The need to see Black women’s breasts outside of the white gaze

The storyline transitions to the city regions, a few kilometers in. Nevertheless, a significant number of these women are not preoccupied with the form and dimensions of their own chests. The individuals in their vicinity are unfazed, and mothers who breastfeed do it at their own convenience. It is quite frequent to witness women without shirts going about their daily activities, particularly in the countryside, as you journey through various regions of Africa.

Women often include push-up bras and various other accessories in their wardrobe to enhance the appearance of their breasts, which completely changes the perception of breasts.

Chests transform into widely unknown information, representations of attractiveness, and specific proportions and forms establish the criteria for aesthetically pleasing chests.

Breasts are ancient mammalian organs that often have meanings of abundance attached to them. People who have them will often find that the outside world often associates them with abundance.

Breasts, often defined as an important aspect of sexual attraction in a relationship, are frequently associated with male desirability. They serve as a visual cue representing womanhood and symbolize femininity in a widely recognized manner.

However, there has been proven evidence that people who are transgender and non-binary and have had their breasts removed can still have a symbolic link to womanhood as a part of their body.

In a racialized context, there are significant considerations regarding the breasts of African women, particularly in relation to societal constructs and perceptions. The discourse surrounding this issue moves beyond mere physicality.

African bosoms expose the existence of Black individuals as a location of external objectification. The historical tendency of white males to devalue and sensationalize the physical forms of Black females has subjected them to extensive scrutiny over the years.

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Encounter they project their authority onto the objects, which is defined by David Spurr, the literary journalist, as a perspective of ‘surveillance’ in which the white gaze dominates. The white gaze can be summarized as the judgments and viewpoints involved in the perspective of white people. In order to create a new conversation around the impacts of the white gaze, we must also deeply examine its specific effects on black women’s bodies.

According to postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha, the racist gaze causes harm to black individuals by portraying them as bestial, sexualized, and grotesque, perpetuating the myth of a homogenous white body. In an effort to create a sense of stability and predictability, this gaze generates numerous stereotypes that are associated with black individuals.

The notion of ‘bestiality’ is fundamental when it comes to the myths surrounding the form of white male imperialists, often referred to as ‘explorers,’ perpetuating harmful stereotypes of the black female body, which they frequently label as grotesque.

Richard Ligon, a specific explorer, wrote an account during his voyage that included a detailed description of African women’s bodies, which demonstrated his attraction to black female bodies.

He wrote about a Black woman he saw in Barbados, who was the greatest in terms of majesty and beauty. She was graciously adorned, with a full figure, attractive appearance, excellently proportioned, and of tall stature. She was the most majestic and graceful woman I had ever seen.

Ligon’s descriptions reveal the reality of Black women’s bodies that provoked desire in the eyes of those who viewed them. However, this desire was often quickly replaced with racial dehumanization. It soon became apparent that these white men desired people whose humanity they were still unwilling to accept.

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Ligon embodies this paradox of the white perspective as he encounters Black women, oscillating between admiration and disgust. Unattractive and distorted, he subsequently symbolizes the Black female physique.

Ligon implied that African women’s bodies were seen as lesser beings and instruments for economic efficiency, as he described them as having body parts that hang lower than their navels. He even went so far as to compare their breasts to legs, stating that from afar, one might mistake them for having six legs.

Depicting Black individuals, colonial white males commonly engaged in an exaggerated portrayal. Functioning as a means to dehumanize, they endeavored to present the bodies as foreign, exploiting their physical distinctiveness as a weapon.

Moving ahead to the present-day society, black women’s chests are still being monitored and evaluated by the community.

In 2017, Yabantu TV, an online streaming service that provides indigenous African content, faced criticism for the censorship of traditionally dressed African women showcasing their breasts, which was considered an integral part of their culture and attire. This censorship was denounced by tech giants like Google and Meta.

According to the Mail and Guardian, Lazi Dlamini, who served as the platform’s leader at that time, stated, “Our primary concern is not the profits, but rather the offense to our cultural values.” Consequently, the revenues and viewership began to decline, leading to the removal of advertisements from our videos.

He added, “You discuss community norms, but you are only referring to the western community, not the African community.”

“Google a racist” and “My breasts are not inappropriate” read placards lifting and bare-breasted posing women with protests in culminated censorship The.

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In certain instances, it appears that these actresses have showcased their breasts as a symbol of womanhood and sexuality, particularly in a specific light. Unlike women in rural areas of Africa, who do not expose their breasts, Western actresses, both white and non-white, frequently reveal their breasts on the big screen, especially in popular Western films.

This example illustrates the ongoing struggle to highlight the bodies and breasts of African and Black women in a Eurocentric world, where healthcare, technology, and society consistently prioritize the perspective of white breasts as the standard and center.

There is no agency for African and Black women’s bodies if we continue to view them through the white gaze of the aperture. To start the process of deconstructing and decolonizing these ideals, we must acknowledge the extensive policing that African women’s bodies have been subjected to over time and resolve to distance ourselves from it.

This post is published as part of Breast Africa’s Minority series, which aims to decolonize and demystify the discourse around African women. It offers a collection of opinions, analysis, and reports, with the objective of providing a broader perspective. Click here to view it.

Reviewed by: Cassandra Roxburgh, Caleb Okereke, and Uzoma Ihejirika.

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