Monday, February 13, 2012

Is Racial Stereotyping Among Black Women Diminishing?

          A stereotype is defined as a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. One's gender, under stereotyping, may portray various characteristics about them. Women have always been viewed in a different light than men in matters such as strength, sensitivity, independence, etc. Stereotyping also commonly occurs within racial identity. While definitions of racism vary, all include the notion of unequal treatment based on skin color or other physical characteristics (Braveman 30). This treatment can cause severe personal threats to one's well-being as well as a specific group. Combining these examples create various issues in today's society, one being the unfair treatment of African American women in the United States today due to the origins of their race. Unfortunately, racism does not begin to occur at a specific age. It may occur throughout ones' entire life. For example, in a study about African American women experiences with racism throughout their lifetime, prejudice among playmate's at a young age were commonly mentioned as the first introduction to racism. One women answered;
                       "I used to play with this White girl every day, like she was my best friend...she would  always come to my auntie’s house. And then, there was one time where I went to her house, and she said, ‘Well, my parents said we can’t allow anybody (black) in the house.’ And...that was something that always stayed with me my whole life. And that was really, for a little kid...heartbreaking, you know? And that’s when I first learned that...there is a difference ...with the colors. I thought about it a lot. I still think about it" (Braveman 32).
 One's race does not characterize how "human" they are. All people should be considered under the human race, instead of using skin color or nationality as the only sense of identity. Has the United States progressed enough to diminish this problem and work toward creating equality between men and women as well as between races?   

"Mammy" image from Gone With The Wind
        The early history of African American's is not considered by many to be pleasant or successful, specifically for the Black female. Various conception of Black women have been developed over time, some of which have carried over to society today. A popular conception of the Black female is the representation of the "Mammy." The mammy is portrayed as an "ignorant slave whose speech is filled with malapropism," as well as "the symbol of black motherhood as perceived by whites." The Black woman was to care for the White's home and children before caring for her own. Thus, the mammy symbolizes perception of the ideal Black female relationship to the elite White power (Lugo 204).  The Mammy image is most popularly portrayed in the novel and film Gone With The Wind, as a house slave who was loyal to her White owners as she raises their children. Also in the days of slavery, the "Jezebel" image of Black women was created. This image portrays the sexually objectified Black woman. It is often believed that the Jezebel depiction is important because, "efforts to control Black women's sexuality lie at the heart of a Black women's oppression " (Lugo 204). The Black woman has also been portrayed by the image of "The Matriarch." The matriarch represents Black women in their own Black home. Within this image the Black woman is to be blamed for the success of their children in result of the values these women teach in their home. The "Sexual Siren" image is closely related to the Jezebel concept. The sexual siren represents Black women as being a whore or a bitch. Because Black women were thought to be "openly willing" when it came to their sexuality and "care for nothing less but her own sexual satisfaction," it was easy for men to take advantage of these women without any consequences (Woodard 273). This image is commonly used in the media today. It is common to use a Black woman to portray prostitution in a film or novel, rather than using a White woman. The last common image of the Black woman is that of the "Welfare Mother," which portrays a woman who has no desire to work, but instead are content with living off of the states money. This image has carried over today in the sense of Black women often being considered "ghetto" and living in the lower income parts of a city.
        Representations of the Black woman are still relevant in today's society, although they are not identical and instead convey similar stories to adapt to our contemporary understandings. Women in general are often viewed as sex objects. In mini-documentary video posted by Tracey Rose, shown below, explains the specific hardships Black women face every day. In this video, various Black women talk about the everyday hardships they encounter due to not only their gender but mainly their race. They explain how they are often harassed in situations as simple as walking down the street as they are approached by men in improper ways. These women describe how they are talked to as sex objects instead of human beings as they are usually commented on their body first. This treatment is seen more as expected than surprising to these women and they explain how it is common to experience self blame that lead to questions such as, "Why did I let them say that to me? Why did I let them treat me that way?" These women believe that because of their race and living in today's society has put them in constant fear. This is an example of the "sexual siren" image of Black women today.
          Black women face numerous negative stereotypes, however there are some that can be considered positive. The "Strong Black woman" image is common in today's society. This is something that it noticeable among the Black female population and is something they take pride in. In a "Culturally Conscious" web blog, a collection of passages are stated by African American women on subjects of the treatment of Black women as well as the history behind it and their feelings toward it. Some women explain the title of "strong black woman" and how they need pride and strong mental strength to overcome these hardships and by this they should be titled as "survivors" when looking back at the history of black women. These passages explain how in today's society Black women are becoming more comfortable and confident with their race despite the harsh treatment they may encounter. These viewpoints are hopefully the beginning of a positive change in the way Black women are portrayed.

National First Lady's Photo of Michelle Obama

          Throughout history Black women have been striving to find their place in the world and to gain respect. This goal started as far back as the slavery days. Harriet Tubman, an active in the underground railroad, helped many fellow slaves to freedom. She was raised as a slave, suffering many cruel punishments, yet raised herself up to become a model of what a good human being can be. Later in history, Civil Rights activist began forming in society to bring notice to these cruel treatments towards African Americans. Commonly known, Rosa Parks, played a major role in these efforts by refusing to sit in the dedicated Black area on the bus and not surrendering her seat to a White passenger. She had quoted;
          "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in." 
 Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are only the beginning of a long list of influential Black women to come. In society today, women have been working toward equality with men whether it be in the work field or family matters. Black women have been taking on these challenges and have become influential to the Black population. A major example would be Michelle Obama becoming the first African American First Lady. In a blog written by Eric Anthony Grollman titled "The (Michelle) Obama Factor – The US Just Now Realizes Black Women Exist," the author explains how he is a fan of the Obama family more so due to their color. After reading an article about Michelle Obama and her view on the treatment of black women, Grollman explains that he appreciates and agrees with all of her arguments about the cruel treatment of Black women, but is also confused on why she is just now starting to speak upon this problem for she has been in office since 2009. Grollman concludes by saying, "Despite Black women’s existence from the beginning of US history, we are just now beginning to see greater representation of Black women in mainstream media. Though this representation has improved in some ways, others argue we still have a ways to go." In the Washington Post a survey was taken on the subject of if Michelle Obama has changed the image of black women in America. When asked the question if women believe this is true, released data stated that almost all Black women see the first lady as a good role model; 83 percent of White women do as well. In the survey, she is credited for several key things: being a good mom (84% of all Americans say so), being intelligent (91%) and sharing their values (60%). Michelle Obama is not the only media figure who has brought attention to the rising success of Black women in America. A huge supporter of Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, is another African American women well known throughout the world. Many would argue that she is one of the most influential people in the world. This is an entirely accurate statement if you consider Oprah's achievements; the size of her fan base, how many people have heard her messages, and being one of the first African American women to achieve such a monumental level of stardom. Oprah, in a sense, has paved the way for women of all races to achieve their goals and follow in her footsteps. Influential Black women have existed all throughout history, each of these figures changed views of Black women in some way and have all helped in the process of equality within races and gender.
Racial equality photo from University of Leads
            Stereotypes will always exist in the American society. Although unfortunate, these stereotypes and the process of overcoming them will help shape American society and history. The question of if Black Women are beginning to be treated equal to the dominant race undeniably yes compared to the treatment in the slavery days. Although society is making progress, there are still major problems in stereotyping and treatment against Black women that need to be addressed and can only be eliminated with time and acceptance.

Works Cited

Braveman, Paula, et al. "“It’S The Skin You’Re In”: African-American Women Talk About Their Experiences Of Racism. An Exploratory Study To Develop Measures Of Racism For Birth Outcome Studies." Maternal & Child Health Journal13.1 (2009): 29-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2012.

Lugo-Lugo, Carmen R., and Mary K. Bloodsworth-Lugo. "Bare Biceps And American(In) Security: Post-9/11 Constructions Of Safe(Ty), Threat, And The First Black First Lady." Women's Studies Quarterly39.1/2 (2011): 200-217. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.

Woodard, Jennifer Bailey, and Teresa Mastin. "BLACK WOMANHOOD: Essence And Its Treatment Of Stereotypical Images Of Black Women." Journal Of Black Studies 36.2 (2005): 264-281. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.

1 comment:

  1. 1.) Does your partner's essay identify a problem and offer a possible solution to the problem? What is the problem? What is the solution offered? If you are having trouble understanding the problem or solution, how might your partner clarify their position?
    Yes, stereotypes of African American women.

    2.) Does the argument identify different angles of vision and explain why they are important to the audience? Which ones are the most interesting? Are their any angles that you feel might help their argument?
    yes, I like the paragraph with Jezebel.

    3.) Does your partner identify their own angle of vision, or a persona that they advocate from? Is there anything your partner could do to help clarify their angle of vision?
    Maybe talk about experiences, like if you witnessed someone being stereotypical.

    4.) Does the essay employ rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos, kairos) in a way that you feel is appropriate for the argument? Is there any advice you have to offer of ways to improve the rhetorical appeal of their argument?
    I think the essay shows logos. I think pathos should be added.

    5.) Does the essay use multiple modes (video, images, audio, text), and do they help frame or support the argument? If so, how so? If not, how might your partner resolve this for you as a reader?
    Yes, the images support the argument. I really like the video.

    6.) Does your partner's essay use hyperlinks as citations, and do they work correctly?
    I only see a few, but yes.