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  • 1. AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: IN FILM AND MUSIC IN FILM AND MUSIC RACHEL KAMMEN AFAM 3433 FALL 2013 SEMESTER OCTOBER 29, 2013
  • 2. ISSUES REGARDING BLACK WOMEN IN FILM AND MUSIC • In today’s society, black women do not get the recognition they deserve or a lot of role choices in films. They are limited to what the casting director or writer of the films want. • As for music, black women are often sexualized in every aspect and their music is not taken seriously. • In this presentation I will go through history of some films and musicians and how it is today.
  • 3. STEREOTYPES • Stereotypes run rampant in every culture. • In our society there are many stereotypes of African American women in film, to name a few: • The strong, independent black woman • The black maid of white children who is wise but no one notices • The comedic, fat black woman or as made famous by Tyler Perry, Madea
  • 4. FILM HISTORY In the film history of African American women there are a few types of women: “the mammy” figure in the 1930s who is a heavy set and very loyal despite her oppression. The next woman is in the 1960s who shows a confident, assertive, and sexual woman. The 1980s shows a more developed character with situations regarding sexuality, creativity, racism, and friendships. The 1990s has films that show professional black women dealing with gender inequality and racial uplift. However, a few films still show black women fighting white women for men and is not a progression. (Jones 35-38)
  • 5. FILM ROLES • The winners of the Academy Awards were unfortunately playing stereotypical roles of African American women. McDaniel plays the ultimate role of the mammy, Goldberg uses comedic performances to be an ‘overexcitable’ character in her film, and Berry’s role “fits a set of stereotypes about black women as bad mothers and oversexualized whores.” (Wanzo 136) • They have all filled roles of the fat, black woman, the funny, black woman, and the beautiful, bad mother.
  • 6. BLACK ACTRESSES TODAY Unfortunately not much has changed with African American actresses today. There are many famous actresses, but they aren’t as many roles available to them. Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Zoe Saldana, Kerry Washington etc. All of these actresses have had to overcome the difficulties of being a black women in “white” Hollywood.
  • 7. BLACK WOMEN WINNING OSCARS There have only been 10 African American actresses nominated for the Best Actress in a leading role category, only Halle Berry has won. There have been 17 African American actresses nominated a Best Actress in a Supporting role and a few have won: Hattie McDaniel was the first in 1939, Whoopi Goldberg was the next in 1990, and recently there have been more with Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, and Octavia Spencer.
  • 8. STEREOTYPES • In our society there are many stereotypes of African American women in music: • All black women sing rap or r&b • They dance promiscuously • Cannot break into mainstream music
  • 9. BLACK FEMALE RAPPERS • There are four categories of rappers, according to Keyes (256) Examples are: “Queen Mother” - Queen Latifah • “Queen Mother” • “Fly Girl” • “Sista with Attitude” “Sista with Attitude”- Li’l Kim, Foxy Brown “Lesbian” “Lesbian”- Queen Pen • “Fly Girl” - Salt-N-Pepa, TLC
  • 10. BLACK FEMALE RAPPERS IN THE 90S • They used their music to defy the sexist repression that they faced and did most things by themselves. • By utilizing rap music they are creating a safe space for femininity, feminism, and black female sexuality. • They have to face the dominant culture of white musicians, white rappers, and black male rappers. (Keyes 265)
  • 11. MUSIC VIDEOS • Music videos featuring women and especially black women are often misogynistic, sexist, and hypersexualized. • African American women are sometimes in music videos dancing scantily clad and having men objectify their bodies, ie swiping a credit card in a woman’s buttocks. • These images perpetuate the idea that black women’s bodies are property and show how the dominant culture has connected sex, gender, and race to African American women’s sexuality. (Littlefield 680)
  • 12. BLACK FEMALE ARTISTS TODAY • In my opinion, it seems to me like black female artists have shifted backwards in some ways. The musicians want to be successful and sex sells. The artists of the 90s were educating others and weren’t as caught up in the industry as others today • On the other hand, the artists are reclaiming their sexuality and behavior into something good and showing others that it is okay to be this way and that you shouldn’t be slut shamed.
  • 13. FEMALE RAPPERS • There are differences when the main artist is female instead of male • They have challenged an overly male field and have shown that women can be in the music business as well • However the way the female rappers display themselves is not a step up from the back up dancers • They are not uniting together to support each other, but rather fighting against each other. (Littlefield 681)
  • 14. OTHER BLACK FEMALE ARTISTS • Beyonce: uses her sex appeal in order to sell her music • • created alter ego, Sasha Fierce, but got rid of her to become more mature is very successful but is she doing it the right way by controlling the system and taking charge of her body or is she just seen as a sex symbol? (Tuttle 18-20) • Nicki Minaj: female rapper that challenge patriarchy and women’s submission • She uses her image to her advantage as being a sex symbol to men and being a black Barbie • Trying to become the first black female hip hop mogul (Tuttle 21-23)
  • 15. FEMALE SEXUALITY AND VIOLENCE IN MUSIC One famous artist, Rihanna, has been in the spotlight for many years regarding an incident with Chris Brown. This has sparked many scholars to discuss what it means to be a black woman in today’s culture. One scholar, has argued that “three dominant frameworks have been employed to analyze Rihanna's onstage and offstage performances and personae since the assault: an universalizing narrative of domestic violence victimization; a familiar narrative of black female survival; and a coercive agenda that I call black recuperative heterosexuality. (Fleetwood 442)”
  • 16. THE MEDIA • The media does not do a good job showcasing successful African American actresses and musicians in a good light. • It is difficult for young, aspiring black women to see themselves in these careers or even have the opportunity to, because of all the negative stereotypes associated with them • As more feminist scholars become public and people start to gain common sense, there will be more film roles available to black women and music will be seen for what it truly is, just music
  • 17. RESPONSE • There are more social media outlets than ever before supporting African American actresses and musicians. They are available to many people, so they can listen to and watch whoever they want to. • Black feminist scholars have done research regarding the media and how black women are represented. This research is also being more public as schools start to implement WGS and AFAM courses/majors. • As in recent years, black women have won more Oscars so perhaps the industry will keep providing roles to those actresses. • As for music, black women in hip hop and other genres are coming to the forefront and being taken seriously.
  • 18. WORKS CITED Fleetwood, Nicole R. "The Case Of Rihanna: Erotic Violence And Black Female Desire." African American Review 45.3 (2012): 419-435. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. Jones, Sharon L. "From Margin To Centre? Images Of African-American Women In Film." Social Alternatives 17.4 (1998): 35-39. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. Keyes, Cheryl L. "Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces: Black Female Identity Via Rap Music Performance." Journal Of American Folklore 113.449 (2000): 255-269. Art Index (H.W. Wilson). Web. 29 Oct. 2013. Littlefield, Marci Bounds. "The Media As A System Of Racialization: Exploring Images Of African American Women And The New Racism." American Behavioral Scientist 51.5 (2008): 675-685. Business Source Premier. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. Tuttle, Kenya J. “THIS MOMENT FOR LIFE”: “POPULAR CULTURE’S IMPACT ON THE MORAL SPHERE OF YOUNG BLACK WOMEN” Vanderbilt University Thesis (2012) 1-34 Web. 29. Oct. 2013. Wanzo, Rebecca. "Beyond A 'Just' Syntax: Black Actresses, Hollywood And Complex Personhood." Women & Performance 16.1 (2006): 135-152. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.