February 21, 2002
12:35 PM   Subscribe

The Hottentot Venus is going home. An African woman named Saarjite Baartman, apparently EXTREMELY overendowed in the buttock/labia department (second floor, next to men's shoes, watch the doors), she did the freakshow thing in Europe for five years in the early 19th c., was edited down at death to her relevant bits and pickled for posterity. Ever been to an actual state-fair freakshow? I saw the alligator lady in the late 70s somewhere in Kentucky. A morally complicated experience.
posted by luser (19 comments total)
Oh, via Fark. *eyebrow raises* You were surprised?
posted by luser at 12:42 PM on February 21, 2002

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow.
posted by liam at 12:46 PM on February 21, 2002

I remember vividly that when I was a young-un, the sideshow was more exciting than the regular three ring show--Barnum and Bailey, under the tent, until the disasterous Hartford fire that stopped most circuses from putting on shows under the big tent. I knew two brothers, twins, who lost their parents in that fire.
A nice book out some years ago by Leslie Fiedler, prof at Univ of Buffalo called FREAKS, which if you can find it, will truly entertain you.
posted by Postroad at 12:51 PM on February 21, 2002

From a larger version of the illustration on the first link:
The European observers remark on the women's body: "Oh! God Damn what roast beef!" and "Ah! how comical is nature."

Roast beef?
posted by ColdChef at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2002

If you can't make it to Gibtown, winter and retirement home for carney folk, you can always catch the film.
posted by liam at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould wrote an essay about her which was included in his book The Flamingo's Smile. Very much worth reading (as is just about everything he has written)
posted by briank at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2002

There's a good book about the Hartford circus fire.
posted by liam at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2002

Like this? You might also like the mutter museum in philadelphia.

From their official site:
The Museum's collections include over 20,000 objects, including approximately 900 fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens... Currently, there is a special exhibit on conjoined twins.

Have a special friend you want to give a special gift to? How about the mutter calendar.

posted by malphigian at 1:10 PM on February 21, 2002

she was kidnapped and put on display in a french museum, whereupon she died of 'exposure'. Her relatives/descendents requested that her remains be sent home. people can be yucky.
posted by goneill at 1:16 PM on February 21, 2002

only the ever popular jim rose circus side show of freaks.
oh, and the tokyo shock boys.
i don't know if these are your genuine 'freaks' though, but they definately left me in a state of moral confusion.
well, eventually, after i stopped laughing, uttering expetives and shaking my head.

malphigian - that reminds me of the 'royal college of surgeons of england' collections, open to the public for free (donations accepted).
posted by asok at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2002

I met "Lobster Boy" at a county fair. Even got his signature. He was grumpy.
posted by sadie01221975 at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2002

Grumpy? How would you feel after 10 hrs/day, 7 days a week of people hurling lemon and butter at you?

Well, OK, besides pleasant-smelling and well-lubricated.
posted by luser at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2002

> Anatomist Georges Curvier presented Baartman's
> dissected labia before the Academie Royale de Medecine,
> in order to allow them "to see the nature of the labia"
> (Gilman 235). Curvier and his contemporaries concluded
> that Baartman's oversized primitive genitalia was
> physical proof of the African women's "primitive sexual
> appetite." Baartman's genitalia continued to be
> exhibited at La Musée de l'Homme, the institution to
> which Curvier belonged, long after her death.

There's no "r" in Cuvier. Wonder how good the rest of the fact-checking in this is?
posted by jfuller at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2002

I loved Renee Cox's take.
posted by dhartung at 2:45 PM on February 21, 2002

There is a much better description of Sanid or Khoid bushwomen here, which includes the hottentots.
posted by patrickje at 3:07 PM on February 21, 2002

OK, ick...
posted by spilon at 6:37 PM on February 21, 2002

Oh yeah, my sideshow experiences...

Well, I saw the Jim Rose thingy on that first year that they did Lollapalooza. Didn't throw up, but the guy that pumped shit up his nose thru a tube then hurled it up and drank it had me pretty close. Then one time I went to a more low-rent, parking lot type circus and they had a 'sideshow,' but it consisted of one exhibit. "Step right up and see what happens when you take too much LSD!" So I bought my ticket and was treated to a drooling guy in a cage that was buggin' his eyes out and making animal noises. I think it was supposed to be a deterrent, but it kinda made me want to try LSD...
posted by spilon at 6:41 PM on February 21, 2002

...dancing cheek to cheek
with a geek...
posted by modofo at 6:47 PM on February 21, 2002

Gidget the Midget (porn star) is endowed like a 'Hottentot Venus'
posted by sadie01221975 at 11:12 PM on February 21, 2002

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