Aint' I A Woman? // Elizabeth Louis

by Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio
            Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
            That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
            Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
            Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
            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.
            Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

            Sojourner’s Truth speech of Ain’t I a Woman still resonates today of what it means to be a Black woman and influences Black feminism. Usually when people hear feminism, they may automatically think about White women and encouraging (White) men to be on board with the feminist movement. However, without Black feminism the intersectionality of race, gender, class, and other statuses would be lost. Even before there was a Feminist movement, pioneers such as Sojourner Truth in the 1800s were already voicing their experiences of being a woman, specifically a Black woman at a time when it was uncommon to think of a slave or freed slave as equal to a human being. Sojourner Truth is an example of the complexities of being a feminist not only in the era of slavery but also within our current time period with the recent Black Lives Movement that was created by Black queer women. Those complexities look differently within the rich of diversity Black women which encompasses various ethnicities and cultures in the U.S. and outside the U.S.
            At the same time, some may argue if we should also recognize the influence of the Latina, Asian, Native American, LBT, and other cultural feminist movements. I do believe that when one thinks about feminism we must not be closed minded and place limits of what it means to be a feminist because there are cultural expressions of feminism that need to be a part of the feminist movement altogether. If we are indeed striving to overcome oppression, discrimination, classism and other isms we cannot afford to not recognize, learn, and teach others about other forms of feminism that does not fit within a stereotypical role of being a “feminist.” I challenge all of use to extend ourselves even further to understand what feminism looks like outside of the United States and around the world. Learning about non-Western cultures’ perspectives and experiences as feminists can add on to the literature, discourse, and conversations that are missing at various levels within our disciplines, systems, and in our global context.

Written by Elizabeth Louis

No comments:

Post a Comment