Definition of wench. (Entry 1 of 2) 1a
: a young woman : girl. b : a female servant. 2 : a lewd woman : prostitute.
The first chapter of my dissertation includes a critical discussion about Dolen Perkins-Valdez's neo-slave narrative Wench
. When asked about the title of her book, the author responds with, "Originally, the word 'wench' in the Middle English meant simply a young girl. It evolved to mean a wanton woman. It was only after the word entered American usage that it became specifically attached to Black women." For Perkins-Valdez, the term was appropriate because it best spoke to the conditions under which her characters were constrained by in the antebellum South.
For the purposes of this blog, wench is appropriate for a different reason. It is a layered term, that -- in a word -- offers a snapshot of the United State's understanding of women (black women in particular) throughout history. Like the term itself, women (especially African American women) have consistently moved between being girls, servants and prostitutes.
We recuperate the term here as a nod to the all of these things, and we appropriate it to offer something new. As we began to explore the kinds of discussions we wanted to offer on this site, we realized there was a shortage of updated blog discussions on the internet dedicated to black women/mothers and sexuality. Many of our clients/members see sex and their relationship with it as crucial parts of their identities. It is through sex that many of us become mothers. Our motherhood is defined by the intercourse we had and haven't had.
Recently, I read an article about how caring for children can trigger the PTSD often associated with surviving sexual assault. As one scholar puts it, women "fake motherhood" like we fake orgasms. Women often accuse other women of trapping a man with sex -- even when the "trapper" is "stuck" raising a child without the benefit of the "trappee's" support. But beyond these, we live in a society that associates "women" with sex and "mothers" with being "asexual." So many moms have voiced a concern and need for a safe space to explore discussions around maternal sexuality. Black mothers in particular have expressed a desperate need to close the gap between the two. The Weekly Wench
is created for this reason.
I cannot tell you how many times I've laid on my back, under some man, praying silently to myself reminding God that the Bible says if I make my bed in hell, He'll meet me there. More times than I care to remember, I found myself in the hell of some man's bed. "God, please, meet me here." It was at those times that I felt like a "weakly wench," a vulnerable and exposed girl or servant or mistress. My strength came from owning, understanding and addressing the moments and other ones like them, as an acknowledgement of my own humanity. "Weekly," and our play on the word, is an invitation to explore the space between our normal and the moments we break away from it.
What can you expect from this blog? For one, you can look forward to weekly discussions about "sexuality while mothering." You can also expect posts reflecting on trending topics as they relate to our work here. Look forward to our different series throughout the year, and so much more.