Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female
Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female is a pamphlet written by Frances M. Beal in 1969. The pamphlet was later revised and then published in The Black Woman, an anthology edited by Toni Cade Bambara in 1970. A revised version was included in the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From The Women's Liberation Movement, edited by Robin Morgan. Beal's essay talks about the misconceptions and troubles which come about when one tries to analyze the role of a black female in society. The pamphlet covers many different aspects of life and how they pertained to black women or "non-white women" compared to how they pertain to white women, white men and non-white men.
Economic Exploitation of Black Women
The first section of the pamphlet talks about the economics of black women and how on average in 1969, a non-white woman made approximately three times less than a white man. Beal thus exposes the concrete economic raison d'être of both racism and sexism. In other words, it pays, for some, to uphold such reactionary and divisive ideologies since the more a group of people is marginalized and discriminated against the easier it is to exploit their labor (to have a pool of low-waged workers). Beal draws several conclusions from this: 1) that the divisions created between workers because of the different pay rates are hindering the advancement of the workers' struggle as a whole because white workers do not readily question their privileges; 2) that, in the end, one has to see different forms of exploitation as related to one another if we want to get rid of them all; 3) and that an awareness of, and an end to the super-exploitation of Black workers, and women in particular, should be a priority in the fight against capitalism. The essay discusses economic oppression of black women from the perspective of racism. However, Beal did not analyze class oppression as an independent form of oppression. Although the economic oppression of black women was rooted in racism and sexism that historically constrained them to low wage jobs, black women face multiple oppressions that impede their liberation. The essay discusses how capitalist system within the American society defined manhood. An individual is considered a real "man" if he has a good job, makes a lot of money and drives a fancy car. For more context on this concept of manhood, see The Negro Family: The Case For National Action. The essay argues that many black women accepted this capitalist evaluation of manhood. This contributed in the strained relationship between the black man and woman as black women viewed black men as lazy, hence their lack of employment.
Beal claims that the recent cry for birth control in both black and non white neighborhoods was more of a surgical genocide trying to prevent those of the non-white background from reproducing and increasing in numbers. The forced sterilization of black women and women of color violated their reproductive rights and this influence Beal’s formation of Third World Women's Alliance and struggle for black women’s liberation. Beal discusses the lack of access to legal abortion for black women and other women of color, thus threatening their health. However, black men were opposed to abortion for black women because they considered abortion as genocide for black people.
Relation to the White Movement
Another section of the essay focuses on the troubled relationship between black women and white women’s movement. The difference is due to the white women’s movement being too middle class and not speaking up against racism. Moreover, white women's movement was insensitive to black women’s issues such as abortion rights, forced sterilization and welfare rights. The troubled relationship between black women and white women’s movement was also seen in feminist organizations such as Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee as around 1965, white women were moving from SNCC to a more upper-middle-class Students for Democratic Society.
The New World
The final part of the essay focuses on the new world in which Beal discusses male supremacy within the black liberation movement. The pamphlet discusses the need for the black liberation movement to address the issues black women face. The essay discusses the need to eliminate all forms of oppressions within society and the importance of black women to be at the forefront of the black liberation movement. This pamphlet played an important role in the black rights movement for women and black feminist scholarship. Beal’s essay also influenced black feminist organizations such as the SNCC and TWWA. Beal influenced TWWA naming its newspaper Triple Jeopardy, and adopted an analysis of black women’s oppression through lenses of race, class and gender.
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