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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Black Feminist Thought

Student Name

Feb 17 2019

Soc 2370

Assignment 3: Black Feminist Thought

  1. After reading this passage, what are some of your first thoughts on the work of Hill Collins and her exploration of the limiting roles women of color in this country have been assigned?

It was interesting to read Hill Collins work. For the most part, I had never heard a black woman called a Mammy or a Matriarch.

I really like how this text showed examples through history of how stereotypes and images affect people on a personal level like in confidence and in a social context like how those images cause repercussions like leadership and household. It was very interesting to understand more on how political changes create new stereotypes to benefit a capitalism world.

The text states: “According to the cult of true womanhood that accompanied the traditional family ideal, “true” women possessed four cardinal virtues: piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity. African-American women encountered a different set of controlling images.” I differ in the sense that I feel we are all under some form of control. Especially in living the global capitalism life. Stereotypes/images made to feed on insecurities and cause social reactions that keep people trying for an unachievable balance between them. The text explains numerous times that when political changes surfaced, so did controlling images.


2.  Compare and contrast the “Mammy” and the “Matriarch” roles. Author Hill Collins contends that both roles are limiting. Explain.

The “Mammy” role is one that places a black woman as a caretaker for a white family. Faithful, obedient, domestic servant. A symbolic function in maintaining oppressions of gender and sexuality.

The “Matriarch” role symbolizes the mother figure in black homes. Overly aggressive, unfeminine, emasculating. A failed mammy because they didn’t meet the expectation of a submissive hard working servant.

They both are caretakers and fulfill the household duties, but the mammy is the good black mother and the matriarch is the bad. The matriarch is said to not be able to properly supervise their own children because they spend too much time out of their home. Both cause justification for oppressions of class, gender and race. They divert attention from political and economic inequalities that characterize global capitalism.


3.  How is the “welfare mother” image similar to the “Mammy” and “Matriarch”? How is the “Welfare Mother” limited and oppressed? 

The “welfare mother” image is similar to the “Mammy” and the “Matriarch” because its an image given to reduce empowerment.

It’s limited and oppressed by creating the image that black women who use social welfare benefits, entitled by law, are labeled or seen with a negative undertone. The black woman labeled a welfare mother is seen as someone who can live comfortably without working. A lazy life. All images imply a similar laziness and lack of care.


4.  How did the role of “Jezebel” work to legitimate widespread sexual assault against Black women?

The role of “Jezabel” helped to cause sexual assault among black women because men can possibly be assaulting women who are whorish and easy in the first place. They are seen as flaunting their sexuality and using it for gains that have negative repercussions for men. Deviant female sexuality.


5.  How are sexuality and fertility seen in each of the 4 roles?

Sexuality and fertility are seen in each of the four roles as opposite what would be considered positive and beneficial for the changing political economy. For example, the “welfare mother” justifies interest in limiting black women’s fertility because of unproductive children and uncontrolled sexuality. Other examples include the “Mammy” being a desexed individual and in the “black lady” image, fertility isn’t likely but she is considered a prime candidate for it with her asexuality.


6.  Explain how history can be connected to the roles and oppression of Black women through the years.

I loved seeing the chain of events explained that showed how history connected the images and oppression of black women.

The political changes caused a form of social control and manipulation through negative images to keep capitalism gains. It makes people have to work harder, and be flexible to increased workloads or working changes and be thicker-skinned mentally. The adapting required comes at a personal cost. The economy gets stronger but people have to alter their behavior and struggle to overcome their stigmas.

Black women were blamed for deteriorating US interests and seen as what was wrong with America, but immigrant labor took over for lack of slavery. They were a sort of scapegoat for changes in political moves.


7.  How does the field of Black Feminist Thought change the way we think about oppression?

The field of black feminist thought changes the way we think about oppression because it shows the background of where the oppression started and what its contributing factors are. A lot of change has to start from within their families and race too. They allow the oppression in ways by taking on submissive supporting roles in African-American organizations. Black women are expected to have a strong sense of family but have gendered family responsibilities and male counterparts accept the matriarchy thesis by also viewing black women with the stereotyped images.


8.    What may we gain by placing oppressed groups at the CENTER of analysis as opposed to earlier eras where oppressed groups were only seen through the eyes of the dominant group?

I think if we can understand whats its like in the oppressed groups position, we can make more considerate changes to the way our social systems are run. If people aren’t aware of the dilemmas then it can be impossible to make positive changes. All problems should be surfaced, discussed, and changeable by people who experience the oppression and people who don’t.

We need a balanced political system that allows for fair rules and policies and human treatment.


9.  When discussing the Matrix of Domination, Hill Collins states, “Each individual has a unique personal biography made up of concrete experiences, values, motivations, and emotions. No two individuals occupy the same social space; thus no two biographies are identical.” With this in mind, think about how your own matrix of domination would look like. Which categories give you power and which do not? (i.e. you may have race privilege and not gender privilege) How do these categories impact your life?

This is what I was getting at in my discussion post! Everyone lives different and unique lives so we should govern our lives with such respect and care. I would have my matrix of domination include race privilege and not gender privilege, for sure. I also fit into the category of appearance impacting my treatment. Seen as incapable by looks, but threatening to job security for expressed capability. These categories impact my life by making balance harder, they can create a temporary stronger mind and will power until feelings of insecurity and not being good enough take over or blatant oppression surfaces. Women against women for the social approval is also a factor.


10.  Compare and contrast Black Feminism with what dominant culture generally considers to be Classical Feminist Theory. Do you believe Black Feminism adds to the field? Explain.

I do think that Black feminism adds to Classical feminist theory. It’s definitely a gender issue in our global systems. I think women have to work extra hard fulfilling household and mother roles but also expected to pull their weight financially. The pay isn’t equal, job qualifications aren’t equal, and time spent definitely isn’t equal. Stereotypes limit, plays on insecurity take a toll and an overall balancing everything is a must. Tricks in media show a small percentage of famous women get paid amazing, but it just isn’t achievable for most women. It gives the illusion that women are treated equal or that it’s possible to be the ideal woman, but in reality, it’s almost impossible unless you fit that small percentage of the population.

Black feminism is different because the labels are different, but the oppression is in both black women and all women in general. Each is unique and keeps women racially separate instead of being unified feminists.

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