Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Fashioning the Body as Politic

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Wow what a film! I didn’t think the movie was strange at all. It was so artsy and the acting and cinematography was great. I was entertained the whole time. Although, I never would have appreciated it as much without reading the article we were assigned. [Disclaimer: the past two nights I’ve had three hours of sleep, no nap zone, so bear with me if my thoughts, punctuation, word choice, etc. are all over the place or just flat out wrong.]

Angeletta Gourdine offers wonderful insight to the many themes brought up in Daughters of the Dust. She uses the term “body politic” which is a recurring theme we’ve seen throughout the semester. In The Color Purple Morrison brings attention to the dynamic between Shug and Celie and their bodies. While Celie is seen as plain or drab (wearing a dress that, “doesn’t do anything for you anyway,” (mirroring her personal struggles and the oppression in her story), Shug’s image expresses the opposite, depicting her performer lifestyle of a confident, beautiful woman. Shug’s image doesn’t necessarily mean she’s prettier than Celie, Shug may just have this mask on perhaps to mask her misery or even just satisfy the body politic that her audience would expect. In Silver Sparrow we discussed the whole “silver” concept and what it meant to be beautiful to Chaurisse. She anxiously awaits the moment in which her mother deems her old enough to change her hair. To Chaurisse this means everything. It gives her a sense of hope that she could one day pass for silver in someone’s eyes. In the clip we watched of the women in the hair salon, women of all social strata were paying big bucks to chemically alter their hair to achieve the “natural” look. Well, obviously that looks isn’t natural for black women and you wonder if they genuinely like the style, or if it has any connection to body politic and how society views the concept of beauty. Gourdine calls this body politic a “social skin.” She uses a quote by Foucault that says, “because the self is not given to us..there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art.” The whole film was a work of art and it used symbols of clothing and the inherent body politic to paint a political picture for us. Gourdine goes on to address the fact that, “blackwomen have always had two bodies- their natural corporeal one and their political one.” The character Yellow Mary is a perfect example of this. While her natural, human, blackwoman features, characteristics, mannerisms, opinions, values, and so on make up one body, another body embodies a collective history of rape, conquest, enslavement that blackwomen have undergone in the past and further still, a “hard woman” in the present.

This is just one idea that Gourdine presented that stuck out for me. Bye folks, hope this made sense..energy drinks can only do so much.

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