Black Women in History and Today
According to Dorothy Height, “Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.” Black women in history have always been overshadowed by “superior” male figures, and even by fellow black men. In her debut book Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy aptly states that women have absorbed the rhetoric of the male mentality and ideology as it relates to commoditized versions of the female identity, reducing half the world’s population to a state of being “lesser than.” However, the role of black women has been increasing tremendously, and today there are numerous African American female figures positioned high in the society. From key black female figures in the American civil rights movement, business, entertainment industry, and even in politics, black womens’ influence has been growing exponentially in many different areas in the society. The issue of feminism is also widely engraved in Lorraine Hansberry’s play, Raisin in the Sun. Throughout the play, the issue of feminism is presented through numerous symbols, characters, conflicts, and in the entire plot itself. The play, Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, deals with a family’s own experiences growing up in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood in 1950s. Hansberry’s most obvious attempt to point out the issue of feminism in her play reside in the three generations of women in the household, each possessing a different political perspective of herself as a woman. Mama, Lena Younger, has a point of view towards woman based on her experience with her husband. Ruth, about thirty, openly voices her feelings to her own husband more than Mama was, but still, Ruth is liberal and traditional in perspective of woman. Beneatha on the other hand, pursues a career that, in 1959, the society considered as male-dominated profession; a doctor. She has much more enlightened views about a woman’s place in the society than Mama and Ruth. In the play, Walter’s chauvinistic view of Beneatha causes much conflict between them. Beneatha’s gola to become a doctor obviously does not please him. He complains that medical schooling will cost more than the family can afford, which he bases his argument on the fact that since Beneatha is a woman, she does not even have a right to want to become a doctor. Near the beginning of the play, Walter blows out his frustration and resentment towards Beneatha, “Who in the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy about messing around with sick people, then go be a nurse like other women, or just get married and be quiet.” Furthermore, his chauvinistic point of view even causes conflicts between him and his wife, Ruth. When Travis asks Ruth for 50 cents, Ruth tells him that the family doesn’t have that kind of money to give to Travis, but Walter comes out of the bathroom and gives Travis 50 cents, obviously to present his alpha male status to his son and to the rest of the family. It is evident in the plot that Ruth constantly tries to change herself in order to please everyone in the family, especially to please her husband. On the other hand, Mama, the current head of the family, entrusts Walter with the remaining insurance money. She is ready to pass down the torch of the head of the family to Walter, simply because he is a man, denying his inability to take care of the entire family, and even himself. She simply has a mindset that the man should be in charge of his family. She feels that she hasn’t provided or supported him to play out his plans and dreams.
In today’s American society, black women have gained much more power and have influence over many different areas of the society. From civil rights movement, to singers, actresses, athletes, to even in politics, black women today are nothing like black women of the 1950s, the setting of the play. Rosa Parks, for example, famous for her part in igniting the...
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