How Josephine Baker Took Control of Her Own Narrative

josephine baker
Graciella Ye'Tsunami
September 20, 2023

She sparkled under the stage lights, dazzling the audience with her charm, humor, and risqué costumes. Seduction poured from her and she basked in it. 

She unapologetically took control of her sensuality and became a legend for it.

Tired of Jim Crow America, Josephine Baker moved to Paris. Underneath the spotlight she reinvented herself, playing with being outrageous and silly to downright seductive. 

And in a time where Black women had to work infinitely harder than white women to fight against respectability politics, Baker’s erotic performances weren’t merely entertainment. It was her taking a stand.

A legacy from slavery that’s often treated as taboo to talk about is how enslavers sexually assaulted and objectified enslaved women, but then had the audacity to say these women were hypersexualized

The damage of this legacy can still be seen within rape culture, the #MeToo movement, and how Black women’s bodies and exercising their sexuality is policed.

Knowing this context, for Baker to have taken the agency she did over her sexuality was radical. She understood that to control her erotic narrative was empowering. It meant that only she had the power to define herself.

How can we reimagine our pleasure as a freedom practice? How does sexual liberation tie into Black Liberation?

Our liberation should be rooted in all forms of pleasure. Our bodies and what we do with them is our choice.

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