Double Standards



CURRENT BOOK:  Ain’t I a Woman by Bell Hooks

Hooks explores the idea that sexism and male animosity towards women stemmed from the blame placed on women for original/sexual sin (a la Adam and Eve).  This idea has never quite made sense to me.  I mean, however you might view the Bible, I don’t think the whole incident with the Tree of Knowledge was truly intended to make women out to be some kind of evil temptresses.  It’s a fable.

I was intrigued by Hooks’ depiction of the disparity that arose between white women and black women during the time of slavery.  In white culture, there was a shift as far as the oppression of white women wherein they were idolized as long as they stifled their sexuality (a la Virgin Mary).

Forcing white women to deny their physical beings was as much an expression of male hatred of women was regarding them as sex objects.

However, for black women, there was no protection.  White women blamed black women, not white men, for the rape of female slaves by their masters, and while white women covered their bodies primly and properly, men still expressed hostility toward females through physical and sexual abuse of naked black women.

Modesty, sexual purity, innocence and a submissive nature were the qualities associated with womanhood and femininity that enslaved black women endeavored to attain even though the conditions under which they lived continually undermined their efforts.

Thus, interestingly, rather than taking pride in their ability to labor in the fields with men, black women wanted to be sheltered like white women were.  And black men also followed the traditional gender roles.

In keeping with the sexual politics of 19th century America, many black slave men felt very strongly that it was their duty to provide for the economic well-being of their family and they felt bitter resentment and remorse that the slave system did not enable them to fulfill this role.

This traditional gender role transcends race.  Ain’t I a Woman was published in 1980, just a few years after I was born.  Women have made many strides since then to be self-sufficient, yet the obligation men of all colors feel to provide for their wives and children seems to have persisted into the twenty-first century.  I must say, though, that my husband is more than content for me to finance my own shopping excursions!


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