The mammy figure is a black woman that lived to serve a white family, most often living in with the family to cook and take care of the children. This woman is most often depicted to be asexual and have no life outside of taking care of the family that they’re working for. “Mammy is the most well known racial caricature of African American women. She was created during the era of American slavery as manufactured evidence that black slave women were content and even happy to be slaves, and thus, that slavery was a humane institution. Although she had children, sometimes many, she was completely desexualized. She “belonged” to the white family, though it was rarely stated, and she was a faithful worker.” (Leeds Craig) Though this stereotype typically dates back to post civil war, you would think that its image would have faded by now right? Absolutely not.
The mammy character has not gone away, but has evolved in many ways. I provided pictures of the modern mammy which includes Big Mama from “Big Mama’s House” and Madea from Tyler Perry’s movies. These characters, both black women, are both purposed with taking care of and helping those around them. The characters whole existence revolves around other people and their problems. The characters are darker skinned, overweight and made to have little to no sexuality at all.
This image is problematic in many ways as it portrays women of a darker skin tone and bigger weight as disposable and undesirable. I believe this archetype is not only sexist and racist, but ageist. While younger black women are hypersexualized, older black women are asexulized, older women in general tend to be asexualized after reaching a certain age.
Overall, the idea that the “mammy” is a thing of the past is as ridiculous as the idea that we’re post racial. The images are constantly reinforced time after time intentionally and unintentionally.
Brandon Antonio is a graduate student at Old Dominion University who loves naps and sex. In his free time you can catch him at your local mall spending money on things he cannot afford. You can also catch him in your local FaceBook comment section arguing that gender is INDEED a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. Brandon received his B.S. in Human Services and hopes to one day open a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for others.