Review of “The Struggle of Negro Women For Sex and Race Emancipation” by Elise Johnson McDougald

Elise Johnson McDougald distinguishes the many roles played by women and focuses on concerns of racial equality.

McDougald is not fully challenging the stereotypes generally associated with black women in society.  In fact, she is somewhat enforcing it, saying that society is right about black women, just not all black women.  McDougald’s claim for recognition relies on putting down some classes of black women and her moral obligation is to get recognition from white people.  She wants to gain allegiance from middle class white women but in this process she loses respect from the women within her own race.  She plays into dominant ideals and stereotypes in order to be recognized.

McDougald puts emphasis on the fact that all black women are differently endowed.  She realizes that black women are excluded as an entirety and instead of being associated with grace and loveliness; we are equated with the grotesque Aunt Jemimas.  She thinks that the low class black women act as an impediment for the entire black race and the few who have proven their preeminence are still associated with ignorance and the denotation of being a black woman.

She believes that black women should be separated into class on the basis of activity.  In society we are already separated into class, but McDougald believes that black women should generally be associated with their works and not labeled as how society depicts an African American woman.  It is said that black women have lower standards and do not practice morality.  In response to that, she says that critics who have acclaimed such theory have only had contact with “the lower grades of Negro women”. (McDougald 81)

She highlights the accomplishments of many African American women as if they have gone unnoticed.  She wants to gain recognition as a successful black woman.

(Possibly going off on a tangent) Personally, speaking on the basis of sexism and racism is a tactful subject.  It all goes back to when the European people classified race into existence because we did not look like them.  It was then that we developed race and became knowledgeable of the fact that we were “different”.  Then our entire lives, we spend our time trying to live up to the expectations of white people and to become “civilized” just as they are.  The Europeans decided that Cherokee Indians were similar to them in response to color and referred to them as “brown “ white people.  They said that the skin of the Indians was just burned by the sun rays, but they could be civilized to be like whites.  Who is to say what is civil and who gives them the power to take ownership for setting standards in society?  We, as black people were oppressed for so long and spend the duration of our lives fighting for things that should have always been rightfully ours.  McDougald focuses too much on gaining recognition from white people instead of just having that self-admiration and understanding of possibly never being fully accepted by the white race.  It is one thing to desire equality, but when on the basis of gaining equality requires putting down your own race, it is no longer equality of race nor mankind, but only gaining recognition based on performance.  I am not sure her intentions were fulfilled.

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About sydneybrown

Literary courses at Spelman College ask us students to "acquire skills in the critical reading and analysis of diverse forms of literature from fiction and drama to poetry, autobiography and historical texts." This blog will furnish you with thoughts concerning various readings assigned by Dr. Sherman in the First Year Composition class SENG 103-09 at Spelman College. Engage in active learning...
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