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Feminist Perspectives on Slavery, Segregation and Genocide

Feminist Perspectives on Slavery, Segregation and Genocide

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Published by Amjad Nazeer
Feminist Perspectives on Slavery Segregation and Genocide
Feminist Perspectives on Slavery Segregation and Genocide

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Published by: Amjad Nazeer on Dec 05, 2010
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Feminist Perspectives on Slavery, Segregationand Genocide
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”.Cheris Kramarae & Paula Treichler 
In plain terms feminism can be defined as,....“
a movement for social, cultural, political and economic equality of men and women. Though the issues of feminism might vary fromculture to culture but they are globally tied together in their campaign to end gender-based discriminatory practices against women
No singular feminist perspective or unifiedtheoretical framework exists around. The most prominent ones’ are radical feminism,socialist, modern, post-modern and liberal feminism. But this distinction hardly matters todiscuss and underline feminist contribution to our understanding of genocide, slavery,segregation and apartheid that this article is meant for. Most feminists agree that sociallyand culturally institutionalized patriarchy and unequal distribution of power between men andwomen are the source of violence, discrimination and exploitation of women.
Feminist Perspectives on Slavery:
It was Harriet Stowe’s novel, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by that first brought the issue of slavery topublic in America and even contributed to the civil war and later on public policies in the1830s. Likewise Francis Wrights’ radical ideas that made her notorious non conventionalideas influenced the public mind. Anti-slavery and women rights campaign in the same eraby the two sisters Sarah Grimlke and Angelina, beginning by their hatred for slavery for being severely reprimanded by their parents on teaching a slave companion, an illegal actthen. Refusing marriage and conventional life they joined Quaker society in Philadelphia andfound it too conservative. Both organized women for ‘American Anti-Slavery Society’delivered fiery speeches, prepared pamphlets and profoundly influenced public conscienceand national agenda surmounting general disliking and attempts on their lives (BecomingHuman, HRQ, p.10,11).Ms. Deborah G. White describes the plight of women slaves and the general effect of slaveryon American society and culture, much neglected by male historians, in her landmark work,
 Aren’t I a woman?: Female slaves in the plantation south (1985).
Both black and white mentreated female slaves as a sexual substance, she observes. The role of slave woman andher significant contribution in the plantation economy and the division of labour based onage health and fertility status was understudied. She was grossly misunderstood as a (slave)child-breeder, a nurturer and an asexual mother (earth). Her relationship to other women,and her role in the black family and culture was rarely taken into consideration. She revealsa startling fact that post-child-bearing-age women were most often assigned heavier tasksthan men. She believes that occidental, white, racist, imperial, slavocratic, and masculinementality misrepresented female slaves under their preconceived patriarchal notions. (Deborah G. White 1985 in Thomas, G. 2005). 
Definition of Feminism, See: http://ezinearticles.com/?Definition-of-Feminism&id=1697184
Slavery annulled woman’s identity as ‘women’ and their institutionalized rape was used toannihilate their and their men’s resistance. The western patriarchal mindset reducedwomen’s identity to objects of servitude or simply non-beings. Superimposed westernnotions of ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’ as biological facts served to continue slavery andexploitation (Davis A.Y.1971 as in James J.1998). Virginity, purity and domesticity were thedefining characteristics of Victorian women, all denied to a slave women. Black women werepresented as
an entity without soul 
associated with overt sexuality and perverted behaviour,simply an animal that breeds while it is the white women who mothers. ‘White man’ waspredated by ‘black women’ threatening the sanctity of white woman and her household. Notpossessing a male protector, family and home - signposts of western womanhood – further added to her purported subhuman status. Surviving institutional rape constituted her demonized character because a true woman would rather prefer death than being sexuallyabused. Hence the interests of white men were juxtaposed with white women
.Institutions and practices endorsing coerced, servile or highly unequal marriages and thesale of wives and minor girls subjected to prostitution, debt-bondage, recruitment of childsoldiers, traffic in persons and the sale of human organs constitute new forms of slaveryeven if they are embedded in cultural norms or opted out against poverty. Such Obviousforms of human rights abuses tantamount to slavery but are tolerated under institutionalisedcultural and patriarchal values. The same values are sometimes somewhere translated intothe legal norms (OHCHR Fact Sheet, Welch, C. E. 2009:100). Kavin Baily argues that despite legal abolishment, sexual slavery thrives in the new globaleconomy aligned with the mechanics of violence. For instance, young girls are commoditizedin the international spots of tourism and several metropolitan capitals of the world, at timeswith parental consent. Far worse than the old slavery, victim women are marketed anddisposed off quite quickly given their age and sexual utility. Investors from various countriesare very active in this quick-to-start, low-investment, high-return business usually run incollusion with the police and high officials. Severely beaten up to submission, they arecoerced or raped to elicit consent for sexual slavery. In turn the victims receive nothing savea bare minimum food and a place to squeeze in. Around 27 million people are damned toslavery or live in slave like conditions even today (Bailey, K. 1999). The Slavery Convention 1926 defines it as
“the status or condition of a person over whomany or all of the powers of ownership are exercised (OHCHR).” 
It failed to include bonded or farm labour, child sale, pornography, genital mutilation, sexual enslavement and forcedprostitution despite recommendations by certain members of the Slavery Commission.Thanks to the gender-sensitive efforts of ‘Anti Slavery’ (NGO), the SupplementaryCommission of 1956 however includes a host of practices defined as contemporary forms of slavery including sexual exploitation of underage children. Despite long recognition of suchpractices as new forms of slavery and outright human rights abuse, its abolition is provingdifficult and protracted because of the state collusion, social acceptability and underlyinginterests of patriarchal institutions. Feminists believe that gender equality and abrogation of culturally endorsed slavery-like practices alone can help eliminate new forms of slavery(Welch C.E. 2009:98-100). 
Hazel H. V. Carby, 1984: Ideologies of womanhood ( as mentioned in Thomas, G. 1987: 19, 27 inJENdA),

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