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Blacks, Jews, and Gendered Representations

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Lise W.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Review
  3. Conclusion

The gendered representations of Blacks and Jews have caused them to struggle with their identities as people in American society. The stereotypes that have arisen from these representations have given two options to these marginalized groups of people:(1) either follow the predisposed vision the world has of them, or (2) go against this image to formulate their own. The problem is that it is easier to follow the former than the latter. Identity formation of a group of people is important to keep the roots alive and their cultural interactions valuable. Without identity, groups seize to exist, and eventually extinct. Struggling to find their identities, they are forced to accept the different portrayals of themselves broadcast in American culture through all types of media. The gendered representations include those that exist in American society in terms of masculinity and femininity. Masculinity has had its long history of being a part of American culture. The formation of America evolved from the conquering of people through power and aggression-two of the central characteristics of masculinity. This paper will explore the gendered representations in terms of masculinity and femininity within the Black and Jewish community.

During slavery, Jewish immigrants who migrated to the Americas felt the need to assimilate in American culture, especially in the South. The institution of slavery had been accepted in several Jewish homes but these were not Jewish values, they were Southern values (Silverman). Judah P. Benjamin, a Southern Jewish slave-owner and a famous lawyer, was asked what a slave was to him and responded: He is a human being. He has feeling and passion and intellect. His heart, like the heart of the white man, swells with love, burns with jealousy, aches with sorrow, pines under restraint and discomfort, boils with revenge and ever cherishes the desire for liberty (Silverman 73-4).

[...] This was also the case in slavery when mothers were forced to give up their babies to be sold into slavery. Both the Black and Jewish woman have suffered and had to make extremely hard decisions during these two catastrophes but somehow our American society never mentions these women in history books. In media, where women were also heroes of slavery and the holocaust, they're often never mentioned. Why aren't the Jewish women like the one in The Shawl who almost risk their lives to protect their children not in the history books? [...]


[...] In order to be accepted, Jews had to assimilate. Jews' masculinity was reduced because instead of being the superior ?whites? that they'd like to be, they are still the ?inferior? Jews who are different from the average American. The Holocaust in American society is represented as a tragedy in Jewish history. The images and visualizations from the Holocaust painted a picture of the equal status of women and men during that time. By equal I mean that both the male and female were equally subjugated to the oppression of the Holocaust. [...]

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