History of Women in the U.S.
July 9, 2012
Gender Roles, Gender Beliefs, and Women’s Struggles
From era to era or generation to generation, it has occurred to me today that as a culture we really have no hope of answering, what is a “true woman.” After all, dominant ideology has a trouble defining even what a woman is. However, this “true woman” definition has changed from prior being a “true woman” who stays at home and raises children and being inferior to men in all aspects, to now being a “true woman” who is independent and can raise children as a single mother and be successful about it. If we were to look at this “true woman’s” definition as was in the 1900’s, it still becomes complex when race and gender identity become involved. Society has shaped of what a woman should be by the gender that you were born with. However, what about women of color and transgendered lesbians? Do they still categorize in being a “true woman?” Clearly, all women don’t share universal experiences when it comes to racism, sexism, and homophobism. Throughout this paper, I’ll discuss how white elitists have controlled dominant ideology and stereotypes and how this has influenced gender roles, gender beliefs, and the struggles between women of color and transgendered lesbians.
When we look at the definition of a “true woman” in the 1900’s, the definition is primarily based for white heterosexual women; not women of color or women who are homosexual. Abraham Stone, a medical director, thought of a women’s definition in a “universal” way, Stone explains:
Being a woman means a complete acceptance of her
primary role, that of conceiving and bearing a child.
Being a woman means a complete readiness to look
forward to the delivery of that child when it is
sufficiently nourished by her to take its place as an
infant in the outside world. Being a woman means her
feeling of her own readiness and capability to rear that
child and aid in its physical, emotional and mental
development (Ruiz 521).
Stone wrote this definition of a woman in 1950 and although he doesn’t depict what race of women he is clearly talking about, we can make the educated guess that he is talking about white elite women mainly because they were the only women who could afford fertility treatments. To ensure this ideology of being a woman (only by conceiving children), it was not the same ideology for black women. The thematic link and struggle behind this definition of bearing children for black women was the fact that black women should not bear children at all. Barbara Harris, the founder of Children Requiring openly stated about black women’s fertility, “We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children” (Ruiz 189). Instances of having black women go in for a surgery (like a tumor), came out with not only that surgery needed, but their uterus taken out too. Bearing children as the definition of being a woman, only links how black women and white women did not adhere to the same definition of a woman, but how sexism and racism disconnected of whom is superior---white woman. After all, Stone and Harris are clearly bigoted moron’s to make this theory that only women who conceive can be a “true woman,” but only can be a white woman. When clearly we see parents and single mothers who adopt children that are just as good as parents (if not better) as women who do/can conceive.
Now that we looked at the “true woman’s” definition for white women and how black women don’t fit the same definition, there are distinct definitions for women of color. These stereotypes define each race and how women of color are categorized and seen in an abysmal way. In Beyond Racism and Misogyny, author Kimberly Crenshaw explains, “The Black woman is wild and animal-like…she is an animal or, worse yet, a...