How do character representations and the representation of Precious in Push by Sapphire challenge and reinforce cultural stereotypes about female sexuality and/or bodily difference? 

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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On one hand, the characterization that Sapphire offers in Push might be seen as capitulating to cultural stereotypes about female sexuality and body image. Precious is a woman of color, subject to rapes and sexual violation.  Precious is HIV positive, and limited in education and economic opportunity.  This stereotype is physically enhanced with her being obese.  Precious can be seen as embodying the cultural stereotype for some might see her as a victim.

However, a case can be made where Sapphire challenges the cultural stereotype because Precious is not a static character.  She is shown as one who can emerge from the condition around her to defy the cultural stereotype of victimization.  This is seen in how she is able to emerge through education into a new sense of self.  When she is able to articulate her own condition with reflective notions such as "That's how big the heart of a blue whale is. I know it's not possible, but if that heart in me could I love more" or I bite my fingernails till they look like disease, pull strips of my skin away. Get Daddy's razor out cabinet. Cut cut cut arm wrist, not trying to die, trying to plug myself back in," Precious goes beyond the stereotype.  Sapphire shows her as defying this condition because of her ability to grow and expand into something more. Sapphire makes it clear that Precious is able to see herself as something more than physical and temporal considerations.  This evolution exists on both intellectual and spiritual levels, when Precious starts to envision herself in a healthy and  relationship with a boyfriend.  In these elements of growth, Precious is not limited by the stereotype, and is transcending it.  The stereotype is static.  In constructing Precious in a new light as a result of her characterization, Sapphire ends up challenging this condition.  

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karenwalcott's profile pic

karenwalcott | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The characters in Sapphire's Push challenge gender stereotypes in several ways. Precious' mother defies female gender stereotypes by sexually abusing her daughter. Fathers who sexually abuse their daughters are well documented in the media. It is also portrayed often in literature. Mothers who sexually abuse their children, particularly their daughters, are rarely discussed in the media and are not an element of any fictional literature. Precious' mother defies gender stereotypes in that she is a female sexual abuser whose victim is her own daughter. 

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