For day six of the blogging “yes” project, I read “Queering Black Female Heterosexuality” by Kimberly Springer. Springer’s essay addresses black female sexuality and the problems with the mammy vs. jezebel stereotypes and appropriates queer discourse (sort of) in searching for a solution to this false dichotomy. I found this an interesting take on the intersection between race and sexuality, though aimed entirely at a heterosexual audience.
I’m most familiar with the race/sexuality intersection from the sexuality side of the coin, looking at intersectionality from a queer perspective and at how the queer political movement and queer culture can be more inclusive and consider differences in race as well as ethnicity, age, religion, ability, etc. in the queer community. This essay looks at black female sexuality from a heterosexual perspective and considers how queer theory (in a very basic sense) can be applied to the problems of black female sexuality representation.
Queerness, then, is not an identity, but a position or stance. We can use “queer” as a verb instead of a noun. Queer is not someone or something to be treated. Queer is something that we can do. The black woman is the original Other, the figure against which white women’s sexuality is defined. Aren’t we already queer? To queer black female sexuality means to do what would be contrary, eccentric, strange, or unexpected. To be silent is, yes, unexpected in a world whose stereotype is of black women as loud and hypersexual. However, silence merely stifles us.
I’m not 100% sure about the phrasing, which isn’t as clear as I’d like that queer is not only an identity, but can be used in a different way. I also am not sure how comfortable I am with using “queering” to mean being outspoken about sexuality, since queer people often need to be more outspoken as well, but I like the way it’s applied here to black female heterosexuality specifically–meaning do the unexpected, don’t stick with the mammy or jezebel stereotype. Springer challenges educated middle-class black women (those who would often be lumped into the asexual “mammy” category) to be open about sexuality and sexual desires, about getting off rather than just getting men off as in the jezebel stereotype. I love the sex positivity in the essay and how it’s used to challenge racist and sexist assumptions.