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Ayani McReynolds

Professor Granillo

English 103

23 May 2019

Dealing with the Repercussions of Oppression in the Black Community

Below the poverty line with all odds stacked against you, one still has to deal with

political systems or agendas, racism and no support system to help better themselves. With so

many odds that can be stacked against black women, the question becomes, “How does one

succeed under the circumstances that is presented to us?” The movie ​Precious is a prime

example of having her I had stacked against her as she battles her mother, colorism, and

governmental agendas. By way of Critical Race Theory and through the lens of Feminism we

can analyze the effects it has on the black community specifically speaking about black women.

Despite proclaiming gender equality for women, women still struggle to shed prevailing racial

discrimination between different ethnicities ultimately eliminating the oppressive nature of the

patriarchy in the black community, thus Precious serves as a reminder that our circumstances

play a huge role in our ability to succeed in rise of anything that we might come up against.

Precious is a sixteen year old young women who is dealing with the tragedies of life . The

movie follows Precious throughout her academic journey. Precious is a victim of incestuous rape

by her family who continuous performs the abuse. As a result her mother, Mary believes that

she stole her husband and deals with hating her daughter for getting raped. Precious’s father,

eventually dies after Precious gets pregnant with her second child by her father and infects her

with HIV. Throughout all of this Precious still has to deal with the physical, mental, and verbal
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abuse the comes from her mother. The director’s audience is lower class black families who have

financial struggles. What the director fails to realize is because the movie is being shown on

major platforms black people aren’t the only ones that will see ​Precious and it could give their

white audience a negative view of black women. However ​Precious gives a realistic view of how

black women can succeed based off of the presented opportunities.

In a world where the male figure is supposed to take on the role that is given to them, a

husband, a father, a protector; the movie ​Precious is a prime example of how the black man

oppresses black women. The movie heavily exemplifies Multicultural Feminism. In our Critical

Theory Today book, Multicultural feminism states that, “ Black women are oppressed by

patriarchy, black feminist observe, she’s oppressed not just because she’s a woman, but because

she is a black woman, a category that has defined as less define historically in America as a less

valuable than the category of a white woman”. (Tyson 278) It further states that, “the Victorian

ideal of the true woman is submissive, fragile, and sexually pure.” In this movie, The audience

experiences precious being raped by her father. Precious, in this case, has been excluded from

being a “True Woman” based off of what she has been subjected to. By default her father has

made her sexually impure, and in the eyes of a patriarchy the idea of a true woman; she doesn’t

meet the qualifications, and the incidents were not her fault. This is important because minority

women still get oppressed as well. Even if it’s not in the eyes of an oppressed white woman ,

minorities still matter. Black women seem to get looked down even by other woman while the

equality for all women is said to be the premise of the feminist movement. From a patriarchal

point of view there are white women and minority women, but both not considered equal.
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This shows that black men can abuse their power in the black community among women. This

causes black women to feel as though they are inferior when it comes to the appropriate attention

that is due to black women; where women are supposed to get nurtured and cultivated from black

men. Which leads to our next discussion of why women feel the need to compete for the black

males attention.

Where women experience so much oppression from black men, it leaves women to

compete for validation from a black man. Due to this interaction with black man black women

feel the need to compete for the love and the attention of a black man; this is something they

should not have to compete for. When it comes to black women competing with other black

women it is because black men have oppressed black women ,so much for so long, that they feel

the need to compete with another woman from the same race. Needless to say, a black woman is

a black woman who is seen as competition, even if it is your daughter. This is shown through

precious’s relationship and interaction with her mother. Throughout the movie, precious was

constantly being told by her mother that she stole her man. Mary states you had sex with my man

it had two kids with him...I should have aborted you.“ (00:45:13) in several different scenes

Mary Esther remind brushes that she had sex with her husband, but in actuality precious had

been brutally raped by her father. Psychologically this is taking a toll on Mary due to the

patriarchal mindset that Mary has. Critical theory today states, “patriarchy continually exerts

forces that undermine women self-confidence and assertiveness…” (Tyson 237), Due to her

husband, in return Mary now questions the way she sees herself. The way she sees herself isn’t

highly if she can think her daughter is still her husband from her even though it’s rate. As a

result it affects her self-esteem and she now feels like she is in competition with her daughter.
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Another great example can be seen in the movie was when precious gets home for the

first time after having her child, and her mother is waiting for her. Mary, Precious’s mother,

asked to see the baby and while holding and looking at her grandchild; quickly get infuriated,

throws the child, and begins to fight Precious. Precious then grabs her child and leaves the house.

Upon leaving Mary throws a flower pot at Precious’s back which causes her to fall down the

flight of stairs and drops her baby on his head. As a result Precious’s son ends up having down

syndrome. This is one of the ways that black women oppress other black women. Jealousy is

what causes black women to turn on one another. Mary felt like she was competing for her

husband’s attention between her and her child. She treats Precious as though she is a grown

woman and this is a representation of how black men oppressing black women and howit

becomes a domino effect for black women to other black women.

Black women are oppressed by several different groups of people not just when it comes

to gender or race, but also in their own community. Another example is when Mary explains

why she allowed her child precious to get abused by her husband Carl who is also precious his

father. She states that he told her to “shut her fat ass up, it’s good for her “ (1:30:57-1:45:32) as a

result she did exactly what he said and let him continue to abuse her child. Not only was this

physical abuse to her child, but it was also abused to Mary as well. From a patriarchal point of

view, Mary takes on the idea that women take a backseat when he comes to being the head of the

household. Critical theory today states that, “traditional gender roles cats men as strong

protective and decisive; they cast women as emotional, irrational, weak, nurturing, and

submissive. “ (Tyson 245) what is it say for Mary? It shows that Mary has fully and happily

embrace the role of a patriarchal woman when she states, I just wanted him to make love to me
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so I let him.“ Due to her patriarchal mindset and also domestic abuse, she also experiences being

a helpless victim which can be developed if you are a product of abuse. In the scene it seemed as

though he stripped her from “​Some have hypothesized that trauma imposed by IPV leads to

learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is a phrase coined by Lenore Walker (1977),

which suggests that women in abusive relationships experience low self-esteem, self-blame,

guilt, and depression. As a result, women experience psychological paralysis that prevents

them from engaging in help-seeking strategies. Thus, the impact of trauma may lead to

passive victims of IPV.” (Vil 2) IPV is intimate partner violence. ​This is also a representation

of how black women can be oppressed by black men so much that they can cause other black

women to be oppressed as well.

Mary turns to physical abuse, as well as verbal abuse, letting her daughter constantly

know that she will not amount to anything. This is shown to the audience when Mary instructs

her to, “quit all that school shit and get your ass on welfare, what you think you too good?“, this

further demonstrates how black women can oppress other black women psychologically as well.

Welfare is a governmental system that is set up to financially help single mothers. Unfortunately,

pertaining to black women welfare is looked down on it. Welfare is supposed to be a last resort,

not something that is solely in heavily relied upon. In Mary’s case, since she’s a single mom who

is a widower and heavily relied on her deceased husband to make the money and bring it home,

she is subjected to being on welfare. Mary sees no value in school, and an education is a way to

create a better opportunity to live a better quality of life. By telling precious to drop school and

get on welfare this is a way to keep precious and educated in an able to create a better life for her

and her children. In essence, what Mary is doing is trying to do, is make precious her equal by
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making her an uneducated Single mother who is unable to provide for her children. She doesn’t

want precious to become better than her, so she tells her not to get in education. With precious

being as smart as she is Mary wants to reiterate how dumb she thinks she is. For instance, her

principal came to her house to encourage her to take a higher level education path. Mary states

that, “you are a smart and you are never going to be nothing; you idiot… Get her away from my

buzzard.” This scene symbolizes the competition between black women and the tactics that are

used to oppressed black women. Without the opportunity to better herself, Precious would be

subjected to her mother’s abuse. Mary tried to rob Precious of her opportunity to provide a better

life for her child and buy her mother abusing her authority precious would have to be oppressed

by her mother for as long as Mary would’ve wanted to further oppress her.

Similarly to the idea of feminist concepts, Intra-Racial racism oppresses black women as

well. Interracial racism is, “the discrimination within the black community against those with

darker skin and more African features.“ (Tyson 278) The idea that takes a stand the most is

double consciousness. The idea of double consciousness is that, “the awareness of belonging to

two conflicting cultures the African-American which grew from Africa. The idea that takes a

stand the most is double consciousness. The idea of double consciousness is that, “the awareness

of belonging to two conflicting cultures the African-American which grew from African roots

and was transformed by its own unique history on American soil and European culture in posed

by White Americans.“ In America we deal with the idea of achieving a certain standard around

white America. Plainly, this is the idea that black people will act a certain way when they are at

home or in a safe space, will win out they have to assimilate into what is the societal standard. In

the movie ​Precious double consciousness makes a proud appearance in many ways. Less
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distinctively hair please a huge role when it comes to double consciousness. This is the idea that

in order to reach beauty standard aesthetically, black women should choose certain hairstyles to

be accepted and to not miss certain opportunities. Brushes and Mary both struggle with the idea

that your natural hair keeps them from being excepted culturally. Precious flat irons her hair so

much that it’s damaged and short. Instead of precious wearing her own hair in its natural state,

which would be a smaller Afro, she rather keep damaging her hair to fit into what she feels is

except it. The audience also views double consciousness when it comes to the here with Mary.

There is a scene in Precious where she tells precious to get her her good week because a white

woman is visiting the house. This particular lady can determine whether or not her children can

be taken away from her. Mary feel it is though her natural hair that comes along with her

ethnicity isn’t good enough to be presented. The same scene exemplifies double consciousness,

but a different facet. Black women believe that talking a certain way will get you in the door for

certain opportunities. In ​Precious Mary changes the tone of voice as well as her vocab you Larry.

She tries to be as articulate as possible when she is speaking with the social worker. This shows

the audience that double consciousness is definitely a problem in the black community and it

teaches us not to love ourselves and in return we suffer from low self-esteem which can make us

lose out on certain opportunities. It also shows us that black people have had to learn how to

assimilate into societal standards in order to be accepted .

Along with the idea of double consciousness black woman have to deal with the ideas of

colorism and Intra-Racial Racism. Our Critical Theory Today book states that, “Intra-– Racial

Racism is “ The discrimination within the black community against those with darker skin and

more African features.“ (Tyson 362). Colorism and Intra-Racial Racism holds the same
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definition. Imagine being told no one will want you because of your weight ,your skin, and your

looks. Unfortunately, in the movie ​Precious was told by her mother that no one was going to

love her because she was fat, black, and ugly. Harsh, I know, but this is the reality that precious

has to live with, and these are the tormenting thoughts that her mother has placed in her head.

She deals with an insecure mother, and is trying to overcome adversity. By way of African

American criticism in intra-racial racism we can see what precious is fallen victim to. By Mary

making a statement about her parents it is a pure sign of intra-racial racism. In actuality precious

has the skin color of her mother. Both women appear to have dark skin, but precious is just a

shade darker. She feels as though precious isn’t beautiful because of her dark skin and she treat

her poorly because of it. Another example was towards the end of the movie where we see

precious and her mother in a Welfare Office, and she finally shows her humanity. She has on

makeup that is several shades lighter than what she actually is. ( 1:30:15-1:40:28) Colleen Butler

Sweet states that, “The aesthetic result of white dominance has been a devaluation of black

female attractiveness and beauty, by both whites and blacks. Black women who are held up as

models of female beauty still tend to resemble white European ideals, often because they are

mixed race. This further burdens black women who do not resemble white ideals of beauty.”

(Butler-Sweet 2). In my opinion this is a true signifier that she is discriminating against herself

based off of what society believes is acceptable. She feels as though she isn’t good enough to

represent well in front of people without having lighter skin. “The identification of maternal

figures, such as grandmothers, aunts, and mothers, as the primary disseminators of skin tone

biases. From these individuals, women learned to associate blackness with negativity and

lightness with ideal beauty.” (Hall 1) Colorism is a learned behavior because of the maternal
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figures that help cultivate a young black girl’s life. The question further becomes, how does the

idea of Colorism or Intra-Racial Racism affect young black girls with darker skin tone and

darker features and how does it affect their ability to succeed in a white dominating society?

Precious being verbally abused by her mother heavily affected her self esteem in the worst way.

Mentioned earlier, Mary calls her child fat, black, and ugly, due to her mothers minacing

comments Precious now believes that she is exactly what her Mother tells her; fat, black, and

ugly. Compared to if her self esteem was reinforced with words of affirmation, positivity, and

love; being told that she can conquer the world, she would do better in all aspects of her life.

Precious would have the self confidence to compete and succeed no matter her circumstance or

her appearance.

The movie Precious serves as a reminder that given the opportunity to succeed and the

right upbringing any one can succeed. It is important that Precious continues to air because it’s a

representation that economic structures can indeed how you back. This is significant because

black women have been oppressed for years not just by white people, but also in their very own

community. Black men and women can oppress their own race .
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Works Cited

Butler-Sweet, Colleen. “Not Like the Other Black Girls: How Class and Family Structure Impact

Young Black Women’s Experiences of Competition and Alienation.” ​Gender Issues,​ vol. 34, no.

4, Dec. 2017, p. 371. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.1007/s12147-017-9185-x.

I chose this artical because it helped me prove my claim. It shows how the family structures

implemented in a black family can affect the young black women being raised in the house hold.

This is a direct correlation to Precious because Precious has been operating in a home where

class and family structure has greatly affected her home.

Hall, J.Camille. “No Longer Invisible: Understanding the Psychosocial Impact of Skin Color

Stratification in the Lives of African American Women.” ​Health & Social Work,​ vol. 42, no. 2,

May 2017, p. 71. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.1093/hsw/hlx001.

I chose this article because it gave great examples on how the viewing of skin color can

negetively effect people. It is directly linked to Precious, because of her mother’s ill thoughts

towards herself and also her daughter.

Vil, Noelle M.St., et al. “A Qualitative Study of Survival Strategies Used by Low-Income Black

Women Who Experience Intimate Partner Violence.” ​Social Work,​ vol. 62, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp.

63–71. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.1093/sw/sww080.


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This is a great article simply because it give the reader insight as to how people will do anything

to just survive. I have an example in my essay about Precious stealing chicken, this reminded me

of survival of the fittest.

Tyson, Lois. ​Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide​. Routledge, 2015.

Tyson was the book that we had to read from to support our claim.

Lee Daniels Entertainment ; in association with Smokewood Entertainment Group ; produced by

Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness ; screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher ; directed

by Lee Daniels. Precious (Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire). Santa Monica, Calif.

:Lionsgate, 2010.

I chose Precious because it heavily showed their audience the different ideologies that we have

been discussing in class. I chose Feminism because Precious and her mother are products of the

Patriartical point of view.