Essay on African American Femininity: Two sides of a coin

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When sixteenth and seventeenth century explorers returned to Europe from their journeys to Africa, they constructed and disseminated degrading stereotypes of African women based on the observations they had made abroad. Basing their perceptions of women off of European women’s bodies, these explorers noticed and commented on how African women’s bodies differed in many aspects—these disparities then became justifications for the differential treatment between these two groups of women. Because these African American women didn’t conform to the basic norms of womanhood that the explorers were accustomed to, they were quick to categorize them as strange, animalistic and hypersexual; their bodily forms, attire and skin color called attention …show more content…
An interest in the Black female body was generated when upon European- African contact, the African American women’s semi nudity, induced by the scorching heat, was mistook both for lewdness and primitiveness. This was completely different from what they had seen of women back home; not only were women decently dressed, but physically they were not as voluptuous and overly sexualized. Because these women were promiscuous yet submissive it allowed white Europeans to easily dehumanize, enslave and sexually abuse these women. “Their bodies were literally to be used in the fields from sunup to sundown, exploited to fulfill the white man’s last and to give birth to slave children who would keep the plantation system afloat.” (Wallace-Sanders, 23) Their observations and assumptions about these black women led these Europeans to exploit every aspect of the black body. The discovery of the black body by the European explorers proved to be extremely detrimental; in elucidating these invisible individuals, the explorers found new ways to assert their white supremacy.
One of the earliest instances of European construction of African female sexuality can be traced to the Sara Baartman’s story. Victim of the European gaze and their anxiety to reconcile all the differences between African American and European women, Sara became the specimen in their experimentation— her body parts became dissected,
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