"Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women" (Jacobs, 2003). Through the character of Linda, Harriet Jacobs depicts that women sexual abuse and physical violence are the main forms of humiliation and oppression. Sexual abuse of a slave woman is the expression of male's power and dominance of the owner. Jacobs describes that socially slave women are used to be oppressed. They have no rights to protect their dignity and freedom used to cultural norms followed by generations. "But I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse" (Jacobs, 2003).
Similar to Jacobs, Frederick Douglass discusses the role of gender in society and its impact on relations between a slave and owner. Gender roles in 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass' shape not only how people identify themselves and view the world but also how others identify and relate to them and how they are positioned within society. "Slaveholders have ordained, and by law established, that the children of slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers" (Douglass, 1997). Both Jacobs and Douglass portray that women are traditionally associated with childbearing, child rearing, emotional caretaking, and responsibility for the physical maintenance of the household. In contrast, men are associated with the activities of wage labor, physical prowess, intellectual achievements, and political agency. "Slaveholders pride themselves upon being honorable men; but if you were to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity" (Douglass, 1997).This gender labeling is so strong that even when women work, they typically do so in areas regarded as "women's work". Also, "Women are considered of no value, unless they continually increase their owner's stock. They are put on a par with animals" (Jacobs, 2003). Labor markets are thus segregated horizontally by gender, with women and men differentiated in occupational roles.
Dominance of men adds aggression and cruelty to cultural dimensions and values. Both narratives under analysis describe masculine societies. Masculinity describes a society in which men are expected to be assertive, competitive, and concerned with material success, and women fulfill the role of nurturer and are concerned with issues such as the welfare of children. Lack of respect towards women results in norms and values which reflect gender roles. It means that men play a dominant position as keepers of traditions and customers in contrast to women who perform a reproduction function only. Jacobs portrays that even free women suffer from male oppression and low social roles. "Mrs. Flint, like many southern women, was totally deficient in energy. She had not strength to superintend her household affairs" (Jacobs, 2003).
Jacobs chose to write about gender roles faced with extreme violence and oppression during her young years. She underlines that emotional abuse is socially accepted form of violence. The consequence of emotional abuse is that it causes the greatest distress resulted in betrayal of trust and responsibility involved. Douglass writes about gender roles