Quoted: Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Toure, White Masters, and Black Mistresses

Natalie Hopkinson over at the Root posted a fascinating conversation with Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Toure’s twitter comments, among other things.

The Root: What was your reaction to Toure’s comments?

Dolen Perkins-Valdez: My initial reaction was ‘here we go again with the stereotypes.’ [During slavery] black women were portrayed as seducing men. The ‘wenches’ were so sexual that the white men couldn’t resist them.

The use of the phrase “good-good” objectifies women in the same way that slavery objectified women. It reinforces the idea that women were just bodies to be used in any way. The last line in my book was, “She was more than eyes, ears, lips, and thigh. She was a heart. She was a mind.” The sort of flip-ness of the comment was unfortunate. My feeling is we need to educate ourselves about what really happened.

TR: But Lizzie, one of the main characters, does love her master and specifically use sex to curry favors for her children and other slaves.

DPV: I think there was a lot of gray. Yes, surely women who were favored by the master used whatever little power they could gain from that favor. I think it is a little bit reckless to say that black women intentionally seduced masters. The power they gained was still so small. To call Lizzie a seductress, fooling Massa with her ‘good-good’ is not accurate. He seduced her when she was a 13-year-old orphan. [...]

[Public rapes] definitely happened in the slave quarters in broad daylight. It happens in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The men are made to give oral sex to the overseer. The way she writes it is very oblique. [In the rape scene in Wench] these two Northern women thought they were coming to see a beating and the master got carried away in the frenzy of the moment. But the master wasn’t doing it for them, he was doing it for the other slaves as a warning.