Slavery is the problem that has been disturbing our planet for many years. It is the vice that breaks the line of equality between people and changes some of them into someone’s “animals”. History contains many periods when slavery was the main type of relationship between men. Especially it was typical for the relationships between whites and blacks and between rich and poor. However, the cruelest period of slavery were then, when slaves were women as they are weak and could not protect their rights. One of such period is described in the book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, which reveals the main features that distinguish female slavery from male one, and shows how the author’s experience of slavery was shaped by the fact that she was a woman.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is not the simple story about the hard lives of slaves. The most striking thing about this book is that it reveals the story of a slave girl. Moreover, the characters, who are described in it, are not made up they are taken from the experience of the author. Incidents in the Life of a slave Girl is the confession of Harriet Jacobs about her own years of slavery, which has been shaped by the fact that she was a woman. Firstly, she had to experience the abusive attitude toward her. From the age of fifteen, Harriet Jacobs finds herself defined not only as property but also as sexual property. She is assaulted by the father of her young mistress and in spite of resistance and clear helplessness, accused by the wife of conniving in her own seduction. “He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things” (Jacobs 27). Secondly, slavery experience of Harriet Jacobs is shaped by derogatory attitude towards black people in general. She mentions in the book: “And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation” (Jacobs 50). Thirdly, her fate is shaped by the impossibility of female slaves to stand against their owners because there are no laws that protect them. The author states: “No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men” (Jacobs 27) Finally, the slavery of women is shaped by the impossibility for them to create a happy family and give all conditions to their children. It sounds horrible, but sometimes women had to sell their own children to make ends meet. “On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to a slave-trader, and their mother was brought by a man in her own town” (Jacobs 16).
Thereby, many features distinguish male slavery from female, one that influenced the years of slavery of Harriet Jacobs. Firstly, female slaves are very often the object of sexual violence while male ones are not. Secondly, they are too weak to stand against their masters in comparison with men. That is why masters can do with them what they want. Thirdly, slavery makes the performance of the basic function of women, motherhood, almost impossible, as many female slaves who have children simply do not have time to spend with them. Moreover, sometimes slavery makes a mother leave her child, and it is a tragedy for her. All these are clearly seen from the example of Harriet Jacobs. Although, it may seem that she has certain advantages in comparison with men because she can attract the master by her beauty. In fact, it is the biggest problem in the life of all female slaves. “O, what days and nights of fear and sorrow that man caused me!” (Jacobs 29).
To sum up, female slavery is a horrible thing that restricts the rights of women. It is described in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, autobiographical work, which reveals all disgusting features of slavery, and shows, what difficulties female slaves have to experience every day in comparison with the male ones.