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gender and race in mary prince

Within the text , The History of Mary Prince, and after reading several novels that include characters which are slaves. It becomes easy to distinguish how gender plays a role within the texts. I have come to notice that male slaves are put through extreme physical torture (some mental abuse is obviously an issue but I feel as if woman are put through mental stress more)compared to woman who not only mentally struggle but then have to do the same types of labor as men do .

In mary Prince we read that ALL slaves including woman and children participate in salt mining. This job is extremely physically demanding lifting buckets of water, being in dangerous environments, not being allowed to take breaks. Even though it is very obvious that woman and children are not as strong as men are, they are not discriminated against the physical labor. Unlike white woman who are not allowed to do such physically demanding jobs, Prince being a black slave, and a woman is allowed no mercy. 

Where we begin to see a difference in the types of “work” that  gender plays into is when it comes to the more domestic and by nature motherly work that is needed to be done closer to the slave owners homes. This type of work seems to be more mentally demanding to me since it mostly involves much more physical interaction between the slave and slave owner (family). For example, Prince is forced to help clean/bathe her owners body. even though it is very clear that Prince is completely distraught by this duty and the humility that comes with it, she is forced to do it. To me , when a slave is outside working and has little to no interaction with the abuser it is at LEAST a much more mentally comfortable environment for the slave. When the slave is sitting there right in front of her abuser and still forced to do some type of work ON THE OWNER it becomes a little more uncomfortable and strange. We see Mary Prince who also works in the homes of her owners as a wet nurse who breast feeds the owners children. Even though Mary Prince knows that she can not continue to have a relationship with the children she is helping to survive, she will have to put all emotions and feelings aside and begin to see the duty as a chore not letting  the motherly instincts of mother and child kick in. THis is another example of how emotionally draining the work a female is put to do . I began to wonder why the owners chose to only have female slaves work in their homes (besides the obvious men do not produce milk hahah) . But then I thought since it is such a much more face to face interaction, maybe it makes since that a woman is a lot more physically vulnerable than a male slave would be in case anything were to happen (disputes). In a world and civilization that was built by men being superior to woman, it only makes sense to have woman working in the homes of their own families. 

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One thought on “gender and race in mary prince

  1. I like some of the points you made about both discrimination and lack of discrimination in terms of the slave laborers. With some jobs there was certainly some gender biased jobs as well as some that were not. I also certainly share your sentiments with both the physical and mental torture the slaves were subject to. I would say that many women were subject to physical abuse extremely often. In the short novel I can remember Mary counting the numerous lashings she had and her getting sick on numerous occasions kind of references that too. Additionally, I remember another girl, I forget her name, who was basically beaten to death in addition to Mary’s mother. That said, I really think that you made a strong point about just the horrendous environment for the women having to be so close to their masters constantly for women. As a result they are subject to so much more verbal and mental abuse constantly, and we see just how grave the consequences are.

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