Monday, October 1, 2007

The Mammy
Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

Above are three different pictures of mammies. In the first picture it shows a robust black female with big lips and eyes wearing a handkerchief on her head. She looks to be scolding one of her own children. In the second picture are two mammies holding white babies. They are also large black women who are wearing handkerchiefs on their heads and aprons. Their lips and eyes also are large. Finally in the last picture is just a head shot of a mammy. She is portrayed as very happy and also has many of the same physical features as the women in the other two pictures, large lips, big eyes, and wearing a handkerchief on her head. I chose to do these images because these are images that mammy was recognized as doing. She was not loving to her own children, as shown in the first picture, she cared for the white children as in the second picture, and she was portrayed as being very happy and doing whatever it was her master asked her to do, as shown in the last picture.
These pictures relate very closely with the images that we saw in the movie Ethnic Notions. In Ethnic Notions there were many pictures of the mammy with a big smile on her face while she was doing laundry or other household chores. There was also a clip that showed the mammy doing laundry outside and then as soon as the young white child came out, she insisted that she would make him pancakes. The whole time she was smiling and whistling and was portrayed as being very happy.
Also, in all of the pictures of the mammy she was always shown as a large woman with very dark skin. She always had a huge smile on her face and also had large lips and big eyes. There was never an image that portrayed her with different physical characteristics. These pictures go right a long with that stereotype and continue to show the mammy with all of those same physical features.
In the movie, the mammy was always very nice and pleasant to the white children. She cared for them in a loving, motherly way. She was portrayed as willing to do whatever the child wanted her to do and she tended to the white children’s every need. This is what is being portrayed in the second picture. The mammies are holding and taking care of the white babies, as a mother would do. However, in contrast, the mammies were shown as always being brutish to their own children. There were images in the movie that shows the mammy spanking her own child while having them lying across her lap. She was always punishing her own children and was never shown as caring for them in a loving way as she was shown doing to the white children. This is portrayed in the first picture of the mammy correcting her own child when they are saying their prayers. There is no loving or caring feeling when you look at this image.
I feel that this portrayal of the mammy is rather said. First of all, the fact that she is shown as always being very happy and satisfied with her lifestyle and the work that she is told to do is very sad and wrong. She obviously is not happy that she is under someone’s control and has to tend to their every need. We all know that life for slaves was not a pleasant thing and the fact that they show the mammy as being happy and willing to do her job all of the time is a misconception.
Second, the fact that they show images of the mammy taking care of the white children and tending to their needs and loving them like a mother would and then showing the exact opposite when it comes to her own children is a very sad image as well. This obviously wasn’t exactly how it was and it is wrong that there are so many images portraying life as being that way. Also, it really wasn’t a choice for the mammy to take care of the white children and treat them that way, she had to, it was part of her job.
Finally, the fact that they show the mammy with having the same physical characteristics is very stereotypical as well. The fact that they show the mammy as being very dark skinned, with big lips and big eyes and being overweight just gives many reasons to believe that she is unprivileged. They obviously all did not look this way however they still continued to portray the mammy looking that way. In the end I think that the whole idea and portrayal of the mammy is very discriminating and sad.

No comments: