Voyeuristic Abolitionism: Sex, Gender and the Transformation of Antislavery Discourse

Title:
Voyeuristic Abolitionism: Sex, Gender and the Transformation of Antislavery Discourse
Authors:
Lasser, Carol
Abstract:
In the 1830s, antislavery advocates used highly sexualized language to recruit Northerners into the growing immediatist movement. The "voyeuristic abolitionism" they developed in speeches, pamphlets and periodicals served to shock and mobilize men and especially women, who were urged to identify with the enslaved of their own sex, and then to act to save these victims. Engaging women in such explicit discussions and encouraging female efforts to strike against slavery challenged established gender norms. Yet as the antislavery movement evolved beyond moral suasion into a political strategy, most abolitionists curtailed their use of sexualized imagery, and women's participation in the antislavery movement took its own form. The rise and fall of the rhetoric of "voyeuristic abolitionism" can be charted by studying the vocabulary used in magazines and other popular publications of the era, now searchable electronically through the American Periodical Series. The explosive potential of this language can also be seen in the ways in which it was employed -and avoided-in the U.S. Congress. By the 1850s, some Americans-among them African American authors and antislavery women, including most notably Harriet Beecher Stowe--found ways to reference the moral evils of slavery without invoking explicitly sexual language. In the end, attacks on slavery framed in political terms prevailed over the voyeuristic abolitionism that had first drawn women into the antislavery coalition.
Citation:
Lasser, Carol. 2008. "Voyeuristic Abolitionism: Sex, Gender and the Transformation of Antislavery Discourse." Journal Of The Early Republic 28: 83-114.
Publisher:
University of Pennslyvania Press for Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
DATE ISSUED:
2008
Department:
History
Type:
article
PUBLISHED VERSION:
10.1353/jer.2008.0014
PERMANENT LINK:
http://hdl.handle.net/11282/310445

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorLasser, Carolen_US
dc.date.accessioned2013-12-23T16:33:18Z-
dc.date.available2013-12-23T16:33:18Z-
dc.date.issued2008en
dc.identifier.citationLasser, Carol. 2008. "Voyeuristic Abolitionism: Sex, Gender and the Transformation of Antislavery Discourse." Journal Of The Early Republic 28: 83-114.en_US
dc.identifier.issn0275-1275en_US
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11282/310445-
dc.description.abstractIn the 1830s, antislavery advocates used highly sexualized language to recruit Northerners into the growing immediatist movement. The "voyeuristic abolitionism" they developed in speeches, pamphlets and periodicals served to shock and mobilize men and especially women, who were urged to identify with the enslaved of their own sex, and then to act to save these victims. Engaging women in such explicit discussions and encouraging female efforts to strike against slavery challenged established gender norms. Yet as the antislavery movement evolved beyond moral suasion into a political strategy, most abolitionists curtailed their use of sexualized imagery, and women's participation in the antislavery movement took its own form. The rise and fall of the rhetoric of "voyeuristic abolitionism" can be charted by studying the vocabulary used in magazines and other popular publications of the era, now searchable electronically through the American Periodical Series. The explosive potential of this language can also be seen in the ways in which it was employed -and avoided-in the U.S. Congress. By the 1850s, some Americans-among them African American authors and antislavery women, including most notably Harriet Beecher Stowe--found ways to reference the moral evils of slavery without invoking explicitly sexual language. In the end, attacks on slavery framed in political terms prevailed over the voyeuristic abolitionism that had first drawn women into the antislavery coalition.en_US
dc.publisherUniversity of Pennslyvania Press for Society for Historians of the Early American Republicen_US
dc.identifier.doi10.1353/jer.2008.0014-
dc.subject.departmentHistoryen_US
dc.titleVoyeuristic Abolitionism: Sex, Gender and the Transformation of Antislavery Discourseen_US
dc.typearticleen_US
dc.identifier.journalJournal Of The Early Republicen_US
dc.identifier.volume28en_US
dc.identifier.startpage83en_US
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