Representations of Black Women in Media
By Danyelle Johnson
When you think about African American women in television, what comes to mind? Feisty? Loud mouthed? Confrontational? Arrogant?
Think about it.
Back in the 90s, Black women carried themselves with dignity and were often portrayed as stronger, independent, conservative women. Blacks in the media were changing for the better in the 1990s, but are those portrayals still prevalent in today’s media? Who would’ve ever known that a positive representation of Blacks would be subject to change?
Many shows, such as: “Cosby Show,” “Fresh Prince,” “Steve Harvey Show,” “Good Times” and “Family Matters,” portrayed Black women as successful, and living the American dream. These shows depicted happy families, parents with nice jobs and homes, but most importantly, the families thought logically, were level headed and took a mature approach on different situations.
Now, women in television have evolved to dominating the screen as loud mouthed, un-educated, un-married, angry “baby mamas”. Unfortunately, our society pay close attention to reality television and in a sense, celebrate what these shows represent.
The bottom line is that consumers have to demand shows that exemplifies more substantial value. Hollywood will continue to air reality television shows because we watch it and ratings are high. As a result of that, officials don’t test very often what else we might like, or what else we might watch, according to the Huffington Post.
Lets take a look at today’s reality television shows. VH1’s Love and Hip Hop portrays Black women in a negative light. The women on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta possess qualities that aren’t becoming of a lady. They are considered “ratchet” in the words of society, but furthermore, they are considered angry, promiscuous and dependent.
What’s most disturbing is how high the ratings are for these reality TV shows. Consumers find these shows entertaining and compelling, so why would the creators change the way these shows are structured and what airs to the public? The ultimate goal of these shows is for patrons, to crave more.
Younger women, ages 18-29, are heavily influenced by these types of behaviors. The images that are portrayed in the media have the ability to shape how young women think and it also plays a vital role in teaching us about personal development as a Black woman.
According to Mic.com, American teenagers spend an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes absorbing media in just one day; this includes the amount of time spent watching TV, listening to music, watching movies, reading magazines and using the internet.
So ask yourself, does this affect young adults?
Black women acquire an understanding about their sexuality, race, class and identity through watching other Black women in media.
“Negative imagery of Black women appears twice as often as positive depictions,” Essence reported in 2013 to USA Today.
So why are these portrayals so accepted in society today? We all know that television has a significant influence on consumers, but it needs to have a significant affect on viewers in a sense that makes them evolve in a constructive tactic.
There should be more positive depictions of Black women. We need our youth and young adults to understand that all black women aren’t rambunctious. Television shouldn’t focus so much on the negative aspect of women in society.
So please, allow me to share this with you. Black women become entrepreneurs six times faster than the national average, according to Madamenoire. That statistic alone says a lot about black women and what we’re capable of. Can we showcase achievement?
So many black women hold professional positions, thriving in careers and leading exemplifying lives. Our standard of what a Black woman should be should not be cited by what media professionals want us to believe. Contrived depictions of African American women shouldn’t be the focus, the focus needs to be on the Black independent, educated, intelligent, strong queens that they are.
In entertainment media, Blacks are truly underrepresented. We need to raise awareness for this issue and lead towards more positive recognition of Black women. All depictions of women in media don’t have to be misleading. We can start this by supporting our brothers and sisters in their endeavors to represent Black women accordingly in this media world. We can also edify our youth that society, television and media doesn’t set the standard for Black women. We set the standard for ourselves.
The only way to do that is to be your self, because everyone else is taken.