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Center for the Humanities | Keisha Lindsay: Race, Gender, Rights, and the Politics of Black Ladyhood

November 12, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

In her Black feminist treatise, A Voice from the South (1892), Anna Julia Cooper cites herself and other “well-bred” Black women as firm evidence against the “supercilious caste spirit in America which cynically assumes ‘A Negro woman cannot be a lady.’” What can feminists learn from Cooper’s contention that a subset of Black women can and should regard themselves as ladies? Part of the answer is that “lady” is neither an unattainable social marker for Blacks nor one that necessarily inculcates them into an oppressive model of femininity. The more complex reality is that Black women have long defined themselves as ladies in ways that reproduce patriarchal racism and legitimate their right to participate in the public sphere. Cooper’s vision of Black ladyhood also reveals something else – that laying claim to one’s “rights” is neither a foolproof means of obtaining racial, gendered, and other kinds of political equality nor a misguided, individualistic act that undermines marginalized groups’ collective political claims.
Keisha Lindsay is an associate professor in the departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research and teaching interests include feminist political theory, Black feminism, Black masculinities, and gender-based politics in the African diaspora.


November 12, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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