A Brief Discussion on Nationality and Race

I stumbled onto Black Girl In Paris the other day, and saw her post including this video. I consider myself a budding Francophile so information about French language and culture is right up my alley.

Jessy Matador - "Décalé Gwada"
Jessy Matador is a musician from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who recorded this French song last year. Its classified as part of the Coupé Décale genre, a form of popular music played in African clubs in Paris. This song was very popular in Paris last year.

Then, there's this video, which sparks the point of today's post.

First of all, before we touch on aspects of race and nationality here, lemme just say that lil mama ROCKED IT. At first when she was just standing there, before the music started, I thought "aweee she's so cute. She's gonna do some lil dance steps." But when her legs started moving, I had to force myself to close my mouth so flies wouldn't come in. You go lil French girl!

When I went to the Youtube page for the 2nd video, there were the usual ignorant comments you'd expect when you see a nonblack person with exceptional dance skills. People always jump to the conclusion that only black people can dance in this manner, and that anyone who is of another race is extraordinary and rare if they can dance 'like us'.

I'm not gonna touch on the origins of modern music and how African sounds influence the majority of the music performed today... what's significant here is the fact that there's a young girl performing a dance she learned from a music video... and it didn't make me sick to my stomach. Now I admit, on the parts where she started popping her back I cringed, but lets not forget this little show of ability as comparison (explicit lyrics):

The differences in the little girl's video are sexual to me, not racial. This is not a teenage girl dressed in a bra top. This is not a song with explicit lyrics (at least I don't think... I don't speak French). Its just a young girl having a good time. It doesn't feel raunchy, that she's trying to be sexy or seek the wrong kind of attention. But at the same time, I wonder if I would have been offended if she had been black? Were you offended when the little girl danced in the original Jessy Matador video? I wasn't, because her inclusion didn't feel exploitive, just demonstrative of the fact that everyone could have a good time when listening to Décalé Gwada.

We could say that girls in the US are more exposed to sexuality. I mean, lets be honest here - how many times does a sexualized tv commercial, soap opera, music video or movie appear on tv? Lets not even talk about Super Bowl commercials or the programming on cable. While viewing these are fine for adults, what happens to a child that is repeatedly exposed to these images? Speaking for myself, one starts to form the perception that a woman's body holds more value than her mind. That her physical beauty outshines her mental capacity. And when you add race to that equation, stereotypes can overshadow a person's actual perception. Like a black woman might assume that she's sexier than a white woman, just off general principle. Or vice versa depending on how she's been socialized.

We've seen that race and nationality in France is not a smooth terrain either. But how does sexuality tie into a woman's concept of self there? Do the French see this video and automatically think, as alot of African-Americans would, "she can dance for a white girl"? And how sexualized are the French socially? I've seen that other countries are not as prude as the US, and sex is a part of their popular culture also. But the difference is, from what I've seen in my (brief) travels, women don't base their value on their body. They seem more comfortable with their bodies and believe in their inherent value as women, without having to live up to a social image of themselves. This came across in the way French women carried themselves; they were more self-assured, more comfortable in their own skin and with their clothing, no matter their body shape.

So I ask, why does sexuality mean different things in different countries? I'm not gonna even ask how sex affects race, because thats a history lesson and discussion that is better discussed on another day. I would just like us to question why we react to certain images in certain ways, and why we make the assumptions that we do regarding those images.


Kaikou said...

The main difference in the videos, to me, was that the first 2 had a set choreography/dance for the whole song. So in other words, everyone would be doing the same dance moves. The second video did not really have that. The female participants in the 3rd video made their own dance based upon what can be said to be booty movements.


-I do think that because the female participants in the first 2 videos were not black, helped to play a role in perception.

-Ignoring the fact of the bra top etc. I really didn't find anything unusual about that dances in the final video. These young women did not show their face. Why not? (I don't know, but maybe not to ridiculed for dancing this way?)

-2nd video: When the little girl rubbed on her chest, that was uncomfortable to me.

- You stated the differences being sexual to you and not racial, but aren't these 2 different age groups were dealing with here? 2nd video: Age 7ish and 3rd video: 16+. Isn't the sexuality suppose to be different there? One age group has already hit puberty and is "exploring" their sexuality. I do not expect the little girl at 7 to be booty popping because she could not possibly fully understand the sexual implications of that kind of dance.

-Sexuality is different in America and Internationally.

-Non-blacks can "dance" and often do (in my experience) in a sexual matter. (Whenever I go to dance clubs this is the only kind of dance I see, even if it is not right for the song. People just wait around to shake their "money-maker".


Anonymous said...

All harmless, I I think.

The fact that there was an actual little girl in the first video seems to mean it's OK for kids to do that dance. Really, it's just a bunch of people of all ages having a good time. Nothing dirty about that one.

Now, when the little girl dancing with the TV in the second video petted her torso, yeah it was weird but I get the idea that she's only imitating the TV.

And the third video...that was teenage girls (who clearly would be embarrassed if anyone found out who they are!) testing their sexiness. And who among us didn't? Come ON--teens *will* dance raunchy. It's what they do!