Gender Issues in Twelve Years a Slave Essay

  • Length: 3 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: American History
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #49741679

Excerpt from Essay :

slavery is all about power and exploitation, it makes sense that the women depicted in the 2013 Steve McQueen movie Twelve Years a Slave are systematically abused, even the white women. In the film, Eliza, Patsey, and Harriet were all sexually abused by white men, revealing the intersectionality of power. However, it is also important to point out that Mistress Epps is also abused by Master Epps, showing how white males wield power in a hierarchical social system in which women of color are at the bottom. The role of women in Twelve Years a Slave is complicated because some understand that they need to submit and even pretend to enjoy the sex in order to stay alive and protect their own children.

Question 1: Did the male slaves defend the women and children, why or why not?

This question is difficult to answer because some men do try to defend the women and children in the film and are severely punished for it. Early in the film, a slave on the transport defends Eliza and he is then murdered for his actions. Showing this scene early in the movie underscores what McQueen is trying to say about the role that male slaves had in antebellum America. McQueen shows right away that male slaves cannot be held accountable for not standing up or speaking out because when they did, they were killed and there would always be another male slave to take
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his place and remain silent to the beatings and brutality.

Slavery is a system of power as much as it is an economics system, but all economics systems are systems of power and exploitation. The male slaves might have technically had more power than women in terms of their gender status in general but when it comes to their power vis-a-vis the whites, they had none. It could even be said that the male slaves lack the power of using their sexuality as a playing card, which the women are able to do. Eliza and Harriet, for example, know that they can use their sexuality as a playing card to gain them access to a slightly more secure situation for themselves and their children. The intersection between race and gender in Twelve Years a Slave is abundantly clear, referring to what Solorzano refers to as "racial and gender microaggressions," (121).

Question 2: What role did gender play in assigning jobs and chores on the plantation? How old did children begin to work?

The children of slaves were born into slavery. They never had any other chance, and their gender was the main factor determining who would buy the slave and how the slave was used. Although men were probably used for sex, this would not have occurred as openly as using female slaves for sex. Using female slaves for sex was considered normative, which is why it is depicted so openly in the McQueen film Twelve Years a Slave.

As Schafer points out, the system…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

McQueen, Steve. Twelve Years a Slave. [Feature Film], 2013.

Schafer, Judith K. "Open and Notorious Concubinage": The Emancipation of Slave Mistresses by Will and the Supreme Court in Antebellum Louisiana. Louisiana History, Vol 28, No. 2, Spring 1987, pp. 165-182.

Solorzano, Daniel G. "Critical race theory, race and gender microaggressions, and the experience of Chicana and Chicano scholars." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Volum 11, Number 1, pp. 121-136, 1998.

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