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African-Americans in the US have often suffered from negative stereotypes, as portrayed by different media outlets. Gedeon (4) says that common adjectives used by the media to describe African-American women include “gold-diggers,” “baby mamas,” uneducated, angry, mean, and unhealthy. These adjectives reinforce the views of a study conducted by Meyers (143), which sampled a group of women, aged 18-29.
The study showed that 80% of media representations of African-American women were negative (Meyers 143). Essence magazine also reported similar findings after finding out that more than 80% of media representations of African-American women were negative (Meyers 50). Although many people hold this view, people have contradictory opinions regarding the effects of these negative images on the African-American society.
Some say it is inconsequential to portray African-American women negatively, while others believe that society should not condone the media’s negative portrayal of African-American women (Meyers 50). After exploring the pros and cons of these arguments, this paper argues that society should not tolerate the negative representation of African-American women in America because such depictions are incorrect and baseless.
This paper has already shown that some people say the negative portrayal of African-American women in the media is not necessarily a “bad thing” because, historically, the media have ignored this demographic (Meyers 144). Therefore, they say the negative imagery is an improvement depiction of the gender because there was a total media blackout of African-American women.
Therefore, these groups of people say negative media representation is better than no representation at all (Meyers 144). In the same regard, using this logic, Meyers (144) says that African-American professionals (journalists, actors, musicians and the likes) do not have to present a positive image of African-American women because it does not matter what representation is out there.
People who support the above views also support the negative portrayal of African-American women in the media because they believe such representations are true (Gedeon 3; Meyers 50). Some of these people support this idea, based on their personal experiences, while others believe that such representations are true because of what they see in the media (Gedeon 5). A small section of this population believes that such representations of African-American women are authentic and natural.
They also perceive the same representations as real (Gedeon 5). For example, Gedeon (6) says the original depiction of Oscar Award winner, Lupita Nyong’o as true African beauty is the media’s representation of true African beauty in its authentic form.
She also says such representations, although undesirable to some people, represent the true essence of African-American beauty. Collectively, people who hold these views say it is “not bad” to portray African-American women in their true essence because such representations authentically depict the people’s character (Gedeon 3; Meyers 50).
Some people have a counter-argument to the above analogy by saying that the negative portrayal of African-American women in the media is a “bad thing” (Meyers 143). Although they also acknowledge that the media have always ignored black women, they say it is important for African-American professionals to portray a positive image of their women by changing the negative stereotypes that have characterized this demographic (Francois 3).
Failure to do so means they approve the negative image of African-American women portrayed in the media. Harris-Perry (2) holds the same view after saying the negative portrayal of African-American women in mainstream media is “lacking, misguided, incomplete, or wrong.”
Harris-Perry (2) and Gedeon (3) further caution people from embracing the negative stereotypes of African-American women (portrayed in the media) by saying that it reinforces negative stereotypes of the population because people often resonate with what they see. Therefore, if they continue to perceive African women as angry or uneducated people, they are likely to believe this is true. Consequently, she argues that society should not condone such perceptions (Harris-Perry 2).
Conclusion and Recommendations (My View)
Doubtless, the image of African-American women has changed in the past few decades. In the past, the media portrayed this demographic as sexual objects of their masters (usually during the slavery period). The media also portrayed them as “mammies” who dedicated most of their lives to taking care of the well-being of their masters’ families, as opposed to their own. Over the decades, this image has changed by “desexualizing” women.
However, the new image still puts African women in a “mental cage” of racial prejudices and stereotypes. Although some people may view this change as progressive, it is important to understand how it reinforces negative racial stereotypes of African-American women and promotes discrimination in the same regard. If left unchecked, these negative representations may further erode the values and identities of African-American women in the society, thereby creating a bigger identity crisis for the women.
Therefore, it is wrong to allow the negative portrayal of African-American women to continue (merely) because it is an improvement of historical media depictions of the demographic. Overall, although it is crucial to allow authentic representations of gender, the media should exclude racial prejudices in their representations of African-American women.
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Francois, Tiffany. How the Portrayal of Black Women has shifted from Slavery times to Blaxploitation films in American Society. June. 2013. PDF File. November. 2014. <http://www.highpoint.edu/communication/files/2264_francois1.pdf>.
Gedeon, Kimberly. Where Are The Authentic Black Beauties? African-American Women Yearn For Better Media Representation. March. 2013. Web. 28 November. 2014. <http://madamenoire.com/406087/authentic-black-beauties-african-american-women-yearn-better-representation-media/>.
Harris-Perry, Melissa. Where are the positive representations of black women in media? February. 2013. Web. 28 November. 2014. <http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/complexity-black-womens-lives-lacking>.
Meyers, Marian. African American Women in the News: Gender, Race, and Class in Journalism, London, UK: Routledge, 2013. Print.