The Slavery Of The White Woman By Frederick Douglas Essay

The Slavery Of The White Woman By Frederick Douglas Essay

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Further along the vein of sensitivity, slave narratives would sometimes depict white women as sensitive enough to reject the more abhorrant aspects of slavery, but not sensitive enough to reject the idea that slaves were anything more than “brute creatures” (Carby 28). A white woman’s place within the sphere of the cult of true womanhood would cause her to “affirm the superiority of white sensibilities,” especially due to the widely-held belief that black slaves could not have feelings (Carby 28). Contradictorily, as in Frederick Douglas’s description of his white mistress, the influence of the harshness of slavery could still cause “a physical and spiritual decay” of the white woman (Carby 28). White female slave owners could have worked more to help end slavery, but as demonstrated from the diary of white plantation woman Mary Chestnut, many women thought that slaves were unlovable, but could do fine if they were not treated harshly and kept at a distance from white people.
At this point in the essay, Carby returns to her discussion of the limitations of analyses that attempt to “compare a stereotype with a reality,” within the literary/social ideology of the cult of true womanhood. She cites the work of Ann Scott as an example that looks into the “contradictory nature of the image of womanhood in its relation to the system of slavery,” but does not delve into why the ideology persisted if it was so unrealistic (Carby 29). Scott and others have asserted that the ideology of true womanhood was iterated for the public eye again and again because it kept the white woman from gaining more power than she already had, and possibly upsetting the flow of the white southern family, but this assertion is never contextualization in ...

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...xual abuse of white men (Carby 39). Unlike lynchings, which involved an element of violent spectacle, the rapes of black slave women have never been treated with the sense of gravity and horror that the rape of white women elicited. This is a direct consequence of the ideology of true womanhood, which associated black slave women and overt sexuality, and the influence of this ideology has continued to affect the perception of black women in society up to today.
While the cult of true womanhood has not remained intact, black women continued to be excluded from “dominant codes of morality” (Carby 39). Carby states that in the subsequent essay in her book, she will investigate the years following the antebellum south and emancipation, in which black women writers continued to creating discourse on their own womanhood while fighting sexual oppression and abuse.

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