Both Patricia Leighten and Anna C. Chave focused on Picasso’s famed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon that portrays nude prostitutes in African tribal masks. This painting was and is highly controversial as it is not only showing women, but prostitutes, “a file of sturdy, experienced, working women of ambiguous heritage and humble descent; women who apparently unimpressed and unbowed by the men who approach them; ‘women whose independence [is] clearly menacing'” (Chave, p 277).
Both of these readings prove that the fear of the Other and Women stem from a European male patriarchy. Anything at odds with their white, heterosexual culture is a threat. “Not only women but also dark-sinned peoples ‘have traditionally been perceived as figures of disorder, ‘potential disrupters of [European] masculine boundary systems of all sorts'” (Chave, p 275).
Oddly enough, the Self mystified the Other to keep the threat of African culture at bay. To justify colonization, the Europeans “embraced a deeply romanticized view of African culture…perfering to mystify rather than examine its presumed idol-worship and violent rituals” (Leighten, p 234). Contrary, women were exploited and fulfilled “‘the explicit fantasy of numerous nineteenth-century writers to examine female physiology by literally cutting women up'” (Chave, p 276).
Whether the Other was mystified or at the chopping block, the hierarchy of authority still found power in manipulating Africans and women. The disrespect of African culture, shown by ignorance and ideas of barbarism, and women, shown by creating weak characters of them and cutting their bodies, occurred to support the white males in power and degrade those still so desperately in need of a voice.
Michaela Stock, Hope College 2020.