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Answer to question THREE: Gender Concepts in the Northern and Southern States
Slavery as an institution was a cause for contradicting ideologies between the northern and southern states of America. With the north advocating for the emancipation of slaves and the south standing for the opposite, the American Civil War had been brewing before 1861 when actual combat began. In turn, different forms of literature were produced from the North in retaliation to the Southerners’ ideologies with each approaching the immorality of slavery from different perspectives. With gender emerging as an issue among both sides, there were instances of emerging beliefs regarding male and female slaves among the opposing forces. This paper seeks to determine the similar gender concepts presented by both sides and in turn, determine those that contradicted in the views of the correlating writers.
The slavery institution among whites regarded all black people as slaves regardless of gender while gender classification was evident among blacks. In his argument, Hammond James states that, “the doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants” (pg. 3) In turn, Child adds that there were “instances where women of the laboring class have been united to reputable, industrious colored men” (pg. 2) The two represent pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces respectively. With the idea of a common curse among Africans, Hammond suggests equality among the blacks as each is affected by the posed state of inferiority to the white man. On the other hand, Child’s depiction of black women as wives to the reputable colored men suggests a regard for gender among slaves in the marriage institution as the men had the reputable attributes. In other words, a slave was just a slave meaning all colored people were expected to perform duties for their masters without any hints of class or levels among the former’s group. Hence, a female slave was just as worthy as a male slave among the whites in pro-slavery states. Child however suggests inequality in the marriage institution where blacks intermarry among themselves. The women are only known through their husbands. Her argument is well founded as mixed race marriages were discouraged if not against the white man’s laws.
Female slaves were subjected to more hardships than the males as the black women were reduced to mere beasts. Such arguments are made by the anti-slavery forces as black women are “deprived of the rights and endearments belonging to the relations of daughter, wife, and mother” (Jay, pg. 1) Here the author gives a direct division on the treatment of slaves on the basis of gender. As per the given warrant, women born into slavery were subject to degrading acts, which one can assume was in the form of gender violence. At the same time, such acts would pass without the protection of family as with slavery, property could be handled as the masters saw fit. Such liberties to the white men meant black families could be separated with each member left to his or her own devices.
Women are more compassionate than men and so, some abolitionists approached the possibility of emancipation by appealing to the female gender. Grimke Angelina’s “Appeal to Christian Women of the South” is the first appeal directed to the female pro-slavery forces. According to Grimke, “There is something in the heart of a man that would bend under moral suasion” (pg. 1) This will in turn help the man “respond to truth when it is uttered with calmness and dignity” (Grimke pg.1) with most of the contradicting letters originating from the men of the South, Grimke’s feelings are well founded as she calls for the women to voice their views on the issue and appeal to their men. With this in mind, Grimke’s argument suggests a gentleness in women that will aid in the abolitionist movement as men will be inclined to listen to their women. Consequently, there is an inclination to the idea of women using their charms to persuade the men into seeing the demerits of slavery particularly so with regard to humanity and equality among Americans.
Gender could not be used to abolish slavery for the institution was the backbone to most of America’s economy and had existed for years in other societies before being adopted by Americans. According to Hammond, “The abolition of slavery can be expected to be affected in but three ways: through the medium of the slaveholder-or the Government-or the slaves themselves” (pg.1). In addition, slavery was not a new practice among societies as the institution had been traced “to very high antiquity, and shows that it has prevailed over a large portion of the globe” (Jay, pg.1) Both points contradict those made by Grimke in the possibility of slavery ending on the basis of a woman’s intervention. Contrary to this, the evidence given to the claim of gender being insufficient in ending slavery has a firmer ground as the institution is firmly wound among American society. In fact, the provided warrants draw evidence from both sides as each attempt to analyze possibilities of ending slavery in the United States. With these factors in mind, it is evident that gender, as part of the American societal and political concepts that were present.
Women can affect society within and outside the family level depending on the determination possessed by the same. Grimke argues that women have “arisen in all the dignity and strength of moral courage to be the leaders of the people” (2) Child attests to this fact as she narrates an incident where a colored woman “having some information herself, knew the importance of knowledge, and was anxious to obtain it for her family” (pg. 3) A woman’s dedication towards a particular goal is achievable because they possess an inner strength that both authors do not believe can be present in the men. Such notions led to the belief that women’s participation in the debates regarding slavery would have aided in ensuring that abolition was achieved peacefully. After all, it is not only slaves that were mothers, wives and sisters, white women had such relations and it is plausible that their families would have adhered to any given advice.
Therefore, gender ideologies are evident in both pro-slavery and anti-slavery literature as each side attempts to ascertain the roles played by each in the slavery institution. There are mainly contrasts as each side determines the role of gender in slavery, among the whites and the blacks. For instance, while the pro-slavery forces suggest no differences among slaves because they are all property, the anti-slavery forces argue that female slaves suffer more than the males. At the same time, the blacks show gender roles as the men acquire reputations that their wives seem to inherit on the basis of marriage. Consequently, gender was a source of dispute between the contradicting sides as each had its own view on the matter.