Protofeminists and Liberation Limbos

  • Joy James


Limbos entail vulnerable backbreaking postures as well as isolated states. Rarely ladylike, limbos repudiate the gentleness of the cult of “true” womanhood, a bourgeois construct for civility that can weigh heavily on the outspoken and independent to censor black female militancy. Those who advocate civility as a precondition for transcending antiblack female stereotypes can depict the combativeness of rebels in “rude” opposition to racism, homophobia and sexism, corporate capitalism, and environmental pollution as a personal failing in deportment. In limbos, shadow boxers, particularly historical women or “protofeminists,” who preshadowed contemporary black feminist radicalism, provided models and strategies for resistance that rejected strict black female adherence to middle-class norms.


White Woman Black Woman African American Woman Sexual Violence Black Male 
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© James Joy 1999

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  • Joy James

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