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Author: Rachel Nugent

Response #2 for Sept. 11

“Not every man is a tyrant, but the law gives every man the right of tyranny.” This was the most powerful sentence in the video. It’s so relevant even now, because of things in the world like the “not all men” response to the “me too” movement. Tons of men went around telling stories of how while some men are awful and don’t respect women, they do respect women so therefore not all men are deplorable. But similar to how the “all lives matter” phrase undercuts the power of the BLM movement, saying “not all men” is stripping women of their voice. The idea behind it is that no, of course it’s not all men, but it is enough men. It’s enough men that women are afraid. And that’s what I think links this quote about the law giving men the right to tyranny. Too many times, we have seen in this country a profound lack of punishment for a man who sexually assaults a woman. When the concern is greater for the fact that “this criminal accusation could ruin this young man’s life” than it is for the actual physical, emotional and psychological impressed upon a woman without her consent which will also, in fact, ruin her life. This lack of response to this specific type of violence against women is exactly what they mean when they say “the law gives every man the right of tyranny.” No, not every man is going to capitalize on the fact that he won’t be punished for assaulting a woman. But even the fact that he can is a very scary thought. And it’s powerful quotes like these which force us to acknowledge how vast the difference of right for men and women in America actually is.

The other thing that jumped out at me in the video was the fact that the 15th amendment split the supporters of women’s suffrage. This made me think of Crenshaw’s idea of intersectionality. People were talking about the rights of white women and the rights of black men. Black women were completely ignored in the conversation. And of course, we discussed in class how suffragists and abolitionists originally banded together because they were political activists fighting for social reform and they thought if everyone is equal than everyone really should be equal. But with the presentation of the 15th Amendment, it became the case where some people were being given rights and they thought, “Hey, that’s better than nothing,” but of course for those that were not receiving rights the obvious response was, “No, this isn’t what we wanted, what we were fighting for.” So the two ended up being divided when, like Crenshaw says, it’s more beneficial for them to be intertwined.


Response #1 for Sept. 5

Olaudah Equiano’s retelling of his life’s events is an interest account, not just because of the nature of its contents, but because of the way in which it is written. As I was reading, I was surprised by how unemotional his writing felt. Of course, there were moments when he described to us his feelings of fear and sorrow and other negative emotions, but overall, for an autobiography, it felt very polished and almost manufactured. As a reader of this piece in 2019, I found myself feeling disconcerted at how calmly Equiano comes across, and how easily he gives praise away to the people who enslaved him. In today’s society, I think it’s very commonplace for people to worry over themselves and their situation and then possibly tack on “well, it could be worse,” but in the case of Equiano, who saw horrible things very frequently, he definitely focuses on that “it could be worse” mentality. He accepts his position in life because he knows first hand that his life could be far worse off. Towards the end of his writing, he does talk about his excitement at finally being free, and to me it almost feels like it’s a freedom from that “it could be worse” mentality. After receiving his freedom, he can safely say, “it was worse.”

The part of Murray’s work which really spoke to me was, “Are we deficient in reason? We can only reason from what know, and if an opportunity of acquiring knowledge hath been denied us, the inferiority of our sex cannot fairly be deduced from thence.” This speaks to me, because I think it’s so relevant today. Not specifically about a disparity between men and women, but because of the way we talk about “equality” in America. People like to think that everyone in America is equal because they can, theoretically, do whatever they want, just like everyone else and that, therefore, makes them equal. However, in our country there is a lack of equal opportunity, which does not allow people to behave in equal ways with others. People say that if poor people want to have money and food and shelter, they should get a job and work harder. But those same people may have been born into a neighborhood which has a poor education system. So they were unable to go to college and receive the education necessary for a better paying job. I just think that Murray really touches on something very key. People do not control their circumstances. Her point is that it’s not women’s fault that they were born women and therefore weren’t educated in the same way their male peers were. Their lack of knowledge or understanding does not come inherently, it’s a lack of access to the resources used to acquire those skills. I believe we have similar issues today.