Black Women's Performance of Gender: Seen in the Black Panther Party

Discussions of gender as a performance often leave out the distinctive experiences of people of color, especially of Black women. Womanhood is different depending on the woman, and for Black women, in particular, womanhood entails certain ideals that coincide with race, sex, and class. Racism, sexism, and classism are intertwined and compounded against one another, and this makes the African American woman's experience distinctive and worthy of further analysis. To ask what it means to be a woman also means asking what it means to be a Black woman. Gender performance for Black women is already a complex notion and it is further complicated by the fact that many Black women were also revolutionaries, activists, and educators. Historically, Black women have played substantial roles in the efforts to ensure freedom for Black Americans. Black women joined various organizations, participated in many protests, marches, and rallies, and contributed to changes in broad social phenomena,  which resulted in transformations in law and society.  One such organization is the Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense,  which was founded in Oakland California in the year 1966 by Bobby Seale and Hewey P Newton. Black women panthers had to exist within the transforming gender ideologies of the organization and larger society while actively working to better their communities for their generations and those to come. The experiences of Black woman Panthers are perfect avenues to analyze the gender performance of Black women because they not only had to perform gender as Black women they also had to perform as Black woman Panthers. The goal of this section is to use the intersectional nature of the Black woman's experience and the gender ideologies of the Black Panther Party in order to better understand how and why Black women performed gender within the organization. 

Prev Next