Answer to Question #208716 in History for Mbali

Question #208716

Briefly discuss why Sarah Baartman was symbolic of gender and racial discrimination against African women in the 19th century

Expert's answer

The story of Sarah Baartman is symbolic of gender and racial discrimination against African women as well as ridicule and commodification of black people in the 19th century. She was one of the first black women to human sexual trafficking and her experience is one of huge hardship. Sara was a khoi khoi woman who was taken from Cape Town to London in 1810 for exhibition purposes and was lied to that she'd return to her country, South Africa, in 5 years. Her traumatic experience in Europe is what made her an icon of savage racial inferiority and black female sexuality in the 19th century. Her body would be publicly examined and exposed inhumanely in many parts of Europe including England, Ireland and later France, through the duration of her young life. The Europeans were particularly fascinated by Baartman's pejoratively perceived large buttocks. In 1814, she was taken to France and became the objective of scientific and medical research which was centered on her organs, genitalia and buttocks, reinforcing European perceptions of black female sexuality. The French exhibitor who bought her in France allowed patrons willing to pay for her defilement to sexually abuse her in addition to showcasing her on public display. Even after her death in 1815, Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation. Her brain, skeleton and sexual organs were displayed in a museum in Paris until 1985.

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