Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Necessity for Variations in Black Women Portrayals

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In class on Monday, a large portion of discussion was spent discussing Celie’s potential passivity. A sizeable portion of the class felt that such a portrayal should not exist and that black women characters should be much stronger, such as Sophie’s character. But I feel that there needs to be a wide range of portrayals of black women, in order to provide a better cross section of the types of personality that black women have. Otherwise there is a very strong risk that strong black women who don’t take shit from anyone will become a stereotype. If that becomes the case, I don’t think (white) people will be able to recognize that they are still victims of oppression and abuse far more often than white women. Therefore, when we read fiction or non-fiction accounts of the abuse that unknown numbers of black women experience and have experienced within their own homes, its quite possible that these events will become surreal to them and they will not be compelled to have as strong a reaction to the book because they believe these women should be able to get out of the situation easily. The reader does not have the same background knowledge, emotions, or familiarity with their abuser as the woman who is being abused. Due to this, the reader may blame the protagonist for her situation because she is choosing to remain in it.

Going along with the topic of black women stereotypes, I worry that domestic violence legitimizes a black women’s strength of character; it wonder if (white but also possibly other colors) people would not be okay with her being strong without a tragic past. It is important to remember though, while I’m positing a contrarian depiction of black women, that there are even more characters than the dichotomy I’m suggesting here. Both of these stereotypes completely ignore the black women who did not grow up in poverty, stereotypes all black people as being poor and having to work endlessly from the bottom up (I don’t know where Celie and her family were on the soci-economic scale, so I’m caught between thinking they are in poverty (probably my racism at work) and they are middle class.

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