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you a stone freak in yo own skin: Missy Elliott's and Lil' Kim's Constructions of Black Womanhood
Unformatted Document Text:  Black Womanhood 7 intellectually in the public realm. Berlant (1993) argues that black women may be highly visible as objects but not as subjects; visibility does not give power. Black female music artists do not escape such a fate. Although she has been very successful and has a remarkable amount of creative control, Elliott has been dogged by rumors that she is a lesbian. Jones, especially, has been susceptible to much negative publicity about her hypersexual image and her blonde hair and blue eyes. Furthermore, she has received much criticism for her decision to use plastic surgery in order to look like a Barbie doll. What Wicke does not consider is that black women are probably so prevalent in the celebrity zone because the entertainment industry is one arena where black women’s bodies are desired for various ends. Even there, black women find it difficult to construct their own images and present themselves in ways that contradict previous controlling images. Because of their willingness to go to extremes with their bodies’ images, however, Elliott and Jones provide us with a unique opportunity to think about how and to what end bodies are constructed… [and] how and what bodies are not constructed and, further,… ask after how bodies which fail to materialize provide the necessary "outside," if not the necessary support, for the bodies which, in materializing the norm, qualify as bodies that matter (Butler, 1993, p. 16) Literature Review African-American women have a long history of displaying their bodies in the entertainment realm. Many writers have documented the stereotypical images that tend to fill these displays (Collins, 2000; Dates and Barlow, 1993; Turner, 1994). Collins (2000) documents four predominant controlling images that have haunted African- American women for years: the mammy, the matriarch, the welfare mother (and her counterpart, the Black lady) and the jezebel, whore or "hoochie." All these images are

Authors: Brooks, TaKeshia.
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Black Womanhood 7
intellectually in the public realm. Berlant (1993) argues that black women may be highly
visible as objects but not as subjects; visibility does not give power.
Black female music artists do not escape such a fate. Although she has been very
successful and has a remarkable amount of creative control, Elliott has been dogged by
rumors that she is a lesbian. Jones, especially, has been susceptible to much negative
publicity about her hypersexual image and her blonde hair and blue eyes. Furthermore,
she has received much criticism for her decision to use plastic surgery in order to look
like a Barbie doll. What Wicke does not consider is that black women are probably so
prevalent in the celebrity zone because the entertainment industry is one arena where
black women’s bodies are desired for various ends. Even there, black women find it
difficult to construct their own images and present themselves in ways that contradict
previous controlling images. Because of their willingness to go to extremes with their
bodies’ images, however, Elliott and Jones provide us with a unique opportunity to
think about how and to what end bodies are constructed… [and] how and
what bodies are not constructed and, further,… ask after how bodies
which fail to materialize provide the necessary "outside," if not the
necessary support, for the bodies which, in materializing the norm, qualify
as bodies that matter (Butler, 1993, p. 16)
Literature Review
African-American women have a long history of displaying their bodies in the
entertainment realm. Many writers have documented the stereotypical images that tend
to fill these displays (Collins, 2000; Dates and Barlow, 1993; Turner, 1994). Collins
(2000) documents four predominant controlling images that have haunted African-
American women for years: the mammy, the matriarch, the welfare mother (and her
counterpart, the Black lady) and the jezebel, whore or "hoochie." All these images are


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