With sexual abuse and fear of losing their children, slave women are being psychologically tortured and unable to achieve fulfillment in their lives. Jacobs’s account of the mental and psychological difficulties that women slaves face can best be described when she explains her feelings when having a daughter, “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own” (119).
Slave men experiences were different from slave women, who were exploited both for reproductive and productive reasons. Throughout the long years of slavery women were abused by their master, physically, sexually, and mentally, while men were abused physically and mentally. Not only did women suffer much harsher physical abuse, they were also sexually abused. Although, not suggesting that black men suffered less than black women under the oppression of slavery, only that gender considerations played a major part in shaping the task assignments given to blacks by their owners and in shaping the way in which blacks build relationships among themselves” (Jones 20). The lives of female slaves were a little more trying than that of a male slave.
In most instances, men and women were segregated into different work gangs and tasks were given to slaves according to their genders. In describing the economics of slavery, historians point out that male slaves were generally valued for their labor and physical strength, while females were valued for their offspring (Hallam, 2004). Men were given jobs such as, carpenters, coopers, blacksmiths, potters, and sugar boilers (Hallam, 2004). Jacobs (1861) points out “slavery is terrible for men; but is far more terrible for women” (p. 45). Some plantation owners preferred to buy women because they could do the hard work and bear children.
Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl A recurring theme in, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is Harriet Jacobs's reflections on what slavery meant to her as well as all women in bondage. Continuously, Jacobs expresses her deep hatred of slavery, and all of its implications. She dreads such an institution so much that she sometimes regards death as a better alternative than a life in bondage. For Harriet, slavery was different than many African Americans. She did not spend her life harvesting cotton on a large plantation.
Additionally,women in the slave communities acted like teachers to pass down stories, traditions and resistance of slavery to the younger generations. Black women had a lot to deal with: forced sexual encounters with the master, taking care of their children, working and looking after and being the strength of the slave communities. The life of enslaved Black women was brutalized, dehumanizing and sexually exploited, but they found strength through outside influences, one being resistance networks. Dehumanizing means to take away positive human qualities, and that is what happened to slaves. Slaves were looked down upon as though they were gum on the bottom of a shoe.
Harriot Jacobs examines the role of the slave community and communal bonds in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Linda Brent is the slave of Dr. Flint. Linda lives on Dr. Flint’s plantation. Dr. Flint does not like the fact that Linda has power and knowledge over him. Linda outsmarts Dr. Flint by sending post cards from New York.
The notion of slavery, as unpleasant as it is, must nonetheless be examined to understand the hardships that were caused in the lives of enslaved African-Americans. Without a doubt, conditions that the slaves lived under could be easily described as intolerable and inhumane. As painful as the slave's treatment by the masters was, it proved to be more unbearable for the women who were enslaved. Why did the women suffer a grimmer fate as slaves? The answer lies in the readings, Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl and Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative which both imply that sexual abuse, jealous mistresses', and loss of children caused the female slaves to endure a more dreadful and hard life in captivity.
"Naming or not naming the father of a child, taking as a wife a woman who had children by unnamed fathers, [and] giving a newborn child the name of a father" were all considered by Herbert Gutman to be "everyday choices" in slave communities (Davis 15). Not being able to name a father must have made slave women feel great pain from being a "genderless" tool and great isolation by forcing them to take care of bastard children on their own. However, the worst comes when the child is old enough to work and, in most cases, is auctioned off. By auctioning off a slave woman's children slave masters not only dehumanized slave women but gave additional pain to slave women by taking their loved children away. Slave... ... middle of paper ... ...brother.
How torn and incapable she must have felt as a slave mother. Linda also speaks of "The Slaves New Year’s Day", this was the time that slaves everywhere were sold and leased. Many mothers were torn from their husbands and their children. Linda speak... ... middle of paper ... ...or her mistress, Mrs. Dodge, whom she’d heard had been very low of funds and needed Linda simply to get some money.
But unlike men, the women suffer from sexual harassments from their masters as well as the loss of their children to the cotton production. In repeated accounts, she depicts the anguish of mothers whose children were sold and the humiliation of slave girls who where sexually abused by the white man. For the slave women, these experiences were just as hard as any physical punishment the man received, if not more so. The experiences that Linda Brent, Harriet Jacobs, went through in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl attest that slavery was crueler for slave women. When Linda Brent found out that she gave birth to a baby girl, she envisioned every single misfortune, sorrow, and shame of her own unwillingly inherited to her daughter.