The facination and adoration of big, large, oversized, african american “booty” is fast becoming a phenomenon. Sad to say, the display and promotion of photos and centerfold spreads of women with huge backsides makes me think of the Hottentot Venus.
“Saarjite Baartman, a young Khosian woman from Southern Africa whose body was the main attraction at public spectacles in both England and France for over five years, is perhaps the most infamous case of a Khosian body on display. Baartman, who became known as the Hottentot Venus, was brought to Europe from Cape Town in 1810 by an English ship’s surgeon who wished to publicly exhibit the woman’s steatopygia, her enlarged buttocks. Her physique, particularly her steatopygic appendage, became the object of popular fascination when Baartman was exhibited naked in a cage at Piccadilly, England. When abolitionists mobilized to put an end Baartman’s public display, she informed them that she participated in the spectacles of her own volition. She even shared in profits with her exhibitor. The spectacle of Baartman’s body, however, continued even after her death at the age of twenty-six. Pseudo-scientists interested in investigating “primitive sexuality” dissected and cast her genitals in wax. Baartman, as far as we know, was the first person of Khosian-descent to be dismembered and displayed in this manner. Anatomist Georges Curvier presented Baartman’s dissected labia before the Academie Royale de Medecine, in order to allow them “to see the nature of the labia” (Gilman 235). Curvier and his contemporaries concluded that Baartman’s oversized primitive genitalia was physical proof of the African women’s “primitive sexual appetite.” Baartman’s genitalia continued to be exhibited at La Musée de l’Homme, the institution to which Curvier belonged, long after her death.” – human exhibition/emory.edu This is of course a very brief description of this woman’s exploitation and overall journey…I’d encourage you to search online for more.
The value of this woman, the reason why she was exhibited, was her large behind and large vaginal lips. Not her beauty, but her strangeness. She was not meant to be looked upon as a great beauty, just as the average video girl will not be on the pages or Vogue or walking the catwalk for Chanel. She inspired the bustle design in dresses of the day, just like big booty Latino and African American girls influenced the rise of Low Rise Jeans. The other comparison is that the video models and big booty models are (for the most part) not in control of the industries that employ and use them. They don’t shoot hip hop videos. They don’t own men’s magazines or own model casting houses. They have to wear what they are given to wear for videos…even if they think the outfits are tasteless. These women, like the Hottentot Venus, are facinating novelty items that please the eye of the beholder.
Serveral video models make me think of the Hottentot when I see them in videos…Buffie the Body and Lola Luv especially. There porportions of these women are extreme, just like the Venus. There is a video on youtube of Buffie clapping her butt cheeks that I just know would have fit right in in a turn of the century freak show. Black slaves and newly freed blacks were exhibited as oddities in circuses and freak shows, even in Barnum and Bailey shows. Just because we are not in chains at the whim of a master, and we are choosing to allow ourselves to be treated as an object (and paid), doesn’t mean it’s not exploitation. If a allowing your large behind to be on display is the best way you can find to make money, then I could understand. Is it easy money…some would say no. Is it all about the money…ask the Hottentot Venus…I’m sure she knows.