Blog 1: The “Sexy Gypsy” Stereotype

I described this assignment last semester, but to catch everyone up:

For this blog response, I’d like you to select a pop culture artifact (a TV show, movie, clothing/costume, song, picture, ad, etc) that uses the Sexy Gypsy stereotype to analyze in 300 words. In Ian Hancock’s article, “The ‘Gypsy’ Stereotype and the sexualization of Romani women” he explains that this Sexy Gypsy trope draws on a history of slavery, segregation, forced sterilization, and sexual exploitation of Romani people. This is problematic first because many of those human rights violations still plague the Romani people, and normalizing the stereotype of the sexualized, objectified, and dehumanized Gypsy woman, who’s spiritually and physically dirty and an object of pleasure, only serves to perpetuate misconceptions about Romani culture and Romani women. And worst of all, these misconceptions fuel the current human rights crisis. Hancock adds that this is not only true for Romani women– this is a facet of the wider problem that minority women are too often reduced to their sexuality and depicted and solely objects of desire in popular culture.

Also, from a writing craft perspective, stereotypes are cliched and one-dimensional. They are flat characters with nothing to add or say, instead, they function as props. In short, they’re bad writing. Three-dimensional characters step closer to depicting the human condition because they are closer to human nature, and consequently, they are far more compelling than stereotypes. Three-dimensional characters exist in art. As writers, we have compelling aesthetic and humanitarian reasons for forgoing stereotypes.

So, with Hancock in mind, include a link to the Sexy Gypsy example that you’ve selected and explain 1. how it sexualizes Romani women and/or fits the Sexy Gypsy stereotype, 2. what is problematic about the depiction, and 3. in what way is the character in your example a one-dimensional character. Think about current and/or historical social problems that your example might evoke or reference as well as the repercussions of the stereotypes that the example reinforces.

In class, we discussed this clip of Esmeralda’s pole dance in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame as an example of the Sexy Gypsy stereotype. Esmeralda is the only Disney character to pole dance and to perform an unmarried makeout scene– in this way, she is unusually sexualized. The film is set in the 1400’s when Romani slavery in the Balkans was in full swing and Romani women were regularly sexually exploited by the men who enslaved them. While The Hunchback of Notre Dame  highlighted the social injustices that complicated Esmeralda’s life (segregation, prejudice, and genocide, to name a few), it also reinforced age-old misconceptions about Romani women such as promiscuity and loose morals, misconceptions which fuel the same anti-gypyist sentiment that oppress Romani people both in the film and in reality.

So scour the internet! Let’s talk about The Sexy Gypsy.


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