Hypersexual is not the same as Hyperfeminine

re: representations of African-descended women in mainstream media.

The difference between sexuality and gender can be summed up in the expressions thereof.  If you conflate sexual expression with the expression of gender, you have a problem.  Women are not their reproductive organs.  A uterus doesn’t make me a woman- try applying this logic to women with atypical anatomies].  I will concede that sexual expression stems in part from expressions of gender, but I will not conflate the two.

A Black woman can be hypersexualized without being feminized- one such example being the animalization of Black female bodies.  Also, it is entirely possible to be feminized without being sexualized [e.g. Victorian constructions of white/European middle/aristocratic women, or even Marianismic [sp? I’m referring to Marianisma] representations of mothers and other-mothers.]   The Madonna/Whore binary is a clear example of this.

Class and race play a difference- poorer women are more visibly fecund [meaning that they are more subject to scrutiny if they choose to have more children], and since children are the result of sexual activity, working-class mothers are more easily constructed as “sexual.”

Factor in race again: English, French, Scottish philosophers and thinkers [all the “upper-echelon” with means, access and socio-economic mobility] embraced narrow notions of “civilization” and placed Africans, Asians, Middle Easterners and Eastern-Europeans oppositional to “civilization.”  The more “sensual” nature of Arab sheikhs who enjoyed the entertainment of barely-clad dancing girls [or boys] [yet another Orientalist construction] was supposedly a testament to the “virtue” of wealthy Western Europeans.

image

[It’s not clearly visible, but that’s my copy of Edward Said’s Orientalism]

I can go on and on- the dance of many groups on the African continent, with undulating and hip movement] was considered very sexual in the eyes of European colonizers/imperialists/explorers/missionaries who were socialized to believe the only acceptable dances were ones that restricted movement to the arms and legs.  Oh, and let’s not forget our fellow Muslimahs, especially hijabis.  Their expressions of piety were misconstrued by Europeans as a means to control their bodies and sexual expression. Do I need to say more?

So, no, I do not conflate hypersexuality with hyperfemininity.

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Filed under African Diaspora, Asia, Beauty, Class, Critical Theory, Culture, Ethics, Europe, Feminism, Gender, Hair, Language, Philosophy, Race, Subaltern Studies, The Continent of Africa, Womanism

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