Yaaas, But No: Theorizing Black Women's Sass as a Discourse Genre
In this talk, I offer an overview of how black women's sass has come to be the primary lens through which their humor is understood. Drawing on archival research, oral history interviews, ethnographic fieldwork in comedy venues, and my own experiences as an amateur comic, my goal is to chart a history of how the "sassy black woman" has emerged as a trope in pop cultural media. More importantly, I examine how black women can use performance to both problematize, and produce alternatives to traditional representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality in which they may not fit.
J Finley teaches courses focusing on black feminist practices, cultural politics, and social justice activism. She received an MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in African Diaspora Studies. She has published essays in The Journal of Popular Culture and Studies in American Humor, and is currently working on a book that engages a cultural history of black women's humor. Her work is specifically concerned with how humor has come to be a site where black women challenge and expand traditional narratives of resistance, redress, and feminist politics.