Female Silence as a Patriarchal Force

"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood" -Audre Lorde.

As women, we have been socialized to take on the passive role. We have to be nice, to be likable, and to be supportive. We have to take care and love our men, our children, our brothers, and our fathers. We have to remain silent. If we are outspoken or candid, immediately, we are the angry women, the type of women that no men want. 

When it comes to women of color, especially black women, they often being considered the lowest rank in the social hierarchy. While facing the interconnected systems of discrimination: racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and classism, black women are subject to negative stereotypes and objectification. According to the feminist scholar and author Patricia Hill Collins, black women have suffered and been abused due to the controlling images placed on them by society. The four controlling images that have prevented black women from achieving their fullest potentials are mammies, matriarchs, welfare mothers, and Jezebel (Collins). The first controlling image, mammies, originated from slavery where black women were being forced to bear children and work as a domestic servants. The second controlling image, matriarchs, is reinforced by society's response to the idea of the black women who are independent and strong figures in their households. The third image, welfare mothers, justifies economic and racial inequality as it allows people to blame black women as the cause of underdevelopment and a burden to the government. This negative image of black women also reflects the hypocrisy of our country when in the past, black women' reproductive function was being exploited as a tool to sustain the economic system of slavery and now, their reproductive function is viewed as a burden to our welfare system. Lastly, the fourth image, Jezebel, is the idea of the black woman being a whore or a sexually aggressive woman (Collins), justifies the objectification of black female bodies and distorts their identities. 

Why does talking about the historical origination of negative stereotypes against black women matter? It's because today, black women are still subject to negative stereotypes and objectification. The controlling images that were created in the past still have enduring impacts. Negative stereotypes against black women or any marginalized individuals achieve one purpose: to justify and normalize injustice, inequality, sexism, racism, and classism when it comes to their struggles. Because of negative stereotypes, black women have been oppressed and treated as if their voices shouldn't matter. These negative stereotypes emphasize the idea that black women' struggles are personal, not political. 

In order to challenge this reality, black women have risen up and broken the silence. Black feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collin, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Rosa Parks, Daisy Rubiera, and many others who have devoted their lives to fighting intersectional gender inequality, have inspired generations of young women to break the silence and challenge the male-dominated and white supremacist narrative. 

Like Lorde said: "I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me." When you are silent, you sign the invisible contract with the oppressors. The moment that you become silent, you give your power away. In this world, there are so many silences that need to be broken, so many injustices that need to be recognized, and so many struggles that need to be heard. These inequalities, struggles, and injustices will continue to have greater impacts and consequences as we continue to be silent. That's the power of silence. 

As a writer, a journalist, and a scholar, I often found myself in the position of deciding between opportunity and liberation. Of course, I am afraid too. I have witnessed the power of patriarchy and white supremacy and there are countless times that I have to tell myself to shut up. Simply because, I have a family to take care of, life to live, and visions to fulfill. However, like Oprah Winfrey said at the Golden Globes the moment she became the first black woman in history to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award: "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have." I don't have the patriarchal power like those men have; however, I do have the power to tell my own story. 

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