Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman Form and Content

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.)