By Deborah Gray White

Residing with the twin burdens of racism and sexism, slave girls within the plantation South assumed roles in the family members and neighborhood that contrasted sharply with conventional woman roles within the better American society. This new version of Ar'n't I a Woman? stories and updates the scholarship on slave ladies and the slave kinfolk, exploring new methods of realizing the intersection of race and gender and evaluating the myths that stereotyped girl slaves with the realities in their lives. chiefly, this groundbreaking learn indicates us how black girls skilled freedom within the Reconstruction South — their heroic fight to achieve their rights, carry their households jointly, withstand fiscal and sexual oppression, and preserve their feel of womanhood opposed to all odds.

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Extra resources for Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South

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Most of these works would not appear on the syllabi of feminist theory courses today. In fact, with one or two exceptions, this material is out of print, hard to find, or not well known. Significantly, work within feminist theory that is difficult to comprehend is more likely to be read in theory courses, especially on the graduate level. The recent rise to prominence of a particular style of French feminist theory which is linguis­ tically convoluted is an example of this trend. While such work enriches our understanding of gender politics, it is important to remember that this is not a universal discourse, that it is politically and culturally specific, and emerges from specific relationships particular French feminist scholars have to their political and social reality.

Recognition of the inter-connectedness of sex, race, and class highlights the diversity of experience, compelling TALKING BACK 23 redefinition of the terms for unity. If women do not share “common op­ pression,” what then can serve as a basis for our coming together? Unlike many feminist comrades, I believe women and men must share a common understanding— a basic knowledge of what feminism is— if it is ever to be a powerful mass-based political movement. In Feminist Theory: from margin to center, I suggest that defining feminism broadly as “a move­ ment to end sexism and sexist oppression” would enable us to have a com­ mon political goal.

This knowledge should consistently inform the direction of feminist theory and practice. Unfortunately, racism and class elitism among women has frequently led to the suppression and distortion of this connection so that it is now neces­ sary for feminist thinkers to critique and revise much feminist theory and the direction of feminist movement. This effort at revision is perhaps most evident in the current widespread acknowledgement that sexism, racism, and class exploitation constitute interlocking systems of domination—that sex, race, and class, and not sex alone, determine the nature of any female’s identity, status, and circumstance, the degree to which she will or will not be dominated, the extent to which she will have the power to dominate.

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