“If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave… [B]ut many slaves feel it most acutely, and I shrink from the memory of it”(Jacobs 437).
I believe this quote is essential when introducing this specific blog post. I believe I am about to make a few ambiguous claims, but still claims that recognize a modern day “female slave rhetoric”. First, I will clarify what precisely I mean by “female slave rhetoric”. In Jacobs’ quote stated above, I claim that the “female slave rhetoric” is directly rooted from a framework that desires to demean an invalidate a (specifically) female slave. This specific discourse as Jacobs states forces the female slave to “shrink”. This specific discourse uses the very bodily attributes that make up a woman against her very existence. Which Jacobs infers when discussing the plight a female slave incurs when beautiful.
On beauty: Jacobs explicitly states that beauty incurs recognition from the master which he in turn uses the female slave’s very beauty a curse due to his imposed agency. Jacobs depicts an inverse relationship between the power struggle and physical attributes. Female slaves endure exceptional adversity specifically because of gender, but an added adversity because of image.
With these comments on the relationship between the power struggle and beauty that Jacob poses, this relationship can be clearly identified in present day American politics. First, it can be observed how beauty can be used to invalidate an individual. The prime example for this year’s 2016 Presidential election is the Trump-Fiorina fiasco. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stated:
‘ “Look at that face,” said Trump, the GOP front-runner. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” ‘ (Trump, 2015).
Immediately it can be recognized that in a power struggle Trump uses physical attributes of a female candidate to evaluate and invalidate her legitimacy. At the time multiple male candidates were still running for the Republican Presidential nomination. With this in mind, the question must be begged as to why Trump did not demean his fellow male Republican counterparts with the same physical degradation as he did to Fiorina. We may never know why Trump specifically chose to invalidate Fiorina based on her physical appearance (though previous circumstances has incriminated him in relationship to women, inferring a sexist stance), it can be observed that Fiorina was indeed targeted for her beauty (or lack there of) that might not have been the case had she been a man.
‘ According to Fox News, Fiorina continued her comebacks after her speech, telling the news outlet, “I know when someone’s flirting with me.”
Fiorina didn’t simply focus her speech on Trump, though.
She discussed the double standards women face in the workplace, and recounted a time she was called a “token bimbo” at work.
Women should not be marginalized, she argued.
“I personally am so tired of hearing about women’s issues,” Fiorina told the crowd. “All issues are women’s issues.”
It’s a message that has increasingly resonated with in recent weeks. ‘( The Hill, 2015).
Two things can doubly be observed about Fiorina’s remarks. First, she addresses her own adversities as a woman and second, how the female power struggle involves a physical hurdle as well as a sensual one. Hegemonic masculinity was perpetrated through discourse and action towards the female slaves (Jacobs herself) and continues to perpetrate American politics (female candidates).
Bennett, Corey. Fiorina Fires Back ‘I am Proud of Every wrinkle. The Hill: 12 September 2015.