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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 8 linked to sexuality and reproduction, so black women’s bodies become a site of struggle in which black women must fight to control their own bodies (see Roberts, 1997). The mass media have become the prime arena in which this representative struggle takes place. Collins (2000) argues, "The growing influence of television, radio, movies, videos, CDs, and the Internet constitute new ways of circulating controlling images. Popular culture has become increasingly important in promoting these images, especially with new global technologies that allow U.S. popular culture to be exported throughout the world" (p. 85). If popular culture does have such an influence, it is crucial that the images it promotes are thoroughly examined. One of the earliest examples of a black woman playing on the stereotype of black female sexuality is Josephine Baker. Her notorious, topless “banana dance” caused controversy but simultaneously made her very famous. In her analysis of one of Baker’s films and an avant garde performance piece, Kelley (1999) notes, “Baker’s participation in the Revue Negre in Paris established her as a prominent entertainment figure in France with a particular cultural significance attributed to her; within the French culture in which she most frequently performed, Baker stood as a symbol of primitivism—a primitivism marked by ‘authentic’ blackness and ‘excessive’ female sexuality” (emphasis added, p. 117). Kelley’s statement reminds us that not only is the black body marked as the exotic other but also that the black female body is the signifier of authentic, primitive sexuality. Regester (2000) argues that Baker’s use of her body caused spectators to rethink their notions of sexuality and reexamine social mores of femininity. She contends, “The fact is that not only did Baker render herself an object of the gaze; the spectators and the press also rendered her an object of the gaze, increasingly associating Baker the performer with

Authors: Brooks, TaKeshia.
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Black Womanhood 8
linked to sexuality and reproduction, so black women’s bodies become a site of struggle
in which black women must fight to control their own bodies (see Roberts, 1997). The
mass media have become the prime arena in which this representative struggle takes
place. Collins (2000) argues, "The growing influence of television, radio, movies,
videos, CDs, and the Internet constitute new ways of circulating controlling images.
Popular culture has become increasingly important in promoting these images, especially
with new global technologies that allow U.S. popular culture to be exported throughout
the world" (p. 85). If popular culture does have such an influence, it is crucial that the
images it promotes are thoroughly examined.
One of the earliest examples of a black woman playing on the stereotype of black
female sexuality is Josephine Baker. Her notorious, topless “banana dance” caused
controversy but simultaneously made her very famous. In her analysis of one of Baker’s
films and an avant garde performance piece, Kelley (1999) notes, “Baker’s participation
in the Revue Negre in Paris established her as a prominent entertainment figure in France
with a particular cultural significance attributed to her; within the French culture in which
she most frequently performed, Baker stood as a symbol of primitivism—a primitivism
marked by ‘authentic’ blackness and ‘excessive’ female sexuality” (emphasis added, p.
117). Kelley’s statement reminds us that not only is the black body marked as the exotic
other but also that the black female body is the signifier of authentic, primitive sexuality.
Regester (2000) argues that Baker’s use of her body caused spectators to rethink their
notions of sexuality and reexamine social mores of femininity. She contends, “The fact is
that not only did Baker render herself an object of the gaze; the spectators and the press
also rendered her an object of the gaze, increasingly associating Baker the performer with


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