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Sapphic Slashers

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Sapphic Slashers In "Sapphic Slashers," Lisa Duggan masterfully examines two very distinct, yet both highly influential narratives that modernized the American values of race, class, gender, and sexuality well into the 20th century. Prior to her analysis of both the lynching and lesbian identity narratives, Duggan stresses that her intention is not to find direct connections between them. "The goal of the study is not to persuasively demonstrate an empirical link between lynching and lesbian love murder. The lesbian love murder story and the lynching narrative were not simply analogous or parallel tales of sexual pathology leading to political disfranchisement; they thematized different antagonisms and motivated different forms of social action that cannot be represented as equivalent."1 Though it is evident both narratives do not contextually share many similarities, it is clear that black men and white women did share many similarities in terms of the circumstances endured, the obstacles overcome, the unjust outcomes, and more importantly the yearning for political, economic, social, and sexual freedoms- freedoms that were out of their grasp from the force that had grappled them for an entire century, the white male patriarch cal society. Despite the successes following the Civil War and the emergence of many vocal political and civil rights leaders, the efforts of these brave men and women were still overshadowed by "white" imperial domination.

Middle

Looking deeper into the issue, had the murderer been a black man or woman and not an elite white woman, they would not receive any attention from the press or anything close to a defense like that of Alice Mitchell. The lesbian identity narrative was something new therefore it created a high impact on the mainstream press. Newspapers throughout the nation were interested and intrigued by this "sensational," erotic news story. "Intense, loving friendships between girls were accepted as commonplace- in Memphis such girls were said to be "chumming." But passion of the sort that could lead to romantic obsession and murder was considered startling and newsworthy."7 Despite the intrigue, the local and national press responded to this case differently. The local press had to be careful in terms of what they wanted the people to read. Duggan states, "The news as reported in the Memphis dailies was thus systematically shaped by the perceptions and assumptions of the prosperous white men who controlled newspaper publishing. Therefore, the news was determined to defend the white home, by this threat of deviant sexuality and violence. To better serve their point, the press focused on the dangers of the Mitchell-Ward case on the white family. The element that truly caught national new attention was the psychological state of this so-called lesbian. Was this murderer a fiend? Or was she a "maniacal crank?"

Conclusion

The same goes to women reformers in response to the lesbian narrative. The injustices were used as a source of motivation- motivation to let the truth be told, to encourage all those blind to the harsh realities of a white male dominated world. Through all the pain, suffering, sacrifice, and hardships, both narratives positively modernized views on class, gender, sexuality, and race. As Duggan states, "In Memphis in 1892, Alice Mitchell and Ida. B. Wells experienced love and loss and transformed mourning into social action."13 Their efforts are clearly recognized. Today, though not exactly sound and harmonious, racial equality and sexual freedom are much more accepted and valued in a democratic society. 1 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 3) 2 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 20) 3 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 20) 4 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 24) 5 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 26) 6 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 89) 7 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 25) 8 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 40) 9 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 41) 10 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 154) 11 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 197) 12 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 22) 13 Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 31) ?? ?? ?? ?? 1

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