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Did Gender Make A Difference Essay, Research Paper
Did Gender Make a Difference?
Within slavery there were harsh conditions which
Frederick Douglass tries to convey in his biography
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.”
Within this narrative he dezribes how men and women
slaves were treated differently by their masters.
Women were abused by their master, physically,
sexually, and mentally, while men were mostly abused
physically and mentally.
Many slave women suffered regular beatings.
Frederick Douglass mentions several different
instances where female slaves who he knew where
beaten regularly. One of Douglass’s first overseers,
Mr. Plummer, would beat Douglass’s aunt on a daily
basis. Mr. Plummer whipped Douglass’s aunt so often
he began a routine, “He would whip her to make her
scream, and whip her to make her hush” (23).
Frederick Douglass also recounted the killing of a
slave girl because she slept through a baby’s cry.
While he was in Baltimore Fredrick Douglass observed
the multiple beating of two young girls across the
street. Douglass says “The girls seldom passed her
without her saying, ‘Move faster, you black gip!’ at
the same time giving them a blow with the cowskin
over the head and shoulders, often drawing the blood”
(49). But women were not the only ones who received
beatings. The men were also physically abused.
Douglass describes two stable men, old Barney and
young Barney, who never know when to expect a
beating from their master, “They never knew when they
were safe from punishment. They were frequently
whipped when least deserving” (32). Douglass
explains one of his own experience’s of the beatings
which he received as a slave. He told us how
“he rushed at me with the fierceness of a
tiger, tore off my clothes, and lashed me
till he had worn out his switches, cutting me
so savagely as to leave the marks visible for
a long time” (70).
Men and women alike were physically abused by their
masters, deserving or not.
Not only did women suffer harsh physical abuse,
they were also sexually abused. Many of the masters
had relations with their female servants. Frederick
Douglass’s own father was white, and it was rumored
that his father was his original master. Douglass
believed the sexual abuse that masters inflicted was
“done too obviously to administer to their own lusts,
and make a gratification of their wicked desires
profitable as well as pleasurable” (21). He believed
female slaves were not only workers for the masters
but also outlets for sexual frustration. Women did
not only endure sexual abuse by their masters, they
also had the responsibility of bearing children to
increase their masters’ wealth. These women were
treated as animals, being bought for child bearing.
Frederick Douglass exemplifies this attitude toward
female slaves through the story of a slave named
Caroline. Douglass stated that her master, Mr. Covey
“bought her, as he said, for a breeder” (72). When
she produced a set of twins, “Mr. Covey seemed to be
highly pleased …. nothing they could do for
Caroline during her confinement was too good, or too
hard to be done” (73). Men did not have the
misfortune to be used for this purpose. Many male
slaves enjoyed the fact that these women were
present. It gave them the chance to relieve their
sexual frustration. Women slaves received this abuse
not only from their masters but also from their
Emotional pain was inflicted upon women slaves
through the separation of them from their children.
After only two months the children were sent to an
elderly slave, who could no longer work, to be taken
care of. Then the mother was sent to another farm to
work. Douglass talked about his experiences with his
mother. He told of how she walked seven miles, from
a neighboring farm, just to sit next to him at night
before he fell asleep. He also mentioned the
detachment which he felt after his mothers death. He
“I was not allowed to be present during her
illness, at her death, or burial. She was
gone long before I knew any thing about it.
Never having enjoyed, to any considerable
extent, her soothing presence, her tender and
watchful care, I received the tidings of her
death with much the same emotions I should
have probably felt at the death of a
For a mother to walk seven miles and have a
sleepless night to be with her son shows the mental
anguish that she was going through due to the
separation of her and her child. Douglass does not
mention the separation of fathers and children, or
any interest of fathers in their children’s lives.
There was no evidence that male slaves felt
separation anxiety. But both male and female slaves
were mentally abused. They were kept ignorant.
Slaves were uneducated because they were forbidden to
read or write by their masters. Douglass recounts
his own experience of when he began to read. His
mistress was teaching him the alphabet, when his
master found out he stated,
“If you give a nigger an inch, he will take
an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to
obey his master-to do as he is told to do.
Learning will spoil the best nigger in the
world. Now if you teach that nigger
(speaking of myself) how to read, there would
be no keeping him. It would forever unfit
him to be a slave. He would at once become
unmanageable, and of no values to his master”
His mastered had the concept that if a slave was
knowledgeable he would become unmanageable. This a
form of mental abuse because it denied the slaves the
ability to think for themselves, through denying them
the knowledge needed to make important decisions.
The life of a female slave seems to be a little
more trying then that of a male slaves. This is due to
the sexual abuse which the women must endure. Also
brought forth was some trials of slavery which do not
always come to mind, such as separation anxiety,
illiteracy, and sexual abuse. These acts of abuse were
a large part of slavery during its existence. The
types of abuse were present in order to keep the slave
population as slaves, and not a group of people who
think for themselves.
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