Summary of the Readings
Author’s Main Point
The novel Corrigedora by Jones (1987) is a harrowing tale of sexual slavery of women in the hands of their white masters. The story, which is set in twentieth-century America, revolves around the experiences of a 1970s-blues singer (the narrator) and matrilineage stories of forced prostitution in Brazil. The fundamental idea in the novel is the commodification of a female’s sexual body in the context of the slave economy through forced silence – getting one’s “mouth stuffed” and head “hanged” (Jones, 1987, p. 67). In Continued Devaluation of Black Womanhood, Bell Hooks (1981) examines sexual victimization of black female slaves in a sexist society. He explains that rape was a tactic used by white men to dehumanize and dominate these women for economic gain.
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Citations from the Readings
Corrigedora relies on black folklore, dialects, and performance to paint a picture of the psychological struggle of women in twentieth-century America. Hooks (1981) cites scholars writing on black female experience during slavery. She relies on the work of a feminist writer Susan Brownmiller, the diary of Mary Checknut, and acts from Lorrain Hansberry’s play, among others, to illustrate sexual exploitation and its psychological impact on black womanhood.
Outline of Argument
A summary of the main points of the argument in the Corrigedora is given below:
- a family history of brutal experiences and loss;
- Ursa’s hysterectomy and marital problems;
- Matrilineage history of sexual slavery in Brazil;
- sexual victimization of the female body through sex, abuse, and suffering.
Hooks’ (1981) argument is outlined below:
- historical devaluation of black women in the South through rape;
- black women perceived as prostitutes in post-slavery America due to the sexist-racist conditioning of the people;
- black women suffer more from negative images than their male counterparts do;
- sexual abuse and other oppressive practices devalued black womanhood.
Reflection/Understanding of the Material
The analysis of the readings reveals the realities of black female experience during slavery. From texts, it can be understood that certain social practices, such as sexism, racial prejudice, and patriarchy, degrade women and create gender inequality. Under these conditions, black females are at risk of being sexually abused. In this regard, rape becomes a tool that men use to devalue and dominate women (Hooks, 1981). Evidently, power dynamics between the sexes have their roots in sexual slavery and victimization. The perpetrators of sexual exploitation of African American women were male slaves and white men. The readings point out that to the slave owners black women were ‘slave breeders’ who would multiply their slave labor and profits. This perception affected the social standing of African American females and made them victims of sexual exploitation for economic gain.
Reactions, Opinions, and Thoughts on the Material
Sexual commodification is an inheritance from past sexist and racist systems. These oppressive practices subjected black women to a lower social status compared to other sections of the population. In my opinion, the collective sexual trauma inherited from slavery is still structuring female experiences today. Issues of domestic violence and rape continue to dehumanize black women and degrade their sense of self. Matriarchs and equality advocates are not valued in the society, as they are perceived as a threat to the patriarchal system.
Hooks, B. (1981). Continued devaluation of black womanhood. In B. Hooks, Ain’t I a woman (51-63). Boston, MA: South End Press.
Jones, G. (1987). Corregidora. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.