Kim Kardashian posed naked for cover and article in Paper and more pertinently posed in a back-arching posture that emphasized her ass and enabled her to balance a glass on it. Many reacted to her nudity as the issue while many remarked on the racist origins of big asses and considered her to be enabling modern racism. Basically the issue is black people were considered hypersexual and the big ass was proof of their unredeemable sexuality. Indeed my own ancestor Sally Watkins was arrested for fraternizing with blacks way back in the 1600’s. The antithesis of enjoying black companionship-culture has deep roots. The movie “Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner” was a statement on how even race-accepting liberals couldn’t avoid their racist sentiments.
Whatever you think of Kardashian she brought the voluptuous, curvy body, and female sexuality to popularity at a time when anorexic thinness and sexual repression were popular. Nor did the anorexic look have anything to do with celebrating health or acceptance of all body types. She also helped make nonwhite looking women popular. She also made a women’s personal acceptable and popular. Shit, we force women to wear these insane painful and bulky bras to make sure their breasts don’t jiggle and you can’t see their nipples. We blame women showing skin for causing harassment. We reward women for wearing makeup that could paint a small car. We insist women shave off hair to look like girls. We use women as decorative objects on a pedestal. We hate and cover the smell of bodies. We insist that women are verbal and not visual. We fear sexuality as advantage for social gain. We praise beauty over content. We fear the love of beauty as superficial because they aren’t allowed more. The list is tiresome and long.
Men have suffer from this as well. Men shave beards to look like boys. Men can’t show their sexuality beyond their breasts. We don’t allow men with big breasts to reveal them. Men are supposed to have six-pack abs. The list is shorter than women’s but it is still antibody, antisexual, and pro predatory stereotype.
The real issue isn’t that blacks were hypersexual but that white anglo Protestants (WASP) were puritanical in their hatred of the body and their hatred of sex. The Catholic church only condoned the missionary position, and only condoned sex for procreation, and certainly not for pleasure except as imitating the creation of Jesus and his world of salvation.
What we should be doing is celebrating black culture for freeing us from the tyranny of idiotic Abrahamic hatred of the body, the separation of mind and body, and human sexuality. Even menstruation has remained hated as being an impure, unclean, and an unholy aspect of women. The current distaste for blood certainly comes from this and is just as horrible, or worse, as the Mayan and Aztec love of blood as a life force and the willingness to slaughter many to release it to public view and use–but at least they recognized blood as a positive life force. Hating blood is to hate yourself. Germaine Greer famously said women can’t be free until they have tasted their own menstrual blood. The social fears of exposing menstrual blood or even the time of menstruation is pure misogyny. A more sane response would be to celebrate menses and praise women for their capacity. Let them have rewards and support during these times! Let us be thankful for this ability.
The same for dancing, music, and enthusiasm. The WASP, Catholic, and Jewish celebration of seriousness and suffering as definitive of acceptable culture was not defeated until exposure to other peoples and cultures that celebrated this life rather than hating it. Even those who insist they are only spiritual and not religious, or even secular, often maintain these Calvinist tendencies. The near universal separation of the body and mind has an unhealthy hegemony in our society. This conflict in feminism is best seen as the constant debate on whether women who display their sexuality are sluts or forerunners of the revolution. Is it slut shaming or pandering to the purience of misogyny? Women who use sex are praised because they become successful and hated because they used sexuality to get there. We see the same in racism. Is the adaptation of other features an enabling of imperialism or an acceptance of the value of what they do?
The reaction to every derived culturalism as appropriation takes us the wrong direction. Hegel’s dialectic showed progress was accomplished by thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. What is new is discovered, rejected, and then made normative. There would be no progress unless we were exposed to what is different, found to be useful, and then used to go forward.
Rather than castigation that new culture is stolen we should be celebrating the exposure and adaption as creating a better society. We do it in technology and science. If a scientist finds new knowledge or develops new technology we do not curse the adaptation as appropriation but are thankful for its discovery and utility. How odd it would be if we (hypothetical we) hated algebra just because it was stolen from the Islamic concepts of variables, the infinite, and the amount called zero. No, we can’t do algebra because that’s Islamic. No, we can’t celebrate sexual expression because that’s African. No, we can’t celebrate the body because that’s nonAbrahamic. No, we can’t celebrate women’s sexuality because that’s not Western. No, we can’t celebrate ebullient music, expressive dance, and call and response musical structure because that came from slaves. No, we can’t adapt the governance of the Iroquois Confederation because that’s Native American.
The balkanization and ghettoizing of what is valuable because it came from slaves or other people we oppressed or simply the other creates cultural stagnation and maintenance of the evil of the originators of the change. That the originators continue the hatred the others created by dissing all of to as appropriation allows them to fetishize their otherness, rather than acknowledging they contributed greatly to the progress of society, often on a global scale. It continues the separation of cultures such that the other is always the other to be kept separate.
It may be helpful to state that reparations have not been made or that evil still exists against the other but it would be better to celebrate their contributions and reward them for their rather than say let’s get rid of the contribution because it came from an other. We can easily say slavery is wrong, wrong, wrong without eliminating the contributions of slaves from society at large. I would rather reward African culture for changing our society than say we should never have had that contribution and will not use what is useful because it wasn’t discovered or created by the hegemonic culture.
Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com