Patriarchy: a social system governed by men, in which men have authority over women and children
Paternalism: the policy or practice of people in positions of authority restricting the liberty or autonomy of subordinates for the subordinates’ supposed benefit
Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA): a coalition of women of color working toward abolishing racism, imperialism, and sexism that grew out of SNCC’s Black Women’s Liberation Committee
During the Civil Rights Movement, equal treatment toward all members involved was often overlooked in the push for racial equality. In particular, women, both black and white, were barred from all of the benefits that were being fought for within the movement.
First, it is important to recognize the stereotypes placed upon women during the Civil Rights Era that affected how others treated them. To mainstream America, white women were pure, and this purity was to be maintained by a lack of association with black men. Sexual relationships between white females and black males were especially forbidden. Meanwhile, black women were considered seductive and dirty. In order to gain respect from American society, black women needed to maintain a façade of extreme propriety. For example, Rosa Parks had her past as a defiant race activist erased so that she could serve as the figurehead for the Montgomery bus boycott.
Black women also faced pressures from stereotypes when they tried to take on leadership positions. In particular, they were often stereotyped as strong and castrating; historically, black women have been barred from positions of leadership so as not to threaten the masculinity of black men. As a result, black female leadership potential was underutilized, as many felt that “males can rise only to the degree that black women are held down.” Black women also found themselves stereotyped as the black mammy, expected to take on responsibilities outside of their formal roles by comforting and counseling others and not given the opportunity to lead.
During the Civil Rights Movement, many women were excluded from leadership and activism when many in the movement began to hold the “revolutionary objective of reclaiming ‘black manhood.’” Some men (and some women) in the movement even felt that focusing on issues related to women would be a distraction from the main goal of black liberation. Moreover, the majority of the black females who were able to gain prominence in the movement were connected to men as the “lovers or partners of black male revolutionaries or prison intellectuals.” As a result, black women were rarely considered political allies with black men but rather consorts, unable to gain important positions within the movement without the presence of a black man beside them. Black women were even