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Theater Critic Outrageously Compares Kim Kardashian to Sarah Baartman, Draws Harsh Criticism

Kim Kardashian’s body has been celebrated for what South African woman Sarah Baartman was degraded for.
(Jon Kopaloff /FilmMagic/Getty Images/Wikimedia Commons)

Controversy erupted online when The New York Times published a review comparing Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, an enslaved African woman who was degraded for her full figure, to reality starlet Kim Kardashian.

Chief theater critic Ben Brantley wrote a review of the Off Broadway revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Venus,” which centers on the unfortunate life of Baartman.

“Attention, please, those of you whose greatest ambition is to acquire the traffic-stopping body of Kim Kardashian,” Brantley wrote in a Monday, May 15 review. “There is a less drastic alternative to costly and dangerous buttocks implants.

“To wit: the fulsomely padded body stocking that is being modeled with flair and poignancy by Zainab Jah in the title role. ….  It’s doubtful as to how comfortable such a stocking is as 24-hour wear. But it has the great advantage of not being permanent.”

Baartman was a South African woman who was forced to work in the European circus and the Parisian zoo, with white spectators gawking at her large buttocks and elongated labia, the former of which was the result of a genetic trait called steatopygia. Her body was sexualized by Europeans, who were amazed that her body was not like that of white women.

Brantley’s review touched on some of the racism Baartman endured but said she was “complicit in her own exploitation” after stating she was “seduced in South Africa with promises of lucre by a fly-by-night entrepreneur.”

“To contemporary eyes, Ms. Jah’s artificial figure doesn’t look all that different from the bodies of celebrity goddesses who populate People [magazine] and The Daily Mail wearing second-skin dresses,” Brantley concluded. “One hopes that these women own their bodies — and their images — in a way that was tragically denied Saartjie Baartman.”

The article was shared on Twitter with a title focused on Kardashian’s likeness to Baartman.

Twitter users zeroed in on his comparison to Kardashian, who has profited from an image Black women have been objectified for.

The NYT removed their tweet, but that didn’t satisfy Twitter users as the article remains posted.

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