way of showing differences between the races. Her labia had a piece of skin that covered it and this was significantly linked to a difference between Africans and Europeans and it made her a sexual object but still considered her a freak.
    4. Baartman's body was put on display in "freak shows" from around 1810 and finally her body was given back to her laid to rest in her hometown in 2002.

  2. Steatopygia and sexual fetish are relate when I think of slavery African/African American women (slaves) weren't seen as people they were considered as property and savages who needed to be owned for their benefit but if they were so disgusting, ugly and savages why would masters still have sex with these women?

    I think again from slavery days the black women were just seen as laborers and a way to get the master's more slaves/assets by the black women reproducing children that follow their mothers status. When the masters or their guests had sex with a slave and produced lighter children with more European (acceptable features ) those children were considered a little better since they would more often get to be house slaves and had less strenuous jobs. Which relates to now beauty in popular culture is seen as a white woman or a lighter skinned woman, who is thinner with smaller features (lips, nose, thighs, butt).

  3. Cuvier is the man who performed the autopsy on Sara Baartman, he's responsible for making a cast of her body after she died, then dissecting her brain and genitals. He put her on display for the world to see even after her death, from her bones, her brain and genitals and the body cast.

  4. 1. Black female body in relations to Sarah Baartman was/is considered deviant and grotesques.
    2. French women threatened by the gaze of white men on Sara Baartman, which meant that the men were not patriotic and against white female beauty.
    3.Hottentot women, including Sara Baartman were framed in contrast to the morally "pure" and "refined" white lady.

  5. The ideas of steatopygia and sexual fetish are conflated because steatopygia is normative to some women but when it is the only focus of a person or group of people then it is problematic because it is sexualized and sensationalized and only attributed to a group of people based on the perceptions that if you have a big butt then you must be sexual and that is how the sexual fetish is started.

    This conflation impacts intersectional identity of being black and a woman because only highlights how we are not a part of the norm. Because we do not look like white women and thus considered more sexually promiscuous because it's been deemed that way historically by society. Along with being black which is a demonized and criminalized marker of how society see us. Resulting into the limited exposure to how we are represented in the media to the public and how we feel we should be in accordance to the same stereotypical representations that we do have. These ideas relate to beauty in that we feel that we are not deemed attractive because we are a black female but we are only attractive if we are sexually exploited.

  6. The relationship between Cuvier and Baartman was one of an exploration and exploitation. He explored her body by separating her skeleton, making a case of her body and removing her gentials. He exploited her because he displayed her body in all of it's many pieces for the world to gaze at for his benefit.