Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Black feminist book club: The black woman as keeper of the black man's sexuality

This year, I pledged to read more black feminist writing and I invited What Tami Said readers to join me. Right now, our Black Feminist Book Club is reading When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings. I welcome guest submissions on the content and themes of this book.


written by guest contributor Brown Girl Speaks
Black women like those at Lyric Hall responded to Ida B. Wells's antilynching campaign as not only a call to arms for the race, but for women specifically as well.
As we read along and discuss Paula Giddings's When and Where I Enter, the topic of the black woman as "the keeper" emerges. We are all too familiar with the notion of black women as keepers of the family, the black church, the black community, etc. Giddings's essay on Ida Wells-Barnett's anti-lynching campaign suggests that at some point, and possibly still, that we are also the keepers of the black man's sexuality.

It's pretty common knowledge that numerous lynchings occurred in the Jim Crow era because of often unfounded rape accusations of white women against black men. Sometimes these allegations were even brought on by other white family members in order to protect them from the scandal of their daughters'/sisters'/ wives' secret sexual relations with black men. Giddings notes that historian A. Philip Bruce attributed the black man's lust for the white woman to the black woman's own sexual prowess. A lasciviousness exceeding that of the black man and one of which he could not satiate. And being the brute that he is, he had no choice but to force himself upon the chaste white woman.

Alright, I'll let you collect yourself from the hysterical laughter that rubbish ensued.

Are black women responsible for keeping the black man's penis in check? Do we even want the job? I think I can safely speak for all and say “no” on both questions. I gather that this conversation might have been more appropriate and substantial in another era but not in today's climate. Even though the notion of miscegenation is still present in the minds of many, it's no longer the dominant school of thought. When looking at the question in retrospect, I believe the answer is still 'no'. Every individual is responsible for her or his own sexual liaisons then and now.

It's shameful to think that black women were demonized sexually not only as seductresses of white men but also as not keeping the black man's sexual appetite under control and it's ludicrous attribution to the lynching of numerous black men.


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