Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman Analysis

Michele Wallace

Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman consists of two essays on the title topics, a bibliography, and an index. Michele Wallace attacks the male supremacist bias of 1960’s and 1970’s African American politics. She shows how the Black Power movement that attempted to empower African Americans only empowered African American men. Women remained marginalized, unable to develop a political strategy to take control of their own lives.

Wallace argues that African Americans had been systematically deprived of their own African culture. While slavery and segregation were enormously damaging, African Americans were also hurt by integration and assimilation that denied them the knowledge of their history of struggle and the memory of their own cultural practices. In the process of assimilation, integration, and accommodation, African Americans took on white cultural attitudes and values in regard to sexuality and gender. As a result, African American men became sexist and misogynistic and African American women became self-hating. In hating African American women, African American men hated themselves. They had accepted the dominant culture’s negative stereotypes about the African race.

The roots of African American self-hatred are found in the United States’ history of lynching African American men who purportedly pursued white women. The idea developed that an African American man’s access to white women was a prerequisite of his freedom. This notion shaped the minds of both those white women who came to the South as part of the Civil Rights movement and the African American men who met them there. Since many such men had come to think of themselves in largely physical terms, the inaccessibility of white women represented a severe limitation to their manhood. Liberal white women did not want to oppress African...

(The entire section is 758 words.)


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Byrd, Rudolph P., and Beverly Guy-Sheftell, eds. Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. Explores the place of African American men in African American feminist criticism, as well as the patriarchy’s exploitation of African American women.

Carson, Clayborne, Emma J. Lapsansky-Werner, and Gary B. Nash. The Struggle for Freedom: A History of African Americans. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. One of the best general histories of African Americans.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005. Essentially the successor book to Wallace’s work, Collins’s text explores how images of black sexuality have been used to oppress African Americans.

Collins, Patricia Hill. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006. One of the best histories of modern black feminism.

Estes, Steve. I Am A Man! Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Examines male attitudes toward the Civil Rights movement and the Moynihan Report.

Robnett, Belinda. How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. A history of the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of African American women.

Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. New York: Viking Penguin, 2000. One of the best histories of the women’s movement.