By Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
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Extra info for Performing Whiteness: Postmodern Reconstructions in the Cinema
Some elements of this distinctive gendering of black women in dominant texts may be keyed to lesbian stereotypes. Thus what is perhaps intended to disempower and “other” black women all the more—and often succeeds, in a consumer culture that valorizes white heterosexual femininity—can be read for other meanings, as a site of contestation. (White 152) Contestation of the norms of white heterosexual femininity is what Mae West is celebrated for; however, if it comes on the back of black 40 Performing Whiteness femininity, it is clearly problematic.
All three black mammy figures make it clear that they are most impressed by Tira’s ability to seduce and attract men. The relationship seems friendly and very much conspiratorial, yet when Tira is angry at one of the silk-hat white women, she says— memorably—to Beulah, “Oh, Beulah . . peel me a grape,” demonstrating that theirs is a master-servant relationship subject to its attendant abuses and familiarities. Perhaps West sought to be associated with blackness because, as Frantz Fanon notes, “[T]he Negro represents the sexual instinct in its raw state.
Hylton, is a brilliant 20 Performing Whiteness exposé of the history of genetic patenting. Human genes are being patented, as are gene sequences and mice for cancer research. The colonization of bodies, a remnant of the culture of slavery, is going on with the aid of the Supreme Court, which in a number of decisions has ruled in favor of various genetic companies. It is clear that we do not own our own genetic material, that we are all, in a sense, owned by science. What surprises Hylton most, however, is the public’s relative silence on the matter, even as it acquiesces to a new order of biological determinism that is ruled by economics and, to a large extent, existing racial prejudice (160).