Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Black Feminist Book Club: The Europeanization of African Hair



This year, I pledged to read more black feminist writing and I invited What Tami Said readers to join me. Right now, our Black Feminist Book Club is reading When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings. I welcome guest submissions on the content and themes of this book.

Doreen's contribution below is particularly timely, given the recent controversy surrounding a Psychology Today blog post by Satoshi Kanazawa, purveyor of questionable science, asserting that black women are objectively less attractive than other women.

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written by guest contributor Doreen Akiyo Yomoah

When and Where I Enter has so far been a simultaneously uplifting, encouraging, and painful piece of literature. I have had my entire education within the American school system, from K-University, and something that we never, ever studied in much depth was the history of black women. Something I never got to do in school is study solely the history of black women, American or otherwise, even though I majored in history. Sure, I studied “African history” and “women’s history”, but it seems all the black people were men, and all the women were white.

There are many things about it that I have found simultaneously illuminating and disturbing in reading WAWIE. I knew that slave owners raped their slaves, but I never imagined that they also sent other slaves to rape them.

In some ways, not much has changed. The constant attacks on black women from white women and men, as well as black men, and in recent times, even black women express hatred against other black women (See: anything ever written about Chris Brown and Rihanna).

Since returning to Africa, I have learned in many ways that the mentality that led to slavery, colonialism, and the subsequent civil and human rights abuses against blacks by whites is not only still in place, but still being perpetuated by the people against whom it was used. In Chapter 11, Paula J. Giddings talks about accepting a uniquely black femininity, and that included rejecting the stereotypical images of black women, such as the “Mammy” and “Aunt Jemima” archetypes. Chandler Owen demanded that instead of continuing to cling to imagery of black women as being less womanly than their white counterparts, black women instead be honored as women “who have risen above insult, assault, debauchery….and abuse”, who have full agency , and do not exist to serve whites.

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