Gender-Based Violence against Black Women
U.S. Historical Context Heading link
Gender-based violence against Black women has always existed in the US. From historical accounts of chatell slavery to analyses of present day society, Black women have endured multiples forms of violence including labor (Hartman, 1997; National Partnership for Women and Families), sexual (Collins, 2006; Donovan & Williams, 2008), and medical (Owens, 2017; DEPO Provera: Deadly reproductive violence against women) exploitation.
Gender-based violence against Black women is normalized by a range of controlling images, created by dominant groups since slavery, that portray Black women as strong, dedicated, assexul, and submissive servants (mammy and Black lady), overly aggressive, unfeminine and bad mothers (matriarch), lazy and economic drains on state resources (welfare mother, welfare queen) as well as hypersexual and gold diggers (jezebel and “hoochie”) (Collins, 2000; 5 controlling images that affect Black women). These controlling images have been used to control
- black women’ sexuality and fertility as well as their participation in the larger society
- blame Black women for social inequalities that impact them and Black communities
- dismiss the role of structures in creating and perpetuating social inequalities
- preserve power in the hands of white elite
- and, justify the violence Black women are subjected to in different aspects of their lives
Black women have always engaged–individually and collective–in efforts to resist, survive and live in spite of structural and experiential gender-based violence. Drawing from research and the work of community organizations, we present information on Black women’s experiences with domestic violence, sexual abuse, workplace harrassment, state-sanctioned violence, reproductive health and healing to discuss the ways in which gender-based violence against Black women is ingrained in the everyday happenings of US society as well as to highlight Black women’s resistance.
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Medical Bondage by Deidre Cooper Owens
In Medical Bondage , Deirdre Cooper Owens examines a rage of scientific scholarship and less formal communication to discuss the ways nineteen-century pioneering advancement in medicine was grounded on the exploitation of Black women’s body and doctor’s the legitimization of racist beliefs about Blackness, whiteness, men and women, race, and inferiority (e.g., enslaved Black women could withstand pain better than white women). Owens shows how U.S. 19-century ideas about race, health, and status influenced doctor-patient relationships in different spaces (e.g., colleges of medicine, hospitals). Owens tells us the story from the perspective of Black women and other exploited groups (e.g., Irish immigrant women) offering us more critical and nuanced understanding of medical advancement and its connection with race, gender.
Wayward lives, Beautiful experiments by Saidiya Hartman
Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward lives, Beautiful experiments examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law.
Beloved by Tony Morrison
Beloved, a novel written by Tony Morrison, examines the violence of slavery as well as the resilience of Black women to survive and protect their loved-ones. Centered on the life stories of Sethe, a former enslaved Black woman who to protect her children from slavery tries to kill them, the novel presents the complexities of every day life for Black women during slavery as well as post-slavery for Black women especially as they navigate the traumas of sexual abuse, terror, humiliation, and fear.
Short news documentary: The US medical system is still haunted by slavery. This short documentary discuss the exploitation of Black women’s body in medical experimentation for the advancement of modern gynecology. It also presents statistical data on Black women’s health and its connection to the history of racism in medicine, including the mass sterilization of Black women in the 60’s and 70’s and the birth control campaigns target at Black teenage girls.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks chronicles Deborah Lacks’ search, aided by journalist Rebecca Skloot, to learn about the mother she never knew and understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs. Read More