Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Black/Female/Body Hypervisibility and Invisibility: A Black Feminist Augmentation of Feminist Leisure Research

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Black/Female/Body Hypervisibility and Invisibility: A Black Feminist Augmentation of Feminist Leisure Research

Article excerpt

"Only the Black Woman can say, when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole., .race enters with me."

-Anna Julia Cooper, 1892, A Voice from the South, p. 144-145

Invisibility is a fundamental aspect of being Black in a White-dominated society. The Black body comes into view, however, when conceptions of sexual-subjection or social disparities are discussed. That is, when Black women's bodies are on display to be ridiculed (e.g., the focus on Serena Williams' buttocks), or when sociopolitical agendas use Black women experiences as scapegoats (e.g., Black women targeted in welfare reform). The ways Black women's bodies are viewed as spectacles in the general public and especially in sex industries, for the leisure and pleasure of men, is rooted in racialized gendered intersections of power, privilege, and oppression (as noted by Shaw, 1999). In response to the call for this special issue of the Journal of Leisure Research on feminist contributions, this paper explores the roles of Black feminism as a theoretical framework that will center Black women's experiences and challenge intersecting identities of race and gender, and intersecting oppressions of sexism and racism. Ultimately this paper calls for a new centering of the Black woman to augment feminist discourse and research in leisure studies.

To achieve this goal, we unpack the intersectional experiences of race and gender specifically pertaining to Black women's bodies and social politics, to demonstrate the need for intersections between Black feminism and leisure studies. We explore and critique two juxtaposing positions for Black women in leisure research, invisibility and hypervisibility. We consider Black women's presence in leisure studies as invisible through the consequences of systemic sexism and racism throughout society and the academy. We argue that systematic oppression specifically besets Black women in the academy, and thus equal access and participation, given their lack of presence as research participants and as researchers. This line of inquiry identifies a new sense of marginality and invisibility that may exist in leisure-based scholarship.

Comparatively, when Black women are represented in leisure spaces, they are often hypervisible (Aitchison, 1999; Shaw, 1999), as Black women's bodies are stereotyped as abnormal (Newton, Guo, Yang, & Malkin, 2012; Riddick & Stewart, 1994), hypersexual (Miller-Young, 2010; West, 2006), and their social location highlighted as deviant (Wyatt, 1992; Yuen, Arai, & Fortune, 2012). This is often implied to represent excusable means for exploitation and violence (McNair & Neville, 1996; Nelson, 1993). This hypervisbility requires the recognition of race in conjunction with gendered body politics (Henderson, 1996); we specifically discuss sexual commodification and body representation through a review of Black feminist-related research.

We begin with a discussion of the utility of Black feminism as a framework for studying intersecting identities in leisure research. We then present an overview of Black feminism as an epistemological framework, while integrating Black feminist research from historical and social science scholarship. Next, we unpack the implied ways in which Black women are both invisible and hypervisible in leisure research. Our manuscript ends with a discussion of the integration of Black feminism within leisure studies, and the theoretical and empirical possibilities for future directions. This paper centers on Black North American women's experiences, although we recognize the increased representation of women of color in international research including Australia (Fullagar, 2008); India (Khan, 1997); Iran (Arab-Moghaddam, Henderson, & Sheikholesami, 2007); New Zealand (Lloyd & Little, 2010); Scandinavia (Thrane, 2000); Sudan (Russell & Stage, 1996); Taiwan (Tsai, 2010); and Turkey (Koca, Henderson, Asci, & Bulgu, 2009). …

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