"How and why Female Slavery Differed form Male Slavery in the American South"

How and why female slavery differed form male slavery in the American South Our historical account of the slavery in the American South reveals that some slave-owners were more ruthless to slaves than others. Many slave-owners raped and beat their slaves, and sometimes cut the limbs of the slaves who tried to escape, while other slave-owners were less physically abusive, treating their slaves with more ‘kindness’ and even provided them with some convenience. In many households, treatment of slaves differs with the slaves color of the skin. For instance, darker-skinned slaves toil in the fields all day, while lighter-skinned slaves work in the homes of their master and were bestowed better provisions. However, the treatment of male slaves slightly differs from the treatment of the females. While Female slaves were treated as sexual objects by their master as they were viewed as an item devoid of morals, bestowed the label of being ‘promiscuous’ and were given ‘male’ responsibilities at home and in the field, the treatment of male slaves were similarly cruel and debasing as they also suffered extreme and unjust pain and abuse in the hands of their owners which stemmed from the fact the slave-owners in the American South viewed their subjects as non-humans. According to the account of Deborah Gray White, author of the book “Female Slaves: Sex Roles and Status in Antebellum South.” The female slaves did not did not play the conventional stereotyped female function as it was characterized in nineteenth century America, and in spite of how harshly most historians typecast women as subordinate or submissive in their duties in relation to slave men, it will be difficult to reconcile these roles with the realities in the plantation South. White wrote that, 1“The high degree of female cooperation, the ability of slave women to rank and order themselves, the independence women derived from the absence of property considerations in the conjugal relationship, ‘abroad marriages,’ and the female slave’s ability to provide supplementary foodstuffs are factors which should not be ignored in consideration of the slave family ” (28). White maintains that depictions of “female slaves” as ‘full-time field-hands’ are practically indistinguishable from the male slaves. White mentions the “full female hands,” compelled to “slave” like “males,” and suggests that 2“It is difficult, however, to say how often they did the same work, and it would be a mistake to say that there was no differentiation of field labor on Southern farms and plantations. The most common form of differentiation was that women hoed while men plowed.” In addition, White’s account of the slavery in the South upset and horrifies the readers as she enlightens them about the horrors and inequalities that slave women were compelled to deal with in her daily affairs. In her book, white tackles two of the most common misconceptions of female slavery: Jezebel and Mammy. The author swiftly reveals the that the stereotype that slave women were ‘promiscuous’, ‘dirty’ women with an unappeasable lust for her white master, is very deceiving. White further asserts that, 3"The choice put before many slave women was between miscegenation and the worst experiences that slavery had to offer. Not surprisingly, many chose the former.” Consequently, the actuations of the slave woman yielding to the sexual advances of her white master resulted to her labeling as unchaste and immoral or a Jezebel. The second typecast tackled is that of mammy, the caring black woman who is concerned for the welfare of the white children. White, moreover, in great depth, describes the real lives and adversities that slave women faced everyday. According to White, although the female slaves’ work in the fields was essential, her real worth was set in keeping the male slaves sexually fulfilled in order to reproduce more generations of slaves in the future. Consequently, almost all female slaves had families, but they were more disassociated compared to the families of the American whites. The most important motive for slave union, according to the author, was 4"to add to the comfort, happiness, and health of those entering upon it". Indeed, even the supposedly sacred act of marriage was not off limits to the exploitation by their white masters. This did not highlight the diligent personality of the slave, but rather her physical beauty, for the advantage of both the male slave and the slave masters. Although most were deemed as mere products, female slaves in general were, quite accurately, considered as sexual objects. The account of Frederick Douglas in his narrative is also replete with injustices and inhumane cruelty as he describes how male slaves were treated during his time. Douglas recalled that slave children abused like animals; they factually devoured their food from ‘a trough like pigs’, and were usually given ‘boiled corn meal’. They were also not given much of clothing even in winter: Douglass recounts that he was always dressed in a linen shirt 5‘reaching only to his knees’. He was not allowed to wear nor given socks and pants. Slaves were also not allowed to be educated. According to Douglas, one of his masters, Mr. Hugh Auld, explained why: 6’’A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-- to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world... It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.... It would make him discontented and unhappy.’’ In this narrative, Douglas illustrates the beatings, whippings and tortures which almost made him lose his life. He emphasizes that this experience. Frederick tries everything in his control to counteract this cruelty and inhumane treatment as he starts to learn to read and write, but with more understanding achieved, he develops a stronger sense of abhorrence towards those who enslaved him: 7"The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no better light than a band of successful robbers who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes..." As described by White and Douglas, the differences in the treatment of male and female slaves were not too incongruous. While females were abused sexually as they were considered promiscuous and as sexual animals, the same degree of abuse was afforded on men who were treated similarly like ‘animals.’ The account of both writers strengthened the view that male, female stereotypes were not applied to the slaves regardless of their gender as they were not considered humans. WORKS CITED Deborah Gray White.1999. “Revisiting Ar’n’t I a Woman?” Ar’n’t I a Woman?:  

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