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Mass Media Effects on the Perception of Black Women

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Effects of Mass Media on Black Women

Mass Media Effects on the Perception and Adverse Treatment of African American Women in Society

LaJoi T Thompkins

Georgia Southern University

SOCI 1101: Introduction to Sociology

April 15, 2016

Abstract

This paper explores the role mass media plays in how society views black women as well as how those images have an effect on their life. This paper will give insight to the stereotypes that are pushed with or without malice intent. Furthermore, it will discuss reactions of African-American women to stereotypic characteristic produced by main stream media. Kretsedemas 2010, noted some scholars and media critics have argued that these media depictions have become distinctly more negative over the past two decades and that stereotypes of black women have begun to eclipse the more familiar stereotype of the aggressive black male.

Literature Review

When members of a society are constantly bombarded with repetitious characters and personalities of one group they may develop an understanding that anyone of that particular group acts like the character illustrated (Jefferies, 2015).  For instance, attributable to bias media propaganda of the young black males in particular, there has been not only a high increase of death by police, but just an overall fear of the black male. Black males are more likely to be shot in the pursuit of an arrest than their white counterparts because of perceived violence and aggressive nature. Fujioka’s study illustrated that when firsthand knowledge is not present, mass media images have a huge effect on viewers’ perceptions. Fujioka’s research affirmed that affective assessments of television portrayals of African Americans are highly related to the development of stereotypes.

Watching events like these constantly played on news channels leaves some black women with the forced stereotype and reality of being overly independent with the constant notion that they may have to take on the role of the male and the female in a household even if it does not relate to their current situation. Stereotypes diminish individuals through simplified and exaggerated characteristics and insist that these traits are natural qualities (Jefferies, 2015). These categorizations based on the widely accepted traits often determine how others are perceived and responded too.

Main stream media has the power to render groups invisible and unimportant even without direct intention.  According to Burnett 2014, the disparities that are evident in missing person cases of Black women and girls are primarily linked to the mainstream media’s unwillingness to cover their stories. When the media neglects to cover these stories, it is omitting the fact that people care about missing Black women, and permitting the conditions for this toxic environment of invisibility and violent actions with no recourse to thrive.” (Burnett, 2014)  

In America, African-American women have always been portrayed negatively and as the antithesis of ideal womanhood, which has been imaged as phenotypically white, small, thin, and delicate (Collins, 2000).  The persistent images of black women as loud, intentionally mean, and spiteful create a painful context in which to engage in the task of identity formation and development of a mature love relationship (Collins, 2000; Gillum, 2002; West, 1995). Furthermore, research has shown that repeated exposure to individuals who are represented as good-looking can sway the overall desirability of individuals. So it is completely probable that media influences can affect the degree to which our society black women are preferred for dating and marriage.  Online dating research have found that while 61% of all women listed black men as a preferred dating group only 15% of all men listed black women as an option, studies found of all races of women black women are the least successful in obtaining dates following speed dating events (Fay, 2015). Which is understandable since more often than not, mainstream standards of beauty disregard Black girl’s attraction and desire; they are often categorized as oversexed vixens, single mothers, and carriers of sexually transmitted infections (STI) (French, 2012).

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