Gender Expectations In Motherhood

Decent Essays

Motherhood: Expectations and Race

Pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood is a time in a women’s life that is full of varying emotions. Some are excited and hopeful while others are worried and careful. Either way, the moment you hold your newborn for the first time, there is a new sense of purpose women often feel. A heightened sense to nurture and protect. During slavery, that was not always the case for most if not all enslaved women. In a time where oppression, discrimination and sadistic acts of violence and terror were casted upon enslaved Africans in America; women were merged into specific gender roles and expectations. White and black women were not seen equally. Societal views created a margin of how the world perceived white and black women in all aspects of life including: motherhood, work and their roles as a wife. Motherhood during slavery was quite difficult for enslaved African women and very much so differed from white women. On many plantations, black women were wet nurses. The would often breastfeed their slave masters’ newborn infants. The fascination of black women breasts predates to transatlantic slavery. Camp states, “European colonial travelers to West Africa frequently commented on black women’s breasts as large and droopy and compared them to goats’ udders” (p. 63) If enslaved women, primarily used their breastmilk to feed and nurture white infants on the plantation, one has to wonder, what happened to their own children. Black women had little

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