Friday, March 31, 2006

Buffie The Body on Barbershop

In 1810, 20-year-old Saartjie Baartman boarded a ship that took her from a normal life in Cape Town to a life of circus-like pageantry in London. She would later become known as “The Hottentot Venus” and paraded throughout Europe because her body was unlike anything Europeans had ever seen.
Watching Barbershop last night on MTV, I couldn’t help but to feel that Buffie was a modern day reincarnation of “The Hottentot Venus.” Initially, I had to consider the fact that no one was forcing her to become a commodified object of sexuality. But upon further examination, I realized that the similarities between the reason for her popularity and that of Baartman are definitely worthy of notice.


Brother Lightness said...

in all my oogling over Buffy I never thought to make that comparison. Big up to you for peeping that similarity of great cultural significance.

Seriously though, shorty has a fatty!

Kyle Anderson said...

I find it rather appalling that you are comparing a contemporary female to the hottentot venus. The hottentot venus was dismembered when she died and her body parts, especially her genitalia, were put on display for the whoever wanted to pay to see them. Why you ask did they do this? Because it was an attempt by Europeans to show a biological difference between blacks and whites. Her body was exploited and used in order to maintain the hierarchy that Europeans maintained against Africans. By buying into this you are putting yourself in the place of the Europeans who exploited the Hottentot Venus.

bwapoi said...

Wow! It's amazing how so called enlightened and progressive men regress when they see a woman's body. "...shorty has a fatty!" It's all good Brother Lightness, you caught me off guard! ;)

Anonymous said...

just the other day (duke lacrosse article) i was happy to see that you two were defending black women and the objectification of their bodies. then today you turn around and do exactly what you were abhorring.

assuming you two are black men, would you be okay with a white man saying she had a fatty in an open forum like this?

i'm curious, are there certain degrees of objectification?

i hope your girlfriends/wives didn't read today's posting!

Brother Smartness said...

I'll let Lightness describe his response to my post when he has the opportunity.

I think the comparison here is more accurate than it is "appalling." There is a similarity here and it is one that needs to be discussed.

The issue I'm presenting here is an important one. Does Buffie transcend the reincarnation of Hottentot Venus because she is not being forced to commodify her body?

I hope our girlfriends do read this post because they need to involve themselves in this discourse just as much as we do.

If a white man had written that Buffie had a "fatty" would I have allowed it? I don't have a definite answer for you.

I would hope that this blog might serve as a place where people are able to make statements and learn from them. I would also hope that this blog might be a place where readers are able to learn from the statements that people who post and respond make.

Kyle Anderson said...

to brother smartness,

In your original presentation of your argument, you don't mention commidification of the female body, instead you glorify it. The first comment to your post should show you what effect your argument had on your audience. It was one of direct commidification. I think it's funny because the wikipedia link you posted about the hottentot venus is all about how her labia were used as a way to show the difference between blacks and whites. In the first sentence of the wikipedia description the author uses the word sideshow. To me "sideshow" is a word I associate with exploitation. If you can show me a place in your original post that compares commidification of the "other" female body now and then, then I wouldn't see your response as a farce.

Anonymous said...

Comparing this actress (is she an actress?? I don't have MTV) to a Hottentot Venus does two things that has yet been discussed:

1) Either women, especially black women, are not as liberated as we would imagine ourselves to be, or we all take offense when a liberated person seeks act outside of this very strict framework of freedom. (This conversation around commodification reveals a very Marxist interpretation of what freedom is-- anything that is commodified cannot be free?) If this woman seeks to put herself on display, without coercion (definit this outside of a Marxist framework) then does that not mean that she is fundamentally different than her historical counterpart?

2) Even further the symbolic violence that happens with an utterance such as "Seriously, shorty has a fatty" - highlights that black men also do much to negate to black woman's existence.
The uniquity of this particular moment, is that the sociogenic ties that may ethnically bind you Ms. Buffie, means that you are doing violence to yourself (as a black man, which I can with some certainty imagine you to be) when you fall into this trap of assuming you have the right to verbally dismember and display a woman.

Brother Lightness said...

Apparently I offended some with the declaration, "Seriously though, shorty has a fatty!"

Was that a "regress[ive]" statement? I don't believe it was.

As "enlightened and progressive" as I am deemed to be, I strongly believe that Buffie does have a "fatty" and would argue endlessly with anyone who disagrees on the matter. This declaration is fact and is demonstrated in the shape and proportion of her posterior to her entire body.

Does the point of offense present itself with my use of the term "fatty"? Some readers seem to believe that my declaration is one of "symbolic violence" or "verbal dismemberment". Hardly my intent and definitely not my belief. Among my circle of friends (both male and female), "fatty" is a commonly used term to denote a physical feature -- the same way one might objectify an individual as "pretty" or "ugly".

Would my declaration have been easier to swallow if phrased: "Buffie has a distinct physical frame!"?

Let's save such ridiculous claims for the feminist forums where they belong. By now I'm sure I'm labeled a mysoginistic black male with a superego, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

In response to the question Anonymous posed: "assuming you two are black men, would you be okay with a white man saying she had a fatty in an open forum like this?": A white man would only be telling the truth if he made this statement. Any discomfort I might feel would find it's root in this gentleman's use of the term "fatty", as I'm not sure he has the same definition and understanding as I. Nevertheless, the structure of Buffie's body would give him all the impetus in the world to make such a statement.

For the record, my (black) girlfriend (of ivy league pedigree) did read this posting and absolutely agreed with my declaration, bearing no offense at all.

Perhaps this "progressive and enlightened" brother needs to be enlightened a bit more. Can the female (or perhaps male) readers help me see the light?

I am black man, hear me roar!

Brother Lightness said...

One last thing.

Anonymous also posed an excellent question: "If this woman seeks to put herself on display, without coercion (definit this outside of a Marxist framework) then does that not mean that she is fundamentally different than her historical counterpart?"

I believe the answer to this question all depends on the definition of coercion. As I'm sure Buffie was promised fame and fortune for flaunting her body, is her decision to be understood as one of coercion or capitalism?

Brother Smartness said...

I think we should all re-read the initial post. I fail to see where it glorified the Hottento Venus or Buffie.

The story of the Hottentot Venus is a sad one. It would follow that any comparison to this story would also be sad.

The post is up. A discussion is happening and it's a discussion that needs to happen.


Much respect for bringing this discussion to a whole other level by introducing the possibility that our understanding of freedom stems from some sort of Marxist interpretation. But can this discussion really happen without it being grounded in capitalism. Is Buffie really free to sell her sexuality or is her freedom an illusion? Isn't it the demand of the entertainment market (magazine's, music videos) that pushes her to pursue this lucrative and "circus-like pageant" lifestyle?

Kyle Anderson said...

Also, Buffy the Body achieved her body through the use of steroids that she took to enhance her lower half. Why does she feel the need to enhance her body if she truly loves who she is? She made herself into a sideshow. The saddest part is that this post wouldn't have been created if Buffy the Body had not taken steroids to enhance herself. Why does she feel the need to do so? Just so she can strut around in underwear and high heels and get her picture taken for magazines like King? Just as uneducated black men often dream of fortunes obtained through playing professional sports, rapping, or selling drugs, uneducated black women often dream of fortunes obtained through soft-core pornography or being a video girl. What does this say about the state of black America. The Hottentot Venus was subject to exploitation that was basically out of her control. Buffy the Body is commdifying her body in a different, but very similiar way. She is regresses by playing into ancient ideas of fertility. I beg anyone who reads this to look at the Venus of Willendorf (an ancient fertility statue), the Hottentot Venus and Buffy the Body.

Furthermore, don't get defensive when someone doesn't agree with you. Furthermore, if you don't want a woman's voice on your blog, you shouldn't have sent the address to your blog to women.

Brother Smartness said...


Thanks for sharing that information about Buffie taking steriods. I'll certainly have to look into that.

Also, please don't confuse our attempt to clarify our position on this entire matter with being defensive. We actually enjoy it when people disagree or argue with us. It makes for a much better discussion.

Anonymous said...

Can Kyle Anderson offer what proof she has (if any) that Buffie the Body used steroids? I've never heard of anything on this matter.

Brother Spotless said...

It's interesting that it doesn't seem to matter whether a woman is confident and liberated, and chooses to put on a show for a crowd, or is forced to put on a show because of the tradition of women being objectified.

I do not know which camp Buffy falls: she struts like a proud peacock, but it could all be an act. Steroids aside, Buffy seems to be more symbolic of a new attitude within women, something that exudes "yeah I look good as hell and I know it. But there is more to me, even if you regressive men can't see beyond my ASSets. You guys are missing the rest, but that's your fault, not mine."

What is a woman to do, refrain from anything that men would look at and only notice the sexual nature of? That seems to be regressive as well. True liberation (at least as I was taught) equates to being able to do and be what you want, regardless of what everyone else feels about me.

As with a lot of other issues, there is a lot of gray area. If a woman likes to have lots of sex with lots of men (at the same time even), is she sexually liberated if she involves herself in these sexual acts? This question was posed back in the 1960's as the Womens' Liberation Movement gained traction. Women were saying, "To hell with oppressing my sexuality! I want to have sex when I want and with whom I want." This sounded liberating, until men realized that there was a whole lot of horny and "liberated" women out there waiting to have sex, which at the very least diluted the purpose of Womens' Liberation in terms of sexuality.

Kyle, you have very strong opinions about this issue, and I truly appreciate them as I look to be the best man I can be (how cheesy is that?). So I have a question for you and anyone else who has an opinion: at what point does a woman truly liberate herself, and how does she get there?

Also, there seems to be a dismissive tinge to this post. Please understand that with a lot of these posts, there is no one correct answer (yet), but many opinions that if put to practice, could lead to some very impressive and positive changes. So instead of simply dismissing others opinions, please add corrections and offer solutions (if applicable). For me, if nothing else this blog is a forum to accuire ideas that will create positive solutions. I would hate for someone to not post a response out of fear of being dismissed.

I will now step down off of my soapbox...

bwapoi said...

Brother Lightness I was less offended than I was dissappointed with your comment.

You say, you "...would argue endlessly...", with anyone who chose to oppose your stance on the issue of the size of Buffy's body part. No one would dispute that fact, because it is quite apparent in the picture. You stated the obvious, and did so in a somewhat crude manner. We gained nothing from you saying, "...shorty has a fatty!".

You say that within your circle of friends, this is a commonly acceptable term. Again I think you missed the point. It's not so much you reffering to the young lady as "shorty" or her rear end as "fatty". It's the fact that we are not your circle of friends. Otherwise we would not be communicating under the guise of pseudonyms and fake pictures.
What we say in the company of friends is fine! However this is a public setting, not our living room.

Throughout this blog you have never made any statements anywhere a long the lines of, "...shorty has a fatty!". Throughout this blog such words as "n*#ga", "b@#ch", etc are not used. Even though I'm sure we can all admit to using one or more of these terms at some point in our personal lives.

In the "Duke" posting you could have said something like, "Man, what those dudes did to shorty was f*@ked up!"(sounds like something that would be said in a group of friends), but you chose to use different language. You knew it would otherwise be deemed inappropriate due to this setting.

Only when the picture of Miss Buffie was posted did you change, by saying, "Seriosly though, shorty has a fatty!". There within lies my point. As stated in my initial posting, "It's amazing how so called enlightened and progressive men regress when they see a woman's body.".

Regress: To go back; move backward. Revert to a less developed or advanced state.

So to answer your question; yes it would have been "easier to swallow" if you had said, "Buffie has a distinct physical frame!".

As far as "fatty" being the same as saying ugly or pretty and it being okay for a white man to use the term, I don't agree with you. If a man approached me in a group of people and said that I was pretty, I would be flattered. If the same man approached in the same situation and said I had a "fatty", I would be offended and slightly annoyed. If it were a white man I would be furthter offended if you (my brother) didn't take offense to his words. Even if I did in fact have a body part that could be described as such.

Agreeing with Kyle, I think that it is important for you to relize a lot of women are in here. Since your girlfriend reads this blog, I am assuming that this is open to people of all genders, as well as races, etc. If we disagree with you, don't call our opinions "ridiculus" and then suggest that women's opinions that oppose a man's, "belong" in a feminist site.

As the facilitators of this site it is up to you to maintain it's quality, integrity and standard. The content of this site is possibly viewed around the world by all kinds of people and ultimately reflects on you all.

Don't lose sight of the fact that you are presenting to the world an image of "progressive and enlightened" brothers.

Brother Lightness said...

I appreciate your comments and the time you took in crafting a response to my comments. While my declaration that "shorty has a fatty!" may have dissapointed you and was initially made in jest (see: the blog header containing "humorous discourse"), I'm pleased to see the level of discussion that it helped facilitate.

At times potentially inflammatory comments are made (see: my reference to feminist forums) to help push along an otherwise stagnant issue. While some might think of this as instigation, I consider it just provocation to promote colorful discussion.

Again, thanks for your comments and don't be caught too off-guard if I offer future points that might be construed as divergent from the path of the "progressive and enlightened".

A "progressive" brother with "regressive" tendencies (or bad habits) I surely am.

Brother Afrocan said...

I think I am jumping on this rather late but I will give my opinion. Brother Spotless, you have raised a very good question about what exactly defines liberation. I would like to take it a step further and say, just by reading the female reactions to Brother Lightness observation reveals that we live in a macho-dominated world and providing dim hopes for women (black or otherwise) ever gaining liberation.

To explain further what I mean, I totally understand bwapoi view that if a guy came up and said "you are pretty" she would take it as a compliment, but if someone came up and said "you have a fatty" she would take offense. I actually can see that as being disrespectful when viewed in that light, I can imagine a scenario where I would not take it too kindly if my girlfriend or sister was offered that kind of compliment.

But allow me to speak for the brothers for a minute (brothers please step in if you disagree with my representation). I dont think a male would take offense if a woman came up to him and said "dude you are hung like a horse" or "man you have chiseled pecs". Why is it that men are not likely to take offense to being sexually objectified- could it be because we do not hold any Insecurities. This can be likened to the aggressive response, black people have to any hint of racial bias or insult as opposed to white people who barely have any racial discrimination radar/vigilance?

bwapoi said...

Brother Afrocan thank you for your response and attempting to see things from another point of view.

I think that men are less likely to take offense to things of that nature because they are more than likely going to take the words as some invitation to a possible sexual encounter (this view could possibly be the result of my "I hate men" attitude that I am carrying with me today).

I think that this is in the same realm as blacks taking offense to whites saying the word "nigga". Black people and women have been so oppressed for so long, we are constantly trying to protect or maintain our freedom, dignity or respect. We are constantly on the defensive.

Men would be more optimistic and be happy for the compliment. It would be an ego booster. As a woman immediately thinks of disrespect. You immediately wonder what are this man's intentions. Is he trying to disrespect me? Does he think that I am a "ho", or some type of woman that alows men to say whatever they like to me?

Remember that woman were for so long reduced to their body parts, in great disregard to their minds or their souls. Sometimes we think that men still think that they have the right to talk about a woman's body anywhere and anytime.

Even if I think I have a "fatty", or if I sometimes say the "n" word or the "b" word, I don't want an outsider to use those words all willy nilly.

bwapoi said...

Sorry! I know you addressed the brothers.

Brother Afrocan said...

No need to apologize bwapoi, my question was addressed to the general board community and your response was very welcome. I would pose this question to women, Can women truly hold any freedom/liberation if women hold on to such defensiveness or indignation? If I came up to you bwapoi and said (pardon me if you find this offensive) - "hey, nice t!tt!es" can you ever take the compliment in the same manner I would if you came up to me and said "hey nice pecs".

Can a woman like Buffie be regarded and personally feel that she holds the power position in the economic cycle that creates wealth off her proportions? Or is she doomed to be viewed as a slave of a sexist system? Buffie used to be a stripper in GA where she patented the thunder clap- myth has it she could make it clap louder than the bass from the DJ's sound system in the club (don't ask, I subscribe to King). Are women in the stripper profession (which is legal) empowered and just using their body to create wealth, while controlling the supply chain in the multi-million dollar economic system) or are they just slaves in a macho-sexist world? (assuming we are talking about willing strippers like Buffie claimed she was, not women forced into the job by pimps or abusive boyfriends)

I remember being somewhat appalled when I first heard Missy's Da Real World which is littered with interludes featuring Missy and Lil Kim boasting about how they are the Queen B!tchez and are strong women because only strong women can refer to themselves as B's.

Taking this further out to the entire black community, I often hear the argument that calling each other n!igga is a way of empowerment given that it was once used as a pejorative term, black people now use it in defiance as a sign of empowerment. But can it really ever be a word of empowerment if we cringe each time we hear it used by white people?

Anonymous said...

Oh lord, that's more ass than my heart can take. Must see it again. Lol

Anonymous said...

Kyle Anderson has a phatty as well.