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Black Women and Street Harassment: 'Even If You Don't Like It, You're Supposed to Appear That You Do'


…White middle-class women are groomed from birth to be the lovers, mothers, and partners (however unequal) of white men because of the economic and social benefits attached to these roles. Upper- and middle-class white women are supposed to be the biological bearers of those members of the next generation who will inherit positions of power in society. Women of Color, in contrast, are groomed from birth to be the lovers, mothers, and partners (however unequal) of men of COlor, who are also oppressed by white men. The avenues of advancement through marriage that are open to white women who conform to prescribed standards of middle-class femininity are not even a theoretical possibility for most women of Color.


White men need white women in a way that they do not need women of Color because women of Color cannot fulfill white men’s need for racially pure offspring. This fact creates differences in the relational position of the groups- distance from and access to the source of privilege, white men. Thus white women, as a group, are subordinated through seduction, women of Color, as a group, through rejection.


The definition of woman is constructed differently for white women and for women of Color, though gender is the marking mechanism through which the subordination of each is maintained. White women are persuaded to become the partners of white men and are seduced into accepting a subservient role that meets the material needs of white men. As Audre Lorde describes it: “White women face the pitfall of being seduced into joining the oppressor under the pretense of sharing power. This possibility does not exist in the same way for women of color. The tokenism that is sometimes extended to us is not an invitation to join power: our racial “otherness” is a visible reality that makes it quite clear. For white women, there is a wider range of pretended choices and rewards for identifying with patriarchal power and its tools.”


White men perceive women of Color primarily as workers and as objects of sexual power and aggression. Their sexual objectification of women of Color allows white men to express power and aggression sexually, without the emotional entanglements of, the rituals that are required in, relationships with women of their own group. In many ways the dual conception of woman based on race-“white goddess/black she-devil, chaste virgin/nigger whore, the bond blue-eyed doll/the exotic ‘mulatto’ object of sexual craving”- has freed women of Color from the distraction of the rewards of seduction. Women of Color”do not receive the respect and treatment- mollycoddling and condescending as it is sometimes- afforded to white women.”

Aída Hurtado, Relating to Privilege: Seduction and Rejection in the Subordination of White Women and Women of Color. (via sitaronse)
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