“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! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”–Sojourner Truth, 1851
As I understand it, when Sojourner Truth spoke the words above at the Women’s Convention in Akron Ohio, there was a glimmer of hope that Black women and White women might work together for women’s rights and for the abolition of slavery.
Those hopes were dashed pretty quickly as a “cult of true womanhood” developed. It basically said a woman’s place is not only in the home, but also keeping the gate closed on sex and sexuality–that was the job of White women anyway.
That left sensuality to Black women, according to Paula Giddings, author of When and Where I Enter, the book we’re reading now. As a result the reputation of Black women suffered long after emancipation. It’s still suffering today I think. “Welfare Queen“–really, we are a mess!
At the first meeting of our book club, I asked what we can do to get White women and Black women working together? Billie Wade–“I think we’re doing it now.” Finding our way through uncomfortable conversations, hanging in there through misunderstandings–I think books can help us turn those conversations and misunderstandings into shared experiences. I hope so.
Even when a lightbulb goes on in your head, and you understand some of the things that shaped you, reading this stuff is hard. Talking about it is harder. But we really must summon the courage and humility and compassion to do it.
Sojourner Truth said, “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.” There’s a lot of racket right now about poor treatment of women, and certainly there is much that is out of kilter. But this time let’s bring all our sisters, mothers, daughters and grandmothers along as we rise. This time let’s don’t leave anyone behind.