Harriet Jacobs Gender Equality

1695 Words 7 Pages
The stratification of society based not only on race but gender has held its roots in slavery especially for female slaves. In Harriet Jacobs's autobiography, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," she addresses three key points vital to understanding gender inequality in slavery: The "incidents" discussed failed to convince critics of her legitimacy. Male runaways such as Frederick Douglass gained credibility more easily even though access to education was a rarity for the females. Marriages and love affairs unsupervised by the master resulted in severe punishments through rape and other forms of sexual objectification. Last but most importantly, motherhood proved to be the strongest bond for Jacobs. The burdens of childbearing also became …show more content…
1. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010), 31.
2. Ibid., 32.
3. Ibid., 36.
Later on, Jacobs fell in love with a man who was also a slave, but her circumstances made it practically impossible to further the relationship. "But when I reflected that I was a slave and that the laws gave no sanction to the marriage of such, my heart sank within me."4 Though she strived to be like her mother who upheld chastity and innocence, her desire to escape her master's watchful eye became liberating. "There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment."5 For Jacobs and many other slave women, the family became the only mental and physical support system they had. Their bodies were constantly policed and in control of white men.
Male slaves were seen as highly sexual "barbarians," therefore extensive measures were taken to strip them of all human emotion and desire. This was why Douglass did not mention marriage- it simply did not pertain to him or hold any relevance in his life. This is another disadvantage for the women since they were pressured and coerced into marriage. Jacobs was not even considered a person to have freedom in such an institution unless arranged by the master himself. When he had heard this news, he was enraged. "You will only be married to the slave I have picked out for you, but otherwise,
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Although Jacobs loved her son, she had wished the same fate on him as well. "Alas, what mockery it is for a slave mother to try to pray back her dying child to life! Death is better than slavery." In order to prevent her from developing a romance with anyone else, he made advances on her. Not only did this show white male dominance, it was also used as a tactic to instill fear in female slaves so that they would not dare escape. They constantly had to pick and choose which battles they were willing to fight and who they were going to turn their backs on. "I must fight my battle alone. I had a woman's pride, and

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