The book, 'Aren't I a Woman?' explores the challenges that women faced in the antebellum America. The author has focused to address the challenges of sexuality and racism that affected many women of this age. The author, Deborah Gray is a Professor at Scott University, who has focused her study in examining the issues of justice and social inequality in society. She is interested in this study as she attempts to explain the challenges of sexuality and racism that has affected the women from minority races in the United States. Her focus is to lead the readers of her work to begin understanding the challenges that women have faced from the antebellum America to the current day. Through a better understanding of these issues, better remedies may be developed to help the affected women in the society. Indeed, without an in-depth understanding of the issues of sexuality, and racism, and their impact on women: it may be difficult to address the issue (White 58).
Professor White wrote this book to explain to her audience of the challenges that black women in the antebellum South. Her focus was to place black women in the context of the ideologies embraced in the antebellum South. She expounds on the pain and bitter experiences that women of this time went through, as they came into terms with the ideologies of a physically inert, dependent, and hard labor lives for the black women. The entire experiences enable the reader to understand the nature of dehumanization and harassment that was subjected to the black women in the society (White 17). Professor White wrote the book to increase the awareness level on the plight of women, especially those coming from the minority races in the United States. The book finally explores on how the women gained their rights back, held their family, and redefined their position in the society.
2.0. Sexism & Racism on Women
Professor White addresses the subject of 'sexism, and racism' among the black women in Antebellum America. She explains on how the black women living in America of the time faced with the dual burden of racism and sexism. The black women in the South lived with this challenge as they worked in the plantations making the women suffer greatly. The author admits that the new ideology made the women assume new roles and responsibilities in the society. They were contrasted with the traditional and mainstream family values in the contemporary American society. This was a great challenge because women who were treated with less human dignity by virtue of the fact that they were women and were black. The pain greatest pain was that they were dehumanized not only on their female gender, but also for being black amongst the White society (White 29).
The book deeply explores the intersection of gender and race and relates this to the stereotyped ideology of the female slaves of the time. It is evident that the black slave women in the society of the time went through a dark experience in their daily real lives as they coped with life. The slave women in the plantations lived with dual burdens of racism and sexism. This made many of them to take the roles within their family and community that were contrary to the female gender in the American society. In other words, these women were disadvantaged within the context of the ideologies assumed in defining the lives of the black American women. A number of myths about sexuality and color stereotyped female slaves within the context of their lives, making many of women experience pain and difficulties at the time (White 13).
White's book "Aren't I a Woman?" places black women in the context of the southern feminine belief/ideal of a hard labor, dependent, and physically inert female. In this context, White explains that the black women who lived in southern USA during the antebellum season were victimized by the development of this ideology in the society. This ideology made many of the black women to be subjected to poor pay and harsh living conditions to make them dependent. It was held that a woman should be dependent, and should not be accorded with much independence in conducting her life. This made many of the black women to face restrictions on expressing their wishes, and values, and the restrictions of making their lives as they would want. The women were provided with an environment that limited their growth and development leading to a high level of dependency among the black women in the society (White 27).
In addition, the black women also were subjected to live within the context of the ideology that a woman is physically inert and provides hard labor. This ideology saw many of the women to be subjected to slavery, and full participation in providing hard labor. Black women were highly involved in providing hard labor, a role that many of the white women in the mainstream society did not play. The black women were involved in providing hard labor, through providing labor in the plantations, and the homes of the white people. The involvement of black women in providing hard labor made them suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally as they tried to cope with this life at the time. A number of them developed sicknesses, and complications because of the strain involved in providing hard labor in the plantations (White 32).
The author also places the black women in the context of the southern feminine belief/ideal of dehumanization of black women. In this context, the black women were treated as less humans as contrasted with their white counterparts. Dehumanization much characterized the lives of the black slave women because of the attitude that is developed by the whites in the society. White argues that the slave woman's identity defined by the white society was not regarded among the black women in the South. She writes,
"For antebellum black women… sexism was but one of three constraints…. They were slaves because they were black, and even more than sex, color was the absolute determinant of class in antebellum America" (p. 15).
White finally identifies the lifestyle of the enslaved black women leading thereby enhancing the accuracy in exploring the lives of the antebellum slave women. White explores the prevailing beliefs/images held by the white Americans on black women. She argues that the whites defined the black women, who lived in the plantation society as sexually insatiable females, whose immoral appetites was much differentiated with the more ideally pious and pure Southern white woman. The black slave women were also viewed as kind-hearted Mammy, whose intent is to care for her master's children, and take care of the entire plantation household.
The author argues that these images / view of black women bring about the reality of the role of women in the plantation household. She argues that the black women slaves were expected to give birth to children, thereby boosting the numbers of the slave population. However, she notes strongly that the 'motherhood' aspect of the black women slaves in the United States did not manage to prevent the southern white community from dehumanizing the black women. Instead, many of the slave women often incurred the sexual harassment from their own masters, leading them to take on sexual roles that gave them a negative image. In addition, these experiences made the women not enjoy their humanized roles within this society (White 25).
The author explains further that the black slave women in the plantation society functioned in different roles compared with the white women. She explains that the women in the white society formed strong bonds among themselves, and with their families. This is as opposed to the plantation society, where most of the black slave women were treated as property, and they did not find easy ways to manipulate their situations. The consequence is that most of the women in this context suffered through pain and struggle. She notes that even some black slave women had to feign sickness just to avoid being taken through backbreaking work that was part of their daily work (White 38).
White's arguments in the book are effective. This is because her work looks more of a narrative of slave experiences that black slave women faced in the Antebellum America. The book highlights to the reader into the pains of life faced by the black women in the Antebellum America. White uses this opportunity to explain her own view on the subject, and the need for much to be done to protect women from dehumanization. In addition, she narrates cases like women feigning to be sick to avoid engaging in hard labor and other activities.
3.0 What worked or did not work for me?
The most interesting thing about the book was the slave narratives that the author explained. The narration on the experiences that the slave women faced as contrasted with the one of their white counterparts captured my attention. Indeed,…