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127 5 Performing the Body Transgressive Doubles, Fatness and Blackness When questioned at a poetry reading by a British audience of women about her representative female characters, Guyanese-born poet Grace Nichols refutes black female victimhood. This response not only draws attention to the prevailing assumption of blackness and womanness, but it also challenges the stereotypical representations of black female subjects. In refuting this predestined “victim mentality” or syndrome with which black women have been saddled as markers of their identity, Nichols posits language as the tool of resistance. Underscoring its importance, she specifically draws attention to the celebration and preservation of the language of our forefathers and foremothers. Consequently, Nichols posits a compelling line of reasoning for the validation and continued existence of Creole, which she argues was constantly interacting with standard English in her world, although Creole “was regarded, obviously, as the inferior by the colonial powers . . . and still has a social stigma attached to it in the Caribbean” (Nichols, “Battle” 284). On one hand, it signals our linguistic survival, our link to the past, being that it is a “language our foremothers and forefathers struggled to create and we’re saying that it’s a valid, vibrant language. We are no longer going to treat it with contempt or allow it to be misplaced” (284). On the other hand, it provides spiritual sustenance that requires “the need to preserve something that’s important to us” (Nichols, “Battle” 97–98). Creole therefore functions as a marker of identity and resistance; it legitimizes one’s identity and citizenship. Furthermore, avoiding the 128 · African Diasporic Women’s Narratives entrapment that places women in a stranglehold of perpetual dependency and victimization, Nichols, in a symbolic gesture, rebutted in poetry: Of Course When They Ask for Poems About the ‘realities’ of Black Women they want a little black blood what they really want at times is a specimen whose heart is in the dust a mother-of-sufferer trampled/oppressed they want a little black blood undressed and validation for the abused stereotype already in their heads or else they want a perfect song . . . maybe this poem is to say that I like to see we black women full-of we-selves walking crushing out with each dancing step the twisted self-negating history we’ve inherited crushing out with each dancing step. (285–87) Bolstering Nichols’s objection to black women being depicted as pathological , British-based sociologist Ife Amadiume, assessing the racist element in western women’s movements, calls attention to the blatant Transgressive Doubles, Fatness and Blackness · 129 misrepresentation of black women and their exclusion from the national discourse. Alleging that whereas a selective group of women (read middle-class white women) is chosen as representative of the movement, she ascertains that only “the downtrodden” are chosen “when it comes to African [women]” (Male Daughters 5). Further, she questions the routine portrayal of “Black women as universally deprived,” arguing that this picture “only reinforces racism” (5). In this regard, Nichols is one of the many women who Amadiume recognizes has begun “to expose the racism in the women’s movement and to accuse Western feminists of a new imperialism ” (4). Nichols’s verbal indictment—“they want a little black blood / whose heart is in the dust / a mother-of-sufferer / trampled/oppressed / for the abused stereotype / already in their heads”—substantiates the “fantasized measure of superiority” that Amadiume argues white feminists exert “over African and other Third World Women” (3). Similar to the objectionable idea of a superior language, Nichols challenges the notion of a superimposed identity or, more poignantly, a monolithic European identity. Furthermore, the Fat Black Woman critiques monolithic construction of race, sexuality, and national identity; in other words, she fiercely interrogates the practice of exclusionary citizenship. The Fat Black Woman’s Poems serves as testimony to this challenge even as it presents a formidable case for a broader, all-inclusive, and more realistic portrayal of black womanhood.1 It is therefore not surprising that the first poem in this collection is titled “Beauty,” exemplifying and validating varying interpretations of beauty and consequently rejecting a monolithic imposed definition. Fittingly, the final poem in this section is titled “Afterword ,” permitting self-affirmation and lending visibility to the “invisible” fat black woman and reinstating her as a worthy citizen. As such, Nichols renders her eponymous heroine, the Fat Black Woman, visible, making her the site/sight of public political debates as her fat black body functions as a platform...


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