Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butt out!

Here we go again.

I am seldom surprised when I hear male objectification of black women anymore. It’s a shame. I thought by the time I had daughters and sons (I have two of the former and one of the latter) that objectification would be a thing of the past.

Alas here comes Jim Sensenbrenner. Never heard of Jim? Me neither. I’m usually really interested in the people in the congress, but I’ve been having this thing about Wisconsin, so he went under my radar. Jim Sensenbrenner is a Republican congressman from Wisconsin. Apparently he has a problem with derrieres. In fact he has a problem with a certain woman’s derriere…Michelle Obama.

In an apparent slip he was overheard on a cellphone telling someone“She [the FLOTUS] lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

Really Jim? Really?

I’ll do some objectifying myself…Jim, you’re not exactly sporting a six pack either. In fact, you're a big guy. I'm sure your booty is a little larger than Alex Rodriguez's...but I digress. See the pictures below, the middle picture is my favorite).

He’s probably not the person to talk about anyone’s butt, but he is a white man in a position of power and as such, I’m sure he feels entitled to voice his opinion on anyone’s butt anytime he wants to.

I’m not friends with Mrs. Obama, but I do know a little bit about her. Here are the facts as I know them:

· She is not a size 4, but she is also 5’ 11”.

· She works out RELIGIOUSLY every morning at 4:30a.

· She eats healthy most days.

· She likes to shop in Target (A woman after my own heart!)

· She works out RELIGIOUSLY every morning at 4:30a!

Michelle Obama is probably the most physically fit first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. She’s one of the youngest, and she has had two children and she’s in her late 40s. She is a role model for children especially young girls on how to take care of yourself and not conform to the twisted and outlandish body forms that now dominate the fashion scene. We’re not all Kate and Pippa. Yet it is obvious that men are the creators and commentators of the body ethic in this country, to which Mrs. Obama is not a member. For that matter neither are 95 percent of the women in America.

While many see Jim’s statement as purely a slip up, or at worst a sexist faux pas, I see it as a statement that harks back to the time that Massa looked over his slave women as cattle before he sold them. Many women of color have had their bodies objectified for gain by white men (and by men of color as well). I use the word “gain” in a very, very broad sense. I think of gain as telling a very bad joke about black women’s bodies to using a black woman’s body to continue the partisan vitriol that has become the standard for the 2012 political season.

For many the “faux pas” is simple. He made a mistake and then he wrote a message to the first lady, apology “acknowledged”. But he’s done much more. He has shown he is not educated. I know, I know, education has gotten a bum rap lately. Liberal education has become passé and should be avoided at all costs. But Jim needs a refresher. If only to show to his constituents that he may not be smart but he can be taught new tricks.

I’ve even picked out his first class, Black Feminist Politics. When he does take the class, I’m sure one of the first images he’ll see is of Sarah Baartman also known as the Hottentot Venus.

Sarah Baartman was paraded as a joke, and a freak in Europe in the 18th century. She was taken from her home with promises of a better life for herself and her family. Instead she was put on display for white Europeans to ogle, and stare at with disgust. Her body was probed and prodded by “scientists” who believed that black women’s bodies were exotic and expendable. Her buttocks and labia were shown to audiences, while modesty and the word lady were denied to her. Her buttocks were advertised as grotesque reminders to European women as what could happen to them if they were sexually promiscuous. After exposure to smallpox she died a young woman. After her death her skeleton, genitals, and brain were put on display by the scientists that exploited her during her life.

The life and times of Sarah Baartman was the first thing I thought of when I heard about Jim. At first I thought I was going too far, but I don’t think so. The first lady deserves respect. I don’t remember anyone talking about Barbara Bush’s behind, or Lady Bird Johnson, or Mamie Eisenhower. But for this first lady her body has become a source of ridicule and a free for all to malign and put on display at their whim.

The first lady is no joke. She is a person whose body is her own and whose beauty is embraced by many, many women and men (I’m sure to the surprise of Jim).

Maybe he would get it, if he became the BUTT of the joke.

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