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Mammies, Matriarchs, Controlling Images

Summary The summary is about the topic of Mammies, Matriarchs, and other controlling images. Throughout the chapter, various classifications and divisions of the black woman have been brought out by the author to emphasize on the stereotypical ...Read More

~Posted on Jan 2019

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Mammies, Matriarchs, Controlling Images

Summary The summary is about the topic of Mamm...


The summary is about the topic of Mammies, Matriarchs, and other controlling images. Throughout the chapter, various classifications and divisions of the black woman have been brought out by the author to emphasize on the stereotypical classification of the back women. The author therefore in the chapter shows how this negative categorization or images of a black woman have provided justification of class, race, and gender inequity.

The author starts by identifying that there are various groups of black feminist trying to change the perception of people towards the black woman one that them with a variety of negative images. She also identifies the various negative images trying to portray a black woman who is matriarchs, mammies, hot mommas and welfare recipients. In her view, the elite group of people which is the dominant in the society have the control and therefore manipulate the idea of Black womanhood (p.1). The controlling images according to the author are made to make sexism, poverty, racism and other injustices to seem natural and normal like they are the way is supposed to be. Through this controlled image the black woman becomes object instead of the subject. This is one main idea the author discusses. She brings out various ideas on how a black woman is objectified and as a result oppressed. One of the main ways objectification of a black woman presented in the chapter is classifying her as the “others.” The author argues that this kind of image that presents the enslaved African women as “others” clearly shows the presents a loophole for unjust treatment to them and therefore forming a basis for oppression. The “other” image is not seen as a person but rather as an object hence subject to any form of mistreatment, and their reality is defined by others while for those dominating have the right to define their reality. The author also presents another example of objectification where she talks about black domestic workers working like “mules uh de world” (p.71) and that of a black domestic worker being referred to as a “girl” which is enabled the employers to treat the employees like children or as invisible.

As stated earlier the author presents other images that are used to show the black woman. Mammies was among them which portrays black women as faithful obedient and good at only housework and taking care of the white children. According to the author, the image shows that the black woman cares for the children even better than has and even if she may have wielded a certain degree of authority, she knows her place which is being an obedient servant which means she has accepted her subordination (p.72-76). The other image is the matriarchs which like the mammy image is an imperative image in explaining Black social class outcomes. The image according to the author alleges that the black children lack the care given to the white children and that this difference in attention, retards the achievements of the black children. This kind of image give the white men and women the right to blame the Black women for their children’s failure in school and the subsequent poverty. The author feels that using this image is supports racial oppression. This oppression has been attributed to also a lack of patriarchy in the black culture, cultural difference and biological difference (p. 77).

The other image presented in this chapter was that of the welfare recipient black woman. The author defines this woman as the working-class woman. The author argues that the poor image constitutes a class specific, which was developed for a poor black woman who makes use of the state entitlement benefits entitled to them by law. This was not an issue until the black woman gained political prowess and demanded equity, only then did there arise the need to controlling the image. This image portrays a bad mother just like the first two. However, this one is not too aggressive enough and is portrayed as one sitting around and waiting for the welfare money while passing the poor traits to her offspring. Lastly is the image Jezebel/ Hoochei, a woman with a high sexual appetite. The image originated under slavery while trying to justify the assaults against black slave women by the white male. As a result of their high sexual appetite, these women are expected to have an increase of fertility. Unlike the historical Jezebel, Hoochei is an accepted contemporary deviant black sexuality. There are three types of this image which are plain, gold-digger and hoodrat (p.81-83).


The author’s main thesis was about the various images created to shape the image and the role a black woman is supposed to play. In her argument, the author presents different credible evidence of wrongful image presentation and shows how it impacts negatively on the real image of a black woman. She suggests that this poor image of a black woman contributes to the justification of gender, class, and race inequity.

In support of her argument, the author has referred to various writers’ article. For example, when talking about the first image of women, she referred to authors like Rollins (1985) who discussed the labor provided by black women historically as cheap. The reference showed some credibility of her argument since it is not something that she wrote out of the blues, it indicates that she did the research before compiling the comprehensive paper, the evidence has been seen throughout the article.

The article has acted as an eye opener since it presents the images that we see on a daily basis from a different perspective. Normally when looking at the films all we see is acting and nothing deeper. However, through this article, it was a clear way to identify various problems with the image representation and illustrates. Need to advocate for better images or better yet, let black women be free to present the real picture themselves and not one that is created by the “elite” group.

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Mammies, Matriarchs, Controlling Images