Saturday, November 28, 2009

Images and the Face of Female Labor

With the recent uproar regarding Google's Images and First Lady Michelle Obama, I decided to do a little query of my own.

I have been thinking about labor for the last several months. I've been trying to put into words how I can convey this notion of us re-thinking the value of our physical, intellectual, emotional, and cultural labor---especially with the Internet utilizing all four and making ka-zillions.

I Googled "labor" in the images section and the second image was the famous poster you see in the beginning of the blog called "Roise the Riveter." This symbol was conntected to white women's labor movement during WWII.

I say white women's labor movement because women of color in the US have always worked.
This iconic image challenged traditional notions of femaleness in the United States and represented women's support of war efforts by working in places males usually occupied up until the war.

Hmmm, I thought, this is interesting. One, because the poster says, "Honor Labor;" two, because there has existed a female labor force waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy before this photo.

Since America's inception, women of color have labored their whole lives, in non-traditional ways, as well as "traditional." And much of our labor is not even close to being honored, or even recognized.

Women in my family were known to be very muscular because of the physical labor endured when picking cotton, cutting sugar cane, or using a mule for the plow their whole lives crafted biceps that would make today's bodybuilder sick with envy.

These women were not much of women in the eyes of mainstream America, but workers who looked far from pale daintiness.

Women in my family also have various stress-related illnesses with dealing with careers that undermine their intelligence, or neglect their very presence.
And when they are recognized, it is a bitter struggle where they are the anomaly, who becomes the face of success.

She is broadcasted and becomes why institutionalized sexism and racism validates that Forutne 500 companies are indeed diverse thus the lack of color is the lack of savvy, leadership and brillance. This woman looks like this...
And even though women of color range in labor within the labor force, it is all too familiar that a woman in labor looks like this...but isn't new life supposed to be beautiful?

2 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Reggie said...

Excellent post!!!

Just sitting here reading your description of the women in your family put me in the mind of my maternal grandparents. They owned a farm in central Alabama and even as an old man my grandfather remained chiseled from a life spent utilizing physical labor in order to be an effective and efficient farmer. It wasn't unusual for my grandmother to spend hours a day working right alongside him, such was life in those days.

We never had the luxury of NOT working, yes we've always worked. The black woman has done much to fashion this country into what it is today.

Ensayn1 said...

There is a film coming out called Poto Mitan; Hatian women pillars in the global economy. The film seems to coalese along the same line as your excelletn post.