Dubois + Gilman= Feminist Oreo


W.E.B Dubois’s theoretical orientation is viewed as non-rational due to his understanding of racial consciousness. That struck me as partly peculiar due to the fact that majority of his work described by the author of the text was considered multidimensional and that he touches on concepts reflecting Durkheim, Marx, and Weber. Dubois connect to the ideologies of Karl Marx in that he believed that capitalism led to industrialization which in part led to the decay of African American communities, in which African Americans faced struggles with placement and discrimination with jobs. Dubois work reflected Durkheim’s symbolic code and named it “colortocracy” where African Americans with more europeanistic features are placed in a superior position and class than those with opposite caricatures. Dubois work also displayed that of Weber’s notion of status systems which entails a certain status being ascribed to those of a certain class. For instance African Americans who bare lighter skin could tend to have a social status superior to the social status of those who bare a darker complexion.

In the “Souls of Black Folk”, Dubois expounds on the experiences and conditions of African American men in the American society. He first brings up this concept of “the veil” which serves as an obfuscate shadow that covers or shapes the perception of African American men. His first experience with the veil was his interaction at school in kindergarten when he experienced his first form of discrimination. He goes on to say that he did not wish to remove or change this veil, but it rather fueled and inspired him to continue to excel in the presence of the veil. He continues that the same cannot be said about most living behind the veil and that some African Americans become angered by it and or wonders why they’ve been cursed by god by being the way they are. He states, “The negro is a sort of 7th son, born with a veil, and gifted with 2nd sight in this American world-a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but rather only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world”. He then continues and introduces his concept of double-consciousness, where one views himself through the eyes of others and internalizes this perception for one in their own.

In “To Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others”, Dubois critiques the ideology and work of Booker T. Washington and deemed it to be submissive and an adjustment to the societal structures placed against African Americans. He argued that Washington’s concepts of working separate but equal and African Americans focusing primarily on economic and industrial practices would leave black people in a disenfranchised and exploited state where the only work for African American men would be menial and strip him of his man-hood. Dubois argued that Washington’s ideology was embraced by conservatives and southern support primarily because it is the exact place where white people would essentially want black people- disenfranchised and not economically or intellectually superior, and that his propaganda brought forth a speedier existence of that.


Charlotte P. Gilman’s theoretical framework is deemed as rational due to her application of Karl Marx’s theory of capitalism and Darwinism as well. Gilman argued that the traditional division of labor amongst men and women renders women to be economically dependent on men, therefore stripping them of freedom. Gilman does most of her research and comparisons of the gender roles of society to certain animals and argues that humans are the only race that exclude and force women to be dependent on the male species. She states that the economic values and substance of lifestyles of women only reflect that of her husband’s. she continues and claims that women in fact work harder than men but gain nothing economically in return for her labor, therefore resulting the woman to the worker or laborer for the husband, leaving him in total control of the production and means of labor and how the women receives the money or her economic scope or privilege. Gilman also argues that women are over-sexualized by men and that false-consciousness leads the woman to internalize their standards and attributes to society through the eyes of men. She believed that women’s capabilities exceed far beyond maternal duties and that some of those duties should be shared by men as well.


I totally agree and support Dubois stance on race consciousness in terms of the African American, I just wish that he did not only limit it to the male perspective of African Americans. Women of color go through just as much of a double-consciousness that a man of color does and therefore all African Americans should have been represented in his framework. It made me ponder if he viewed women of color just as equal or deserving of rights just as men. Now Gilman’s account raised some issues in that her account of feminism seemed to account for the white or bourgeois population. When she claimed that women who does the most work has less money and those who does the least amount of work has more money, that obviously speak to the difference of class and that 9 times out of 10 the women with more money is working less because she is exploiting the work of the poorer woman, and hiring her to complete the “feminine” tasks of housekeeping and childrearing.

Application of Theories

Dubois’ theory of double-consciousness can be applied to modern day life by how African Americans internalize their academic capabilities based off of media misrepresentation of black scholars and the various studies completed by Caucasian men to belittle or scientifically classify African Americans as intellectually inferior. Gilman’s theory can be applied to how women now a day conceptualize her self-worth based off of the perceptions of men that she encounters. Women classify themselves as being “bad” or “hot” which primarily deals with the sexualization of males and how people perceive them rather than how they truly are outside of physicality.

Research Questions

  1. How could double-consciousness be applied to “superior” classes?
  2. Does Gilman’s account of gender roles support the patriarchal views of women?

One thought on “Dubois + Gilman= Feminist Oreo”

  1. Could you connect the ‘veil’ to women as well? Magazines and the male gaze as the ‘other’ through which women see themselves. By controlling the economic labor and output, men and whites control the identity of women and non-whites. That is a space for new theory.

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