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  1. 1. Body Image and African American Women Rachel Kammen AFAM 3433 November 19, 2013 Fall Semester
  2. 2. Issue of Significance Body image affects all people of every race, age, gender, sexuality etc. It is something that a lot of people deal with and try to accept their body and how they view themselves. Unfortunately, many body image issue studies have been over white women, from young girls to older women. Black girls and women struggle with body image issues as well. I plan to use this multimedia project to showcase a few studies of Black women and body image to show how they are affected by body image.
  3. 3. Body Image Issues Women and girls of all ages and races struggle with their body image. However, young white women are usually seen as the face of eating disorders. Body image does not have a race, it affects everyone.
  4. 4. Perceptions This quote from one of the studies shows how black women are stereotyped of having a positive body image. Some people agree with this statement, but other people have different opinions. “African American (AA) women have traditionally been thought to have a much greater satisfaction with their bodies, less tendency to engage in disor- dered eating or related practices, less likely to diet and an overall more posi- tive body image (Fujioka, Ryan, Agle, Legaspi, & Toohey, 2009; O’Neil, 2003; Parker et al., 1995) (Reel 332).”
  5. 5. Inconclusive Findings Some research has shown that when AA women internalize the Western ideal of beauty and thinness that they develop eating disorders and patterns similar to white women (Watson 337). Other research has shown that the internalization does not cause AA women to have these issues (Watson 337).
  6. 6. Background There are many stereotypes regarding African American women and body image. These problems and questioning of their bodies can begin in childhood and continue into adulthood. There are a lot of factors that can influence whether a person has a negative or positive body image. African American culture has recently gained a high status and has been adapted by many different groups of people. This issue is conflicted between the African American community. Some people are flattered by the acceptance of their ideas, but others are upset at what people are doing with their culture.
  7. 7. Environment Some have said that culture and environment can influence a person’s perception of their body image. Where a person lives can have a big impact on how they view themselves. “AA women who grew up and went to school in predominately AA communities report having a more positive body image than AA women who grew up in predominately Caucasian communities (Thompson, 1994) (Sanderson 498).”
  8. 8. Other Factors “AA women’s oppression causes many factors to go into their experiences regarding body image. Race, gender, and class relate to psychological distress in AA women (Watson 335).” This is a very important concept to understand when talking about body image and African American women. Compared to other groups in the United States, Black women face more oppression which can lead to other things.
  9. 9. Racial Identity and Body Image One positive idea about racial identity is that it can help buffer racism and sexism. This happens when Black women are surrounded by other Black women who support their body ideals and do not look at what the media is saying (Watson 338-9). African American women usually do not look to the media for beauty ideals as they are mostly White women anyway. When compared with White women, Black women had lower numbers of anoxeria, binge eating, and bulimia (Watson 338-9). If an ethnic group is accepting of their identity and have a community supporting them they are less likely to have body image issues.
  10. 10. White Women vs Black Women Some studies have shown that White women are more likely to want to be thin than their African American counterparts. This is because White men like thin, White women (Reel 325) Black women see that Black men prefer larger Black women. Black women also tend to compare themselves to other Black women instead of the majority of media images.
  11. 11. Panoptic Gaze “The concept of panoptic gaze originated from Bentham’s designs for the Panopticon, a prison structure that has a central guard tower, allowing for each prisoner to be observed without observing the guard. Feminist sociologist, Mary Duncan, related this to a woman’s view of herself, as Weiss and Haber point out – ‘The point of Bentham’s model prison, the Panopticon, is to train individuals to see themselves as being seen’ (1999, p. 9). This type of surveillance is symbolic of the experiences of our interview participants: a societal gaze that enforces body ideals for women and may result in feelings of guilt in those women subjected to it. (Reel 328-9)” This gaze relates to how women see themselves as the ‘Other’. They are always thinking of how other people view them and make sure to live by society’s ideals. This gaze affects all women, but it impacts African American women more.
  12. 12. Panoptic Gaze “African-American women are in some cases operating under the panoptic gaze with two conflicting body ideals. While they are expected to maintain their femininity as a societal member (thinness being equated to beauty), they are expected by the opposite sex to meet another ideal of femininity as a member of their ethnic group (larger is better). (Reel 326)” It is hard to choose what is right. In a society that praises one thing and a culture that praises another many are conflicted as to what to do. There is a definite separation between larger Black women and smaller Black women, but there shouldn’t be any stigma with any body types.
  13. 13. Body Ideals Black women reported exercise as hurting their body image, as one women reported losing her butt (Reel 327). Also another woman reported that big is beautiful, if her family saw her as skinny she looked sick or unwell (Reel 328).
  14. 14. Skin Color and Self-Esteem When discussing body image many don’t even think of mentioning skin color, because it is usually regarding white women and that is not something that is thought about. A study of 328 women of color gave interesting results regarding satisfaction with their skin color and self esteem. 4 types of women: African, African American, African Caribbean, and Biracial were asked a series of questions regarding their skin tone.
  15. 15. Responses Overall, 17% of participants preferred a darker skin tone. Overall, 86.9% of participants disagreed with personal preference for lighter skin tone. (Mucherah 1180)
  16. 16. Podcast I found an interesting podcast featuring 4 black women discussing their experiences with body image and culture. Z3o4Kqwee9ly
  17. 17. Response In order to make sure that all African American girls and women maintain a positive body image it is crucial to show them how to love their bodies. It is a difficult process especially in a world where they are so many beauty standards, but accepting yourself is the best way to have a positive body image. Older women can help young women and girls to do whatever makes them feel good about themselves. As long as they are doing it for themselves and aren’t harming anyone then it is good!
  18. 18. References Mucherah, Winnie, and Andrea Dawn Frazier. "How Deep Is Skin-Deep? The Relationship Between Skin Color Satisfaction, Estimation Of Body Image, And Self-Esteem Among Women Of African Descent." Journal Of Applied Social Psychology 43.6 (2013): 1177-1184. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. ! Reel, Justine J., et al. "Age Before Beauty: An Exploration Of Body Image In African-American And Caucasian Adult Women." Journal Of Gender Studies 17.4 (2008): 321-330. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. ! Sanderson, Sonya, Kirsten Lupinski, and Peggy Moch. "Is Big Really Beautiful? Understanding Body Image Perceptions Of African American Females." Journal Of Black Studies 44.5 (2013): 496-507. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. ! Watson, Laurel B., et al. "Racial Identity Buffers African American Women From Body Image Problems And Disordered Eating." Psychology Of Women Quarterly 37.3 (2013): 337-350. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.