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Femme Fatale Essay

1858 words - 8 pages

I am a woman of color. I registered to vote the day after my eighteenth birthday, anticipating my first ballot the way a kid anticipates Christmas morning. My parents want me to have the best education I can get, which means I plan on attending graduate school after my four years at UC Berkeley. I live in the dorms; my floor is home to both male and female students, some from foreign countries like Turkey and Hong Kong, others less than an hour’s BART ride away from home. We live in a beautiful country where people are not turned away because of race or gender, and while we still have some issues to work out, there are many freedoms that I take for granted having lived here all my life. It ...view middle of the document...

In order to recognize the true importance and significance of female leaders of the African American Civil Rights Movement, one must acknowledge the stereotypes present against women during the Civil Rights era. To most Americans, white people, women especially, were “pure” and would remain that way so long as they did not associate with black men; any type of sexual relationship between white women and black men were forbidden.1 Black women, on the other hand, were viewed as dirty seductresses. Another stereotype was that black women were strong and bullheaded; thus, they were barred from taking on leadership positions so they would not threaten the masculinity of black men because “males can rise only to the degree that black women are held down.”2
Next, it is important to note the origins of the women’s rights movement in order to clearly see its advancement through the actions of activists during the African American Civil Rights Movement. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 was the first official women’s rights convention, where the Declaration of Sentiments, which stated twelve resolutions towards equal treatment of men and women under the law, was signed. While these resolutions were obviously not implemented considering the amount of sexism that still existed almost a hundred years later, this convention showed that even before the twentieth century, people were beginning to move to strive towards equality. In 1893, white women were finally granted the right to vote in Colorado, and the other states gradually followed suit, until the 19th Amendment granted all white women the right to vote in 1920. However, women of color were left behind under this voting law, as they were still discriminated against due to their race; the African American Civil Rights Movement had not come into full swing yet.
One of the first notable African American abolitionists was Sojourner Truth. At the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, she delivered her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech. She said, “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me!”3 This was revolutionary because she was relentlessly demanding and emotionally charged, pointing out the obvious fact that she is a woman just like any other, and that her race has nothing to do with the way she should be treated. She also said “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” This was important for both women and African Americans because she asserted the fact that she was perfectly capable of doing the same things that men could do, despite being a woman. She was not afraid to call out the contradictory logic used to limit women’s rights, and called for all women to come together...

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