Prepared byİbrahim KOÇPhD CandidateIstanbul Aydin University
bell hooksHer real name is Gloria JeanWatkins, but she is better known byher pen name bell hooks(intentionally uncapitalized). She isan American leftistauthor, feminist, postmodernpolitical thinker and cultural critic.Her writing has focused on;• interconnectivity of race• capitalism• gender• systems of oppression and• class dominationhooks has addressed race, class, and gender ineducation, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism, primarilythrough a postmodern perspective.
ContentsOneSexism and the Black Female Slave ExperienceTwoContinued Devaluation of Black WomanhoodThreeThe Imperialism of PatriarchyFourRacism and Feminism: The Issue of AccountabilityFiveBlack Women and Feminism
Ain’t I a Woman Black Women and Feminism examines;• the impact of sexism on black woman during slavery,• the historic devaluation of black womanhood,• black male sexism,• the marginalization of black women,• racism within the recent women‟s movement and,• black women‟s involvement with feminismIt is widely considered as a response to the literature, whichspoke to and about white middle-class women and largelyignored black and minority women of lower socioeconomicbackgrounds.
• sexism seems as important as racism as anoppressive force• sexism and racism together caused blackwomen having the lowest status and worstconditions of any group in American society• black women are all but ignored• feminism is (should be) a movement to endsexism, sexist exploitation and oppression• scholars deliberately minimize the black femaleslave experience
The source of sexism;• white colonizers from Europe brought sexismfrom their homelands to colonized lands• a black woman slave was usually cheaperthan a black man slave on the slave market• planters recognized an economic profit inhaving black women slaves on purpose ofslave breeding• black women‟s perfect obedience madethem an ideal subject for slavery
tortures were the initial stages of an introductionprocess that would transform the African freehuman being into a slave. An important part ofthe slavers‟ mission was transform African peopleinto passive, quiet workers. According to whiteslave owners and traders point of view in order toshow proper slave behaviors Africans should betortured. Slavers define these tortures as taming.Here taming means turning African people intodomestic animals
• to prepare Africans for the slave market, tradersfirst remove their names and status and thenslaves from different parts of Africa were put insame groups so they couldn‟t communicatewith the others without a common language.• when they landed, they were ready to dowhatever their white masters ordered becausethey want to survive.
Black men were dehumanized solely as a result ofnot being able to be patriarchs implies that thesubjugation of black women was essential to theblack male‟s development of a positive self-concept. This idea only served to support a sexistsocial order. (p.20)
• white slave traders didn‟t give any harm to themasculinity of black men• they could have physically castrated all blackmen aboard slave ships, but they didn‟t (p.21)• but black women were forced to assume a“masculine” role• Institutionalized sexism was a social system thatprotected male sexuality and it socially legitimizedsexual exploitation of black females
• the political aim of categorical rape of blackwomen by white males was to obtain absoluteobedience to the white imperialistic order• The brutal treatment of enslaved black womenby white men a direct consequence ofmisogynist attitudes toward women thatprevailed in American society• the Salem Witchcraft trials were a message to allwomen that unless they remained withinpassive, subordinate roles they would bepunished, even put to death
• colonial white men expressed their fear andhatred of women-hood by institutionalizing sexistdiscrimination and sexist oppression• after the 19th century the shift away from theimage of white women as sinful and sexual to thatof white women as virtuous lady (mother andhelpmeet) occurred at the same time as masssexual exploitation of enslaved black women• they were naturally seen as the embodiment offemale evil and sexual lust
• contemporary sexist scholars minimize the impactof sexual exploitation of black women on the blackfemale psyche and argue that white men used therape of black women to further emasculate blackmen• breeding was oppressive to all fertile black slavewomen• sex roles in black slave subculture mirrored those ofwhite America.Cooking, cleaning, nursing, washing up, mendingthe clothes and even minor farm work were seenas women work.
• in the second chapter the writer discusses thesocial and political impact of sexual exploitation ofblack women during the slavery period• sexual exploitation and sexism against blackwomen is still valid• predominant image of black women is that of the“fallen” woman, the slut, the whore, the prostitute• white men continued to sexually assault blackwomen long after slavery ended
According to hooks, in terms of power, it goes something likethis:1. White men: can oppress all of the following.2 – 3 White women - Black men: Black men are oppressedby white men, but can in turn oppress black women. Theycan also oppress white women through gender, though itmight be tricky. Rather, this is the most accepted form ofinterracial marriage. White women can be oppressed bywhite men, but they can also oppress black women, andmay be even more ruthless doing so, to enact a power theywould not be able to yield otherwise.4. Black women: Can be oppressed by all the above.Their experiences are largely ignored by both the feministand the racial equality movements, erasing their history andnegating their existence.
Most Americans, including blackpeople, acknowledge and accept this hierarchy;they have internalized it either consciously orunconsciously. And for this reason, all throughAmerican history, black male rape of whitewomen has attracted much more attention andis seen as much more significant than rape ofblack women by either white or black men (p.53)
• many black women attempted to shift the focus ofattention away from sexuality by emphasizing theircommitment to motherhood• white male slave-owners created a body of myths todiscredit the contributions of black females• even black women see themselves through thesenegative myths and stereotypes• the term „matriarchs‟ is no way accurately described thesocial status of black women in America. No matriarchyhas ever existed in the United States• as a consequence of all these facts mass sexualexploitation of enslaved black women was a directconsequence of the anti-women sexual politics of colonialpatriarchal America