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The Oppression of Black Women

In Elaine BrownÆs autobiography A Taste of Power, we move with Brown through a number of conflicts with the Black Panthers and other activist groups, conflicts that include gender struggles that were a fact as much within the Panthers as within society overall. Initially, Brown was strongly attracted to the powerful leaders of the Black Panthers, a reliance on the power of men. She basically rose to the top of the Panthers by penning songs honoring the male leaders she admired, from Eldridge Cleaver and John Huggins to Jonathan Jackson and Huey Newton. After experiencing the subjugation of black women by black men, however, Brown wonders what her songs suggested about her dependence on men for her own power and liberation. She discovers her attraction was based on loneliness and fear of death but these were aspects of existence she realized none of the males she admired could remove from her life. As she writes, ôLife was the shadow of death. And I was still alone in that. There was no father, no God, no man to stand between me and death, or me and life, if I wrote psalms to them foreverö (Brown 310). This analysis will discuss how the ideology of black liberation offered by Malcolm X actually represented a prescription for the oppression of black women.

We see in a great deal of Malcolm XÆs rhetoric that language is primarily masculine and excludes acknowledgement of the female. In his ôMessage to the Grass Rootsö Malcolm X maintains, ôIf you were an American, you wouldnÆt catch hell. You catch hell because youÆre a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reasonö (Breitman 4). Women were often viewed as sexual objects, like the frenzied dancing of women Malcolm X found appealing for its representation of Africanness or in a Madonna role as the bearers and protectors of children. Between these two extremes there was little room left for black women to forge a role for themselves or expres...

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The Oppression of Black Women. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:42, March 18, 2019, from