The Construction Of Gender Within The African American Community Essays

The Construction Of Gender Within The African American Community Essays

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In Moses, Man of the Mountain, Zora Neale Hurston unmasks the construction of gender within the African American community. The story centers around patriarchal beliefs on leadership and misogynistic views towards women. She designs the female characters as accessories subordinate to men to highlight the gendered microaggressions that are prevalent among both Black male and female circles. While the novel has moments of female resistance, women’s voices and aspirations are silenced and marginalized throughout. Hurston utilizes Miriam and Zipporah in Moses, Man of the Mountain, to juxtapose female oppression to male leadership. By doing so, she reveals the complex and harmful relationship between gender, religion and leadership in a patriarchal society.
The first line of the novel is a women’s voice crying out for the Lord to have mercy on her soul as she gives birth to a child under the Pharaoh’s regime, where baby boys are drowned at sea. The women’s voice crying out in pain represents not just the anguish of childbirth but also the unwavering oppression and feeling of hopelessness that comes with not having power over her own body. “The persecution of the Hebrew male babies is connected […] to the suffering of their mothers. The one cannot be considered apart from the other, as the public world of male power intrudes into and controls the fruit of women’s bodies” (McDowell xi). In the narrative, women do not have control over their bodies or that of their children. Although, “Hebrew women shuddered with terror at the indifference of their wombs to the Egyptian law” (1), Jochebed shows resistance against the male oppressor by deciding to keep her newborn son alive: “If my child is murdered, Old Pharaoh has got to do the murderin...


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...s but, with few exceptions, did not hold them in high esteem. She criticized women for lacking an independent spirit, and she publicly railed against “the natural apathy of women, whether Negro or white, who vote as their husband do” (161). Hurston like many African American women struggled against the oppression and negativity experienced by being both Black and a woman in a white male dominated society. Although Hurston does not outwardly question the conventional gender roles associated with patriarchy, she does bring the issues to the forefront by intertwining it in her narrative and character’s dialogue. On one level, Moses, Man of the Mountain is an allegory for the African American plight during slavery and emancipation. On another level, it is also an allegory for female oppression and the chauvinistic views faced by black women in white and black communities.

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