Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Violence against Black Women (cont)

bell hooks wrote of perceptions of black women in America
the predominant image is that of the fallen woman, the whore, the slut, the prostitute.*
And that image is no longer a person but a thing.

A "devalued Jezebel," according to Patricia Hill Collins. The thing that justifies exploitation of black women, especially sexual exploitation. We, as things, are weak, permissive, immoral, somehow asking for "it"... or deserving of "it."

Which is why Crystal Gail Mangum was rarely a woman, a mother, a student.

She was a STRIPPER.

An object for titillation, for judgment, for hatred

A commodity that had been paid for,

A transaction in which she was presumed to not only have sold her body.

but her credibility.

And it's why the woman survivor in Dunbar Village could be dismissed as a hooker.

If she's a "hooker" then we don't have to

pay attention

be outraged.

And it's why Megan Williams's old warrants are suddenly urgent.

So urgent that she must be arrested and have
the judge put her in A HOLDING CELL AFTER AN ORDEAL WHERE SHE HAD JUST BEEN IN ONE FOR A WEEK
Because then the way she is portrayed changes from object (it's always object isn't it, even when the attention is sympathetic) of compassion to object of suspicion, of distrust.

And the questions shift away from grossly violent, repeat offenders to how might this criminal have brought this on herself?

(I mean, weren't people sort of asking it already reflecting on her previous relationship with one of her attackers?).

Why the push to cast doubt, to discredit, to malign? Because, according to hooks, Jezebel--that image, that thing, that less-than-(white)-woman--is an animal.

And "an animal cannot be raped."

Deborah Gray White recounts an argument set forth by a white man in the 19th century that focused on pseudo-scientific facts about the size and depth of white and black genitalia, the fragile flower-ness of white women, and the inherent, always-sexually-ready nature of blacks. His conclusion was that the rape of white women by black men is devastating.

But black women could not be raped.

And his argument was accepted, believed, heralded. It was, after all, just a codification of what had long been accepted, believed, heralded. Ingrained in a country in which violence against women of color by individuals is a reflection of the violence perpetuated against us by the state everyday. In health centers, social services offices, schools, jails.

And against such malignant thought and treatment, according to Gray White, black women defended themselves. Then. Now. Always.

But sometimes, Jezebel seems stronger than all our defenses. You see, the power of Jezebel, is that even when we are not physically attacked, (and Lord, when is that?), we are battered with the image as it it taught, reinforced, strengthened.

So that when we do rise up against our commodification, exploitation, objectification, then Jezebel is wielded to discredit us, to silence us, to label us, to imprison us.

But the image cannot be stronger than reality, can it?

A reality of our struggling, fighting, defending, surviving. Even when we are tired.

Because always being in opposition is tiring.

But we have to keep on. And to the question of how we keep on, one very wise woman says,
Now is the time to rise up in a way that creates new worlds. we need to be spreading the word on how to organize, how to base build in the community, how circumvent the police when you're getting your ass kicked, etc. We need a whole new fucking world---this one is fucking poison to us. nothing but poison.

7 comments:

Gwyneth Bolton said...

Well said, Elle. Brilliant, astute and on-point analysis.

Gwyneth

Ramblings...acVernon Menchan said...

Well, well, well Ms. Elle,

so well said, I cring everytime I hear the name Jezebel...always have...thanks for this post...

Love and Blessings
angelia

Blackamazon said...

I love you so much

Don said...

I agree, you broke it down to where it can no longer be broke.

Good ish.

elle said...

Thank you all. Gwyn, you know it means the world to me when you compliment my writing :-)

And BA, that love is returned.

Patricia W. said...

Deep.

So the poor, uneducated, Black woman cannot be raped.

And the not-so-poor, educated Black woman cannot be raped.

And the wealthy, educated or not, Black woman cannot be raped.

Deep.

This one's going to stay with me for a while. Story ideas are bubbling.

SEE AUTHORS at BALTIMORE BOOK FESTIVAL! said...

Elle, you just added a new chapter to the Dred Scott Case. A chapter that has too long been left out of the books. A very poignant delivery, too!

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...