Continuing my thinking about sex work I came across a section in Cynthia Blair’s book about the World’s Fair and its relationship to black women as commodities and their sexual labor. I was having a conversation with a friend recently about the way in which we use Saartjie Baartman, aka Hottentot Venus, as a reference point for all expressions of black female sexuality. As though everything we do it for the white gaze, and Saartjie is not, in fact, a real historical person. Blair’s chapter really demonstrates the power of narrative. We find the mythologized women of the World”s Fair in city guidebooks and police reports. They become stand-ins for all women. Even police reports become story books.
Though the relationship between vice and the Fair has been documented, its what Blair does with it that is so fascinating. This is what makes a good historian. I am inspired. Ok back to writing.