Gender Roles In Uncle Toms Cabin

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Gender Roles In Uncle Toms Cabin

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Memoirs that describe the roles of mammies from the s to the s downplayed the mammy's relationship with her family. In reality, many enslaved women working domestically were forced to forgo relations with their families in favor of working for their master's family. Some scholars see the mammy figure as rooted in the history of slavery in the United States. Slave African American women were tasked with the duties of domestic workers in white American households. Their duties included preparing meals, cleaning homes, and nursing and rearing their owners' children. Out of these circumstances arose the image of the mammy.

While originating in the slavery period, the mammy figure rose to prominence during the Reconstruction Era. Some scholars feel that in the Southern United States , the mammy played a role in historical revisionism efforts to reinterpret and legitimize their legacy of chattel slavery and racial oppression. The mammy image has endured into the 20th and 21st centuries.

In , the United Daughters of the Confederacy proposed the erection of a mammy statue on the National Mall. The proposed statue would have been dedicated to "The Black Mammy of the South". The historicity of the mammy figure is questionable. Historical accounts point to the identity of most female domestic servants as teenagers and young adults , not "grandmotherly types" such as the mammy.

Melissa Harris-Perry has argued that the mammy was a creation of the imagination of the white supremacy , which reimagined the powerless, coerced slave girls as soothing, comfortable, and consenting women. In , Andy Warhol included the mammy in his Myths series, alongside other mythological and folklore characters such as Santa Claus , Mickey Mouse , and Superman. In Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory , Kimberly Wallace-Sanders argued that the mammy's stereotypical attributes point to the source of her inspiration: "a long lasting and troubled marriage of racial and gender essentialism , mythology , and southern nostalgia.

The romanticized mammy image survives in the popular imagination of the modern United States. Psychologist Chanequa Walker-Barnes argues that political correctness has led to the mammy figure being less prevalent in the 21st-century culture, but the mammy archetype still influences the portrayal of African-American women in fiction, as good caretakers, nurturing, selfless, strong, and supportive, the supporting characters to white protagonists.

The mammy is usually portrayed as an older woman , overweight , and dark skinned. She is an idealized figure of a caregiver: amiable, loyal, maternal, non-threatening, obedient, and submissive. The mammy figure demonstrates deference to white authority. On occasion, the mammy is also depicted as a sassy woman. In some portrayals, the mammy has a family of her own. But her caregiving duties always come first, leading to the mammy being portrayed as a neglectful parent or grandparent.

Moreover, she has no black friends. Melissa Harris-Perry describes the relationship between the mammy and other African Americans in Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by summarizing that "Mammy was not a protector or defender of black children or communities. She represented a maternal ideal, but not in caring for her own children. This stereotype contrasts with the Jezebel stereotype , which depicts younger African-American women as conniving and promiscuous. The mammy is occasionally depicted as a religious woman. More often than not, the mammy is an asexual figure, "devoid of any personal desires that might tempt her to sin". This helps the mammy serve as both a confidant and a moral guide to her young charges, capable of keeping them in line.

Kimberly Wallace-Sanders includes other characteristics of the mammy in Mammy. A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory : A large dark body, a round smiling face, a deeply sonorous and effortlessly soothing voice, a raucous laugh. Her personal attributes include infinite patience, self-deprecating wit, an implicit understanding and acceptance of her own inferiority, and her devotion to whites. Many of these characteristics were denied to African-American female slaves but were generally attributed to the mammy. Another popular way in which the mammy caricature was previously portrayed was in minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were entertainment events in which white people dressed in black face and performed songs and dances.

These depictions of black people were completely inaccurate towards the real behaviorism of African Americans yet they continued to be popular in the southern region of the country up to the early s. Minstrel shows were extremely damaging to the public persona of African Americans and largely contribute to the stereotypes and biases that exist against them even today. The dress often reflects the status of her owner. The mammy is usually neat and clean and wears attire that is suitable for her domestic duties. Sometimes a mammy considers herself to be dressed up, but that is usually just an addition of a bonnet and a silk velvet mantle, which probably belonged to her owner. The stereotypical mammy is often illiterate, though intelligent in her own way.

However, as intelligent as she is, most of her intelligence is a result of past experiences and conflicts. In particular, a mammy of an aristocratic family can be identified by her air of refinement. When the mammy does not stay in the house of her owner or is not busy attending to the needs of the owner's children, she usually lives with her husband and children in a cabin that is distinguished from the cabins of the other enslaved people in either size or structure. Her cabin stands near the owner's house, but at a distance from the cabins of the other enslaved people. Although her duties are far less tiring and strenuous than those of the other slaves, her hours are often long, leaving little time for her own leisure.

Not until the mammy becomes too old for these duties does she enjoys any home life of her own, since she is always preoccupied with the home life of her owner. There is a flexibility about the mammy's duties that distinguishes her from just being an ordinary nurse or a wet nurse , even though there is a possibility that she can perform either of these tasks. In some of the wealthier households, the fictional mammy has assistants who would help her take care of the household's children. These women are often much younger than the mammy herself.

The mammy, unlike other slaves, is usually not up for sale, and the children of the mammy are kept in the same family for as long as possible, retaining the same relationships that the mammy has with the owner. The fictional role of the mammy in plantation households grows out of the roles of enslaved African-Americans on the plantation. African-American slaves played vital roles in the plantation household.

For the mammy, the majority of these duties generally are related to caring for the children of the owner's family, thus relieving the mistress of the house of all the drudgery work that is associated with child care. When the children have grown up and were able to take care of themselves properly, the mammy's main role is to help the mistress with household tasks. As her years of service with the family increase, the mammy's sphere of influence increases as well. She is next to the mistress in authority and has the ability to give orders to everybody in the house.

The mammy is often considered to be part of the slaveholding family as much as its blood members were considered. Although she is considered of a lower status, she is still included in the inner circle. She has often been referred to as a "unique type of foster motherhood". Aside from just tending to the needs of the children, the mammy is also responsible for teaching the proper etiquette to them, such as addressing the elders on the plantation as "aunt" or "uncle", as well as what was best to say on a particular occasion and what was not.

The mammy is able to discipline her charges whenever they do something undesirable, and is able to retain their respect towards her, even after the children have grown to adults. Mammy characters were a staple of minstrel shows , giving rise to many sentimental show tunes dedicated to or mentioning mammies, including Al Jolson 's My Mammy from The Jazz Singer and Judy Garland 's performance of Swanee from A Star is Born a song originally made popular by Jolson.

Various mammy characters appeared in radio and TV shows. One prominent example was the radio and later short-lived television series Beulah , which featured a black maid named Beulah who helped solve a white family's problems. In the s and early s, Mammy Two Shoes , the housekeeper in 19 Tom and Jerry shorts, presented an animated example of the mammy, complete with dark skin and African American vernacular English. As a parody of this stereotype, the Frank Zappa album Thing-Fish featured characters called "mammy nuns". The mammy caricature has been used as advertisements for corporations especially within the food industry.

In the brand Aunt Jemima came under criticism for its branding after receiving public criticism about the company using a mammy caricature as its logo. One of the founders of Aunt Jemima came up with the name and branding after hearing a minstrel song called "Old Aunt Jemima". Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth, and Cream of Wheat are some of the companies that were spotlighted. In , Quaker Oats , the owners of the Aunt Jemima brand, decided to rebrand it as The Pearl Milling Company and changed its logo from the mammy caricature to an image of a traditional milling building.

Aunt Priscilla's Recipe was a notable food and recipe column in the Baltimore Sun during the s. Aunt Priscilla was a mammy caricature who was the stereotypical good southern cook who spoke in a broken and exaggerated dialect. The alias of Aunt Priscilla was actually a white woman named Eleanor Purcell. Purcell also released several cookbooks under the alias. Black women were often the faces of these food or housekeeping columns because of the stereotypes like the mammy which associated them with servant and domestic roles.

Images such as Aunt Jemima and Aunt Priscilla were mammy caricatures that created a negative and limiting representation as servant roles for white families. In the early 20th century, the mammy character was common in many films. Some of the contemporary media portrayals of the mammy caricature have been acted out by black men Henson, The character of Big Momma is a plus-size older black woman with a religious and nurturing background. The character is seen as a matriarch and a homemaker. Another mammy stereotype that the movie displays is the one of midwifery and domestic work. This originates from the history of older Black women serving as midwives on plantations.

The Help is a movie based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett about Black maids of white families in Jackson Mississippi during the s. The novel and film center around the experience of Black domestic workers, influenced by the writer and director both having Black nannies growing up. During the movie, Skeeter convinces several Black maids to share their stories and grievances which causes an uproar.

The movie has come under criticism for several reasons. One being that both the novel and film were written and executed by white people, this the portrayals of Black maids come from their limited perspectives. However, she argues that the mammy remains a caricature because she is never humanized in the writings or portrayals. Davis also challenged filmmakers to explore the lives of these women outside of the kitchen and to not limit their identity to just being maids. Mammy imagery can be found in the form of several objects including dolls, ceramics, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, and other household items. The mammy caricature was part of post Civil War propaganda that spread negative and false stereotypes about African Americans.

These figurines often had exaggerated features and tried to falsely portray African Americans as "docile, dumb and animated". Although these mammy dolls and ceramics dehumanize Black people, some of them are still valued and sold for hundreds of dollars. The building is shaped like a mammy caricature along with a head-wrap and long red skirt. Similar to Aunt Jemima, Mammy's Cupboard use the imagery and the stereotype of Black women to promote a business.

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