Tracey Rose, Ciao Bella Venus Baartman, 2001
someone replied to my secret (2809) with the question ” why are you only able to relate to people of the same skin colour as you?”. This question is the reason. I’m able to relate to girls with the same skin color as me because white girls don’t know how it is to have people actually be surprised that you like metal because you don’t look like a metal fan. To have people say that you can’t dress like a metal girl because the outfits don’t match your skin color and the make up looks ugly on you.
(The picture is Alexis Brown from Straight Line Stitch)
Victoria Spivey (October 15, 1906 – October 3, 1976)
Singer and songwriter Victoria Spivey, c1934
specifically, BLUES singer and songwriter Victoria Spivey. i know a generation of white doods writing about the blues has resulted in the glorification of “teh rootsy” black man with a guitar on a front porch int he Delta somewhere, meanwhile the blues women who in many cases proceeded these dudes music (howlin wolf, muddy waters) or at the time had a bigger career and wider audience than their male counterparts (robert johnson) ever had somehow manage to be forgotten for the most part, save for a few like Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.
but um, Ms. Spivey is one of the main reasons the blues is the blues. quote:
Just inside a room on the second floor of the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere, there’s a large baby doll dress, big enough for a woman to wear. And one did.
The costume and the baby bottle next to it belonged to 85-year-old Miriam Batiste Reed, who was known as a baby doll and one of the first women to parade in Mardi Gras. The bottle and the dress are part of a new exhibition, They Call Me Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition.
“The baby dolls are a group of African-American men and women carnival maskers,” says Kim Vaz, dean at Xavier University. “They would dress up on Mardi Gras day in short satin skirts, with bloomers, and they would have garters.”
Vaz, who has written a new book about the baby dolls, says the tradition dates back to 1912, when Jim Crow was the law of the land in the South. It all started in New Orleans’ red-light district, which itself was divided along racial lines. The Storyville area, where the sex industry was legal, was for white customers; black customers had to go a few blocks away where prostitution was illegal, but allowed.
“[It was] another manifestation of how Jim Crow worked to disenfranchise black people, even in the most sordid of industries,” Vaz says.
Between these two red-light districts, there was a kind of rivalry. One year the women in the black district heard that their counterparts in Storyville were going to dress up for Mardi Gras; they decided they needed to come up with some good costumes to compete.
“And they said, ‘Let’s just be baby dolls because that’s what the men call us. They call us baby dolls, and let’s be red hot,’ ” Vaz says.
Calling a woman “baby” had just made its way into the popular lexicon, with songs like “Pretty Baby” written by New Orleans native Tony Jackson. There was, however, something subversive about black sex workers dressing this way.
“At that time, baby dolls were very rare and very hard to get,” Vaz says. “So it had all that double meaning in it because African-American women weren’t considered precious and doll-like.”
Just the fact that these prostitutes were masking and going out into the street at all was a big deal. Women just did not do that then. And as sex workers, these women were already taboo. Vaz says they just kept piling on by appropriating males behaviors like smoking cigars and flinging money at the men.
“If you went to touch their garter, they would hurt you,” she says.
The baby dolls carried walking sticks they would use in their dances, as well as to defend themselves. It was about fun, Vaz says, but it was a kind of laughter to keep from crying.
“At that time … residential segregation was practiced, job discrimination was practiced [and] women didn’t have the right to vote,” she says. “The one way that they could make a statement was through their dance and their dress and their song. It’s when you’ve exhausted all your legal remedies that you have to use the culture to make a statement and express yourself.”