I spent fifteen minutes talking about the problem of objectifying and sexualizing African women’s bodies. Fifteen minutes in French, and I’m actually une anglophone. I even ironed the pretty church dress my aunt sewed for me, the one with the red and yellow wax print, sun sets over Africa? Pink palms turned red in applause. You were pleased. With who? Sapphire. Cleopatra. Yaa Asantewaa. Beyoncé. Foxy Brown. Video vixen #39 with the botched boob job. A disembodied pair of juicy hips and thighs walking down the street with nothing but a puff of smoke where her head and shoulders should be. L’Africaine. I know it’s a function of the language to turn adjectives into nouns, nationality and individual interchangeable. But I stood before you today, teased my tongue and cleared my throat to manipulate all the guttural r’s and slippery s’ of your language. To show you that une Africaine est capable de maitriser la langue Francaise.* But you were hypnotized by the projector lights flashing on my nighttime skin, you were thinking nighttime thoughts. Strobe lights and a stripper pole. It was 11am in a conference room, generic cream table, generic cream hands. But I was African Paradise with the thunder thighs. Step right up and feast your eyes. But whatever you do, you can’t touch the dancers.
*This translates my determination to prove myself during my French studies at Georgetown. It is the verbal manifestation of my dismay and defensiveness every time someone responds with a wide-eyed: “Wow I didn’t know you spoke French that well!” Literally translated it means “that an African is capable of mastering the French language.” I must also add that I’ve been studying French since the age of 7. Let’s also remember that there are millions of Africans who speak French not because they like the sound of it, but because they didn’t have much say in the process of their “civilization”.