Black Female Sexuality in Passing by Deborah E. McDowell

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In Deborah E. McDowell’s essay Black Female Sexuality in Passing she writes about the sexual repression of women seen in Nella Larsen‘s writings during the Harlem Renaissance, where black women had difficulty expressing their sexuality. In her essay, she writes about topics affecting the sexuality of women such as, religion, marriage, and male dominated societies. In Toni Morrison’s short story, “Recitatif” there are examples of women who struggle to express their sexuality. The people in society judge women based off their appearance, and society holds back women from expressing themselves due to society wanting them to dress/act a certain way. Religion is one point McDowell brings forth in her essay, during the Jazz era she stated …show more content…
In addition, Twyla stated that she was taller than any man showing how important God was. Roberta’s mother looked

down upon Twyla and her mother, represents God looking down upon Marry who is not pure because of her expressing her sexuality/appearance/stripper. In this instance, we could see that Marry was the “new” woman, while Roberta’s mother was the old conservative type that looks down upon these “new” women. Although Marry was expressing her sexuality, she Toni Morrison portrayed her with traits such as irresponsibility and rudeness. When she groaned through the Sermon this was disrespect to God. In McDowell’s essay, she also explains how Black women have a loss of status when expressing their sexuality. Marry and Roberta’s mother lost their status when their children were sent to St Bonny’s orphanage. Since Marry is a stripper it can be said that she lost her child due to her expressing her sexuality for money, further showing irresponsibility. Marry was not able to be a mother for her child, and during the Harlem Renaissance a mother usually stayed at home and raised the children, while the father worked. In this case, we know a mother’s instinctive nature is to nurture and take care of their child, but her child along with Roberta ended up in an orphanage. Twyla felt liked she was dump and abandoned because she did not fit in at the orphanage because she did have a mother. Feeling resentment to their mother, we can see that