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Playing a sexy mas or mask?
It’s hard to know where young women’s empowerment begins and ends.
Take Patrice Robert’s recently released Hold on Tight video. It attempts to show her as sexually commanding, her stilettos shaking the ground, her youthful body taking control of men’s minds whether awake or asleep.
The video highlights what kinds of language are available for young women, especially young Black women, trying to turn sexuality from a source of vulnerability to authority. It highlights, just as Carnival does par excellence, that there is no pure place for such resistance and assertion of young female selfhood.
Executive produced, edited and directed by Afro-Caribbean men, the video shows Patrice through the eyes of a white man’s wet dream, including his vision of her as first winer girl, then leopard, then native in a forest.
We shouldn’t be naïve. Black women came to be seen as naturally hypersexual and animalistic because hundreds of years of slavery mixed White dominance with such desire. It’s unthinkable violence that made it normal and everyday.
This very fantasy justified slavery’s rape and pimping of African women, and the definition of them as less than equal, less morally respectable or civilised than White women, less valued for their minds than their bodies, and less concerned with their political and economic rights than their freedom to be promiscuous. Streaming such a fantasy 50 years after our independence says much about what Carnival’s possibilities for decolonisation can and must continue to mean.