After watching the YouTube video Dr. Evans posted, I could not stop myself from reading the comments people made about the video. A lot of the watchers loved the video, the music, the hair, the clothes, and the atmosphere of the party. However, there were comments that consisted of phrases like “black lesbian women” and revolved around themes of fornication and sin. I find it interesting that it seems that when there is a group of women with no man around, they are automatically labeled lesbian. I feel like these particular comments also touch upon the possibility that there is a fine line between being sensual and being sexual.
Despite these comments about the apparent sex in the video, what caught my attention more was a comment stating that there was not one white lady in the video, which constituted it being racist. I found this statement interesting because race and gender seem to be key characteristics that many people use to define or distinguish themselves and more importantly to do the same to other people.
The ways in which we use race and gender as characteristic markers each with their own attributes is exemplified in Ann Petry’s The Street. Specifically, in this novel race is used as a divider by women, separating white women from black women. This racial division within the gender of woman is clearly depicted by Mrs. Chandler’s friends, who are certain that Lutie or any other “good-looking colored wench” poses a sexual threat around Mr. Chandler because “they’re always making passes at men. Especially white men” (41). Furthermore, Mrs. Chandler’s mother holds the same regard toward Lutie, for Lutie is attractive and colored and “you know how they are” (45). These statements reflect the belief that to be young, attractive, and colored is to be a whore or sexually deviant. Because there is an emphasis on Lutie being colored, these statements also reflect the unspoken belief that women who are not colored (i.e., who are white) are not sexually promiscuous or sexually deviant. In sum, all women in general are failed to be seen as sexual beings which creates the them versus us mentality, where them are the sexually threatening colored girls and us are the properly behaved white girls. This mentality becomes ironic in that instead of worrying about colored girls, Mrs. Chandler’s friends should probably be more worried about Mrs. Chandler herself who appears to pay “a lot more attention to other women’s husbands” than her own husband (44). This racial emphasis on the gender of woman is similarly present when Lutie discovers that her husband is cheating on her with another woman. Upon seeing this other woman in her home with her husband and child, Lutie is hit with the realization that for months this “black bitch” had been intruding on her territory (54). Once again, women as a single group is overlooked because the other woman is not just a bitch, she is a black bitch. The descriptive use of black further perpetuates the idea that colored women are the ones who will ruin another woman’s marriage because sexual promiscuity is part of their disposition. In just the first four chapters of this novel, it appears that race is placed so far in the foreground that it overshadows the camaraderie women can achieve through a shared gender such as being seen as objects of sexual attraction by men. It will be interesting to see the progression of this barrier of race within the gender of woman.