Beyond the Canvas
The Sara Baartman effect: objectification of the black female body and misogyny today.
Sara Baartman was born in 1789 near the Gamtoos River in South Africa, home to the Khoikhoi tribe. After emigrating to Cape Town, she became a slave on a farm until, in 1810, she was sold to a British doctor called William Dunlop. The man convinced her to travel to England with him with the promise of a domestic job, and the alleged agreement that Sara would also exhibit her extraordinarily voluptuous body for entertainment purposes.
In reality, Sara ended up being showcased alongside animals as some sort of freak of nature. Because of the shape of her body, she became an object of morbid attraction and was the victim of continuous abuse. According to the chronicles, during her "performances" in London she was forced to parade herself naked on a platform. For extra money, spectators were allowed to touch her buttocks, rendered particularly voluminous by steatopygia, a substantial accumulation of fat, which is a common trait in some African tribes. Sara was the victim of the toxic blend that is racial superiority combined with sexual fixation. The racial fetishisation of the black female body was born.
So where are we today? Mere days ago, a British tabloid published a piece penned by English broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson in which he declared: "I hate her (Meghan Markle). Not like I hate Nicola Sturgeon (the Scottish First Minister) or Rose West (a serial killer). I hate her on a cellular level. At night, I'm unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant 'Shame!' and throw lumps of excrement at her. Everyone who's my age thinks the same way."
The unbridled hatred, the rabid misogyny, the incitement to violence. And, crucially, the access to a platform of millions of readers. It's all incredibly disturbing and a bit too much to unravel right now.
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