Angela Davis Chapters 9-13

14 Mar

In Chapter 9, Angela Davis outlines the relationship between class and gender on the suffrage movement. In the Civil War era, white women began working outside their homes more than ever despite the still present male supremacy in the labor movement. Black workers created a black labor organization to separate themselves from the “white fellow citizens” who practiced exclusionary policies. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were greatly involved in women’s labor struggles through publication of Revolution to publicize grievances, strategies, and goals. However, they never accepted the principle of trade unionism due to their failure to prioritize black liberation in the movement over the interests of white women. Davis exposes the truth to the racist roots of the suffrage movement in their anti-black and bourgeois perspective and argues that the working class women and black women are linked to their men by the exploitation of their social class and racist opression. Davis recognizes the factors of sex, class, and race and how they influences the suffrage movement but confirms the deep rooted racism that hindered black suffragists. Even after the victory of the women’s suffrage movement, women of color were continued to be turned away from the ballots and faced discrimination.

In Chapter 10, Angela Davis speaks on the role of women in Communism and its link to the women’s movement. From a historical perspective, women seemed to be absent from the socialist movement. Women became attracted to the struggle for social change and began to be influenced by Marxism as they supported the battle for women’s equality as well as women’s suffrage. Like Davis argued to Chapter 9, their was little to no acknowledgement of black oppression and racism but their were key players in the black liberation movement. Lucy Parsons, a black woman involved in labor struggles in the socialist labor party who was arrested for initiation of radical speeches regarding the “racism and sexism that is overshadowed by the capitalists overall exploitation of the working class. Ella Reeve Bloor and Anita Whitney were allies of the black liberation movement as a communist who supported the working classes’ struggle to end racism among the socialist cause. 

In Chapter 11, Angela Davis address the correlation between rape and racism’s role throughout history. Davis introduces the myth of the black rapist, that concerns the incidicents of rape of a black women by her white employer or maser without any justifiacation or repercussions from the law. She emphasizes the continued pattern of abuse of black men and women and reinforces slavery and racist morals. However, Davis also touches on the idea that men of color are prone to commit sexual violence agaisnt women. Susan Brownmiller claims that “black men’s historical oppression has placed many of the legitimate expressions of male supremacy beyond their reach in which they resort to violence”. Davis immediately shuts down Brownmiller’s argument to say that these stem from racist ideologies and is disproven by rape reprot statistics of women being assualted at the hand of a slave. She also claims the dangers of the myth and how the instiution of lynching expressed racist terror that instilled fear and also made it easy to place blame on the victims.

Angela Davis in Chapter 12 writes about the campaign for reproductive rights that began with the demand for birth control that affected women of all classes and races. Davis exposes the racist premises birth control movement was built upon that can provide an explanation for the absence of racially oppressed women in the movement. People of color were highly suspect of the birth control movement due to its correlation to sterilization that was an extreme case of racism. Women of color have historically poor success rates with abortions and have experiences linked to sexual abuse under slavery. Abortions are acts of desperation and Davis argues the presence of class-bias and racism in the birth control movement. Women of color who have less than ideal working condition turn to abortion so that they do not have to bring another life into the world to continue the cycle of oppression. The distinct perspectives from a middle class white woman who won’t support anti-sterilization and women of color who are being urged to become permanently infertile. Davis argues that white women fight a struggle for reproductive rights while ignoring the issues at hand that affects racial oppressed women.

In the final Chapter, Angela Davis discusses housework or the chores that are stereotypically given to the females of the household. The women’s movement worked to liberate themselves from “women’s work” and redistribute housework equally to men and women. To transform these ideals Davis focuses on “desexualization of domestic labor” but the capitalist economy that framed housework to be the inferior position created many struggles. For black women and the working class the negative notion of housework can be shifted with socialization of childcare and other domestic labors. Davis argues the idea that housework falls solely on women is vital in women’s liberation. Working women are therefore advocating for the struggle for socialism but under capitalist industries leaves work for more transformation of society. 

Angela Davis exposes the reality of the deep rooted racism and oppression in women’s movements involving suffrage, reproductive rights etc. that are failed to be mentioned when being taught historically. Why is it important to acknowledge the struggles of black or lower class women in regards to women’s liberation?

In chapter 11, the myth of the black rapist has many layers, but how can the stigma behind sexual violence and black men be dismantled?

Were white women benefitting from not supporting women of color in their work to end sterilization? How can white women expect women of color to support the birth control movement when they are not liberated from the freedom of their own fertility?

5 Replies to “Angela Davis Chapters 9-13

  1. It is important to acknowledge the struggles of black or lower class women in regards to women’s liberation because the goal of the movement is to end all forms of oppression. Excluding the voices of women of color and of the working/lower class is a form of oppression in itself and goes against the very goal of the movement. They essentially silencing the very people they claim the movement is for. Ignoring these struggles in the women’s liberation movement leads to an incorrect portrayal of what actually happened in history.
    White women were indeed benefiting from not supporting women of color in their work to end sterilization because it stems from a belief of inferiority and props up some white women’s belief that they are the only ones capable of being in charge of the movement. Since it does not directly affect them, they are able to easily ignore it similar to the issue of work and how many women already had to work. I think white women expected women of color to support birth control when they are not liberated from the freedom of their own fertility because they struggled to see things from the perspective of women of color.
    The stigma behind sexual violence and black men can be dismantled once terms that describe black people as inhuman such as ‘super predator’ and the stigma of black people being hypersexual ends. In order to truly get rid of the stigma and racial bias, both parties must be viewed as human beings and not as an ‘other’.

  2. Davis writes in her book about the racism in the women’s movement, which is crucial because women can not achieve liberation if the movement does not include all women. It is important to notice the struggles of black or lower class women because without them, women as a group will never be truly equal. White women have benefitted from the oppression of black women many times before as Davis illustrates. By excluding black women, white women could appeal to women in the South in their promotions of the women’s rights movements. When it came time to support black people, white people in the women’s movement avoided this and used openly racist language. Historically, white middle class women have had more opportunity for safe healthcare, birth control, and abortion access because they have financial agency and privilege. White women have a history of expecting things from women of color without thanks or support in return, so it is not surprising that white women expect women of color to support the birth control movement. Freedom of fertility should be available to all women regardless or race or socio-economic status.

  3. I just watched “Just Mercy” for one of my Leadership classes and it made me think of Davis’s Chapter 11. I have not read the book “Just Mercy” but the movie was very well made. The movie (and the book obviously) are about Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who works to get people off of death row. The man he got off death row in this story was Walter McMillian who was a black man accused of murdering a white woman in Alabama. But he did not kill her and there was no evidence against him. The police simply needed someone to hold accountable for the death so the community could “be at peace” so they accused him and sentenced him to death row before his trial even happened. This reminded me of Chapter 11 because Davis speaks to the well-known falsely based idea that black men are dangerous. In her chapter, Davis tells us “While therapists have seldom been brought to justice, the rape charge has been indiscriminately aimed at Black men, the guilty and innocent alike. Thus, of the 455 men executed between 1930 and 1967 on the basis of rape convictions, 405 of them were Black.”

  4. In regard to your first question, it is important to recognize the struggles of black and lower-class women in women’s liberation as most of the movement centers on the upper-class women. In textbooks and other historical works, the bourgeoise white women consistently stand at the forefront of the narratives. Even Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony took part in writing a history of the women’s suffrage movement which was filled of their experiences as well as their white colleague’s experiences but the stories from black and lower-class women were left out. These black and lower-class women were the first to bring attention to the complexity of life and expand feminism beyond the single identity (introduction of intersectional with reform in the workplace, address how race plays a role with gender, etc.). In addition, by acknowledging these figures in a history class allows for the development of thoughts surrounding issues of gender beyond that of a privileged, wealthy, white perspective. The exposure to these historical figures provides a depth to the women’s movement and furthermore feminist theory that many students are not exposed to until they seek it out themselves. With this exposure, it can slowly impact the larger culture and allow for more critical analysis surrounding feminism without having to be heavily invested (not difficult to find; make it more accessible information and incorporate it into curriculums).

  5. Historically, feminist movements have been led and powered by upper and middle-class white women. They have fought for the liberation of women but have constantly ignored the struggles of black women, women of color, and women of lower socioeconomic status. The struggle of these oppressed groups must be recognized to achieve women’s liberation. White women have the privilege of ignoring the struggles of these minority groups without it affecting them. They expect black women and women of color to support their fight while not giving them a platform to speak about their own agenda. This is especially present in the fight for birth control, while black women and women of color had their own fight against forced sterilization. Without black women, women of color, and women in lower socioeconomic status, the feminist movement would not have the following and support that it has today. Thus, all women must be given platforms to speak about their individual struggles to achieve women’s liberation in end all sorts of oppression.

Comments are closed.