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tbarryfigu's picture

Sojourner Truth & Virginia Woolf

I was really struck by the difference in form represented by the Sojourner Truth plate featured at The Dinner Party. Whereas all 38 of the surrounding plates, honoring white women, featured representations of the female vagina, that of Sojourner Truth, the only woman of color, remained naturalistic though non-explicit and one dimensional. We speculated in class that white feminists of the time had not yet become accustomed to the thought of black women with vaginas just like theirs, something that seems a bit ridiculous now. In a time where most protests are spurred on and fueled by a united front of diverse supporters, it is difficult to understand the mind set of Chicago during the conception of The Dinner Party. Surely she must have struggled with this break of pattern, but why? Though the goals of this course do not necessarily include race, I would be interested to explore the link between race relations and the struggle for recognition among the feminist community.

 On a similar note, is a feminist only one who fights for women’s rights and equality? Or one who breaks the gender stereotypes of their era? When discussing women of color, it is an interesting question to consider. For instance (though not the best example) let’s consider Harriet Tubman. In a time where gender roles were squandered by slavery (i.e. men and women of color were subject to the same harsh conditions, regardless of sex) it is interesting that a woman took the lead in organizing the Underground Railroad. I can only assume that the gender roles of men and women in ethnic families were similar to those of white families, with men assuming power over women. Thus, I am curious as to where Harriet Tubman gained her inspiration to take on her leadership role, one that may have typically been obtained by a man. This is not to say that women of color did not have the courage necessary to do as she did, but a comment on the impenetrable quality of gender roles assumed of this era. If, even in times of slavery, the man was valued more than the woman, it is unlikely that Harriet’s actions were the result of training (i.e. another woman or man would not have supported her rebellion, as it shattered the accepted gender roles of her time). Is she, then, a feminist? I, for one, believe so.


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