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GENDER RACE AND MEDIA REPRESENTATION
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16 Dow 4973 qxd 6 11 2006 1 42 PM Page 298, 298 Gender and Communication in Mediated Contexts. that race and gender are social constructions and democratic societies Cultural studies. underscores their centrality to the processes scholars have devoted considerable atten. of human reality Working from it compels tion to studies of media audiences institu. us to understand the complex roles played tions technologies and texts This chapter. by social institutions such as the media privileges textual analyses of media that. in shaping our increasingly gendered and explicate power relationships and the con. racialized media culture This chapter struction of meaning about gender and. explores some of the ways mediated com race and their intersections Byers Dell. munication in the United States represents 1992 In addition we draw considerably. the social constructions of race and gender from research employing various feminist. and ultimately contributes to our under frameworks Generally our critical review. standing of both especially race 2 of literature from the past two decades. Although research on race gender and demonstrates the disruption of essentialist. media traditionally has focused on under constructions of gender race and sexual. represented subordinate groups such as identities, women and minorities this chapter dis. cusses scholarship on media representations, of both genders and various racial groups. Therefore we examine media constructions Black Feminist Perspectives. of masculinity femininity so called people and Media Representations. of color and even white people 3 On the of Black Women. other hand given the limitations of this, chapter and the fact that media research on. race has focused on African Americans we A feminist critique is rooted in the struggle. devote greater attention to blacks but not to end sexist oppression We employ femi. at the exclusion of the emerging saliency nism as a multidisciplinary approach to. of whiteness studies which acknowledge social analysis that emphasizes gender as a. whiteness as a social category and seek to major structuring component of power. expose and explain white privilege 4 relations in society We believe media are. Our theoretical and conceptual orienta crucial in the construction and dissemina. tion encompasses research that is com tion of gender ideologies and thus in gender. monly referred to as critical cultural socialization We acknowledge feminism. studies Numerous theoretical approaches and feminist media studies tendency to. have been used to examine issues of race privilege gender and white women in par. gender and media but we contend that ticular over other social categories of expe. critical cultural studies represent the most rience such as race and class hooks 1990. salient contemporary thinking on media Dines 1995 Dines Humez 2003 Black. and culture More important unlike most feminist scholars have acknowledged the. social and behavioral scientific research neglect which women of color specifically. most critical and cultural approaches to black women have experienced through. media studies work from the premise that their selective inclusion in the writings. Western industrialized societies are strati of feminist cultural analysis hooks 1990. fied by hierarchies of race gender and Bobo Seiter 1991 Valdivia 1995. class that structure our social experience Black feminism positions itself as critical. Moreover cultural studies utilizes inter social theory Hill Collins 2004 and is not. disciplinary approaches necessary for a set of abstract principles but of ideas that. understanding both the media s role in the come directly from the historical and con. production and reproduction of inequity temporary experience of black women It. and for the development of more equitable is from this perspective that we begin our. 16 Dow 4973 qxd 6 11 2006 1 42 PM Page 299, Gender Race and Media Representation 299.
discussion of black female representation in Queen fell in line with traditional stereo. the media typing of other bi ethnic characters as beau. Much contemporary academic writing tiful yet threatening inherently problematic. has criticized mainstream media for their and destined for insanity p 117 Larson s. negative depictions of African American 1994 study of black women on the soap. women Bobo 1995 Hill Collins 2000 opera All My Children found the show con. 2004 hooks 1992 Lubiano 1992 sistently embraced the matriarch stereotype. Manatu 2003 McPhail 1996 Perry In fact the image of the black woman as. 2003 Challenging media portrayals of oversexed fantasy object dominating matri. black women as mammies matriarchs arch and nonthreatening desexualized. jezebels welfare mothers and tragic mulat mammy figure remains the most persistent in. toes is a core theme in black feminist thought the media Edwards 1993. Author bell hooks 1992 contends that Black feminist thought also challenges the. black female representation in the media way some media outlets run by black men. determines how blackness and people are engage in misogynistic depictions of black. seen and how other groups will respond to women Burks 1996 notices the saliency. us based on their relation to these con of hooks s phrase white supremacist capi. structed images p 5 Hudson 1998 and talist patriarchy in many black independent. Hill Collins 2000 2004 both advance the films She explains that black independent. notion that media images of black women cinema is not necessarily free of the dominant. result from dominant racial gender and white male heterosexual hegemony that has. class ideologies Furthering hooks s discus succeeded at one point or another in colo. sion of representation Hudson 1998 nizing us all p 26 Several cultural critics. argues that these stereotypes simultane have focused their studies of black female. ously reflect and distort both the ways in representation on majority produced and. which black women view themselves indi directed Hollywood films Bobo 1995. vidually and collectively and the ways in Bogle 2001 Holtzman 2000 hooks 1992. which they are viewed by others p 249 1994 Many other media scholars have. The study of black female representation is focused their analyses on the way black film. informed by whiteness studies and accord makers depict black femininity as part of a. ing to Dyer 1997 the only way to see trend that Burks 1996 argues leaves main. the structures tropes and perceptual habits stream white Hollywood producers free to. of whiteness is when nonwhite and above construct the black female image in any way. all black people are also represented they like and to reach a larger viewing audi. p 13 ence in the process, Scholars have studied black female repre Black female scholars Wallace 1990. sentation in a variety of media contexts and hooks 1993 both have written exten. Meyers 2004 used discourse analysis to sively on the work of black writer director. examine the representation of violence against Spike Lee s portrayal of black women. African American women in local TV news Hooks contends that while Lee is. coverage during Freaknik a spring break, ritual held in Atlanta Georgia throughout uncompromising in his commitment to. the 1990s Her study concluded that the create images of black males that chal. news portrayed most of its victims as lenge perceptions and bring issues of. stereotypic Jezebels whose lewd behavior racism to the screen he conforms to the. provoked assault p 95 Orbe and status quo when it comes to images of. Strother s 1996 semiotic analysis of the females Sexism is the familiar construc. biracial title character in Queen Alex tion that links his films to all the other. Haley s miniseries demonstrated how Hollywood dramas folks see p 14. 16 Dow 4973 qxd 6 11 2006 1 42 PM Page 300, 300 Gender and Communication in Mediated Contexts. McPhail 1996 continues hooks s argument representation of racial difference it was. and argues that Lee s films subscribe to oblivious to the ways gender and class inflect. essentialist conceptions of race and gender race Byers Dell 1992. that reify the same ideological and epistemo Much academic writing has focused on. logical assumptions that undermine both historically situated negative portrayals of. the representation of race and gender in black women and the most recent theoreti. mainstream media p 127 According to cal trend in black feminist media scholarship. our Brooks H bert 2004 study of Lee s is the representation of black female sexual. Bamboozled he creates female characters ity in the media Hill Collins 2004 Manatu. who become defined by the men in their lives 2003 Perry 2003 Sexuality is not dis. We claim that although his films fight to cussed in reference to sexual orientation but. challenge racist frameworks within the mass to how popular culture has commodified. media and society they simultaneously per the black female body as hypersexed Some. petuate sexist norms as they relate to black theorists Guerrero 1993 Iverem 1997. womanhood Although Spike Lee is not the Manatu 2003 contend that black women. only black male filmmaker who perpetuates are portrayed only as sexual beings and. negative representations of women he has not as romantic characters as indicated by. garnered the most attention by cultural crit Halle Berry s Oscar winning performance. ics This is an area of study that requires addi in Monster s Ball It has been argued that. tional work as African American filmmakers she played an oversexed jezebel and tragic. are moving from the margins of independent mulatto at the same time Hill Collins. films to the center of multibillion dollar stu Others assert that the habitual construction. dios and networks that are run by heterosex of a subversive woman s sexual image may. ual white males thus potentially contributing come to define women culturally Kennedy. to black women s oppression 1992 Nelson 1997, Prime time television has tended to While the black jezebel mythos is not. confine black female roles to white models new to film and television studies it has. of good wives and to black matriarchal found a home in music videos Much as. stereotypes Byers and Dell s 1992 analysis black music of the 1950s was repurposed. of characterization in the CBS workplace by the industry as a new category called. ensemble Frank s Place demonstrates that it rock and roll and made its way into subur. was no exception to this trend Their study ban white homes popular culture today. provides an excellent example of a feminist draws heavily from the cultural produc. textual analysis of the intersection of race tion and styles of urban Black youth Hill. and gender from a cultural studies perspec Collins 2004 p 122 It is within this. tive Despite drawing inspiration from the black cultural production reworked. situation comedy s association with the fem through the prism of social class that the. inine the series worked from a distinctly sexualized Black woman has become an. masculine perspective Although Frank s icon in hip hop culture p 126 A theory. Place presented a fairly wide range of repre of the body and of how black women are. sentations of African American men it objectified as sexual commodities fuels this. provided a much narrower range of repre debate that has become popular in acade. sentations of African American women The mic circles Within this context three pri. attention it gave to inequities in skin color mary research interests have emerged the. and class was rarely afforded to its female objectification of black women s bodies for. characters Instead feminine beauty was the voyeuristic pleasure of men Hill. related to light skin straight hair thinness Collins 2004 hooks 1994 Jones 1994. relative youthfulness and middle class sta the impact of sexual representation and. tus Despite the show s conscious attempt ideal Westernized body images on young. to illustrate the social ramifications of the black females Perry 2003 and black. 16 Dow 4973 qxd 6 11 2006 1 42 PM Page 301, Gender Race and Media Representation 301.
female sexuality as a symbol of agency sexualizing racial difference and thus. Gaunt 1995 Hill Collins 2004 Rose constructing its others as sites of savage. 1994 sexuality p 45, The objectification of black women s In line with theories of the body that say. bodies in hip hop music videos according the mass media promotes images of an. to Jones 1994 is particularly disturbing ideal body type Perry 2003 explains that. because these videos are produced primar the messages these videos send to young. ily by black men Edwards 1993 argues women about their bodies are harmful. that music videos play into male sexual She argues that the beauty ideal for black. fantasies and that the notion of the black women presented in these videos is as. woman as a sex object or whore is always impossible to achieve as the waif thin. placed in opposition to the image of black models in Vogue magazine are for White. woman as mammy Hooks 1994 warns women p 138 In addition to the black. that while feminist critiques of the misog body ideal of large breasts thin waist and. yny in rap music must continue and that round buttocks presented in videos many. black males should be held accountable for of the black women featured depict a. their sexism the critique must be contextu Westernized beauty ideal of lighter skin. alized She continues long hair and blue or green eyes Edwards. have been used to examine issues of race gender and media but we contend that critical cultural studies represent the most salient contemporary thinking on media and culture More important unlike most social and behavioral scientific research most critical and cultural approaches to media studies work from the premise that

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