Essence magazine recently conducted a study where they had 1,200 Black women keep a visual journal of any instance of a well-balanced Black woman in the media. The results, while not surprising are still shocking because it’s us talking about us!
Essence reports, “Although participants in our study cited positive types of Black women in the media–inspiring stars (dazzling supernovas like Oprah and Beyonce) and matriarchs (strong and loving characters like Big Momma in “Soul Food”)–the negative types they identified were far more prevalent.”
Black women on TV are displayed in various categories like “Angry Black Woman,” “Gold Diggers,” “Ratchet Women” and “Baby Mamas,” among many others offensive stereotypes. Melissa Harris-Perry wanted to “sort through the invisible middle” that surfaces as Black women are placed in general categories (that never fully represent us) as a point of reference in the media.
Essence’s Editor-In-Chief, Vanessa K. Bush claims, “If there were a balance, saw more diversity, more multidimensional, then they’re be a truer picture of who we really are. You would see our complete humanity. What you’re seeing a scratch of the surface. It’s often negative and mean-spirited.”
We, as consumers, can demand fuller characters that explore or who we really are, but when we keep watching the “ratchet” reality shows that perpetuate negative stereotypes of us, like, “Love & Hip Hop” and the like, then, who’s really to blame other than us? We’re the ones giving them amazing ratings, causing them to be repeated in multiple seasons and adaptations with different names on different networks. Sure, most of the time these shows are guilty pleasures, but when is that guilt going to eat us alive?
What’s more unfair is that there’s so many shows coming out on an almost daily basis that displays a rich breadth of the lives of White people or the mainstream that aren’t necessarily stereotypical. “Modern Family” shows a mixed family navigating their relationships while getting in all kinds of hilarious trouble. Why couldn’t that show have been casted with a majority of Black people? We have mixed families too! We get into hilarious antics. The media would rather show is in broken homes, rather than a thriving mixed one.
“Breaking Bad” goes even deeper into the life of a White man who has had to turn to manufacturing meth. This is not the typical life of the average White man, but they surely seem to be able churn out this type of entertainment, allowing us to see a wider representation of White people. The “invisible middle” doesn’t exist in mainstream. The media reveals every single part of their non-categorized lives in the media.
Meanwhile, all we’ve got is various reality shows that display us fighting or valuing a pair of “red bottoms” above all else. Thanks to Shonda Rhimes and Issa Rae, we’re able to turn on a program and see a Black woman living the “invisible middle” that Harris-Perry mentioned.
We would really love to be able to see this same study done with White people to see if there would be a different type of result. How do they see us represented in the media?
Do you agree with this Essence study?
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