Controlling Images Representations of Women Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

This has often made it very difficult for black individuals to become high educational and social achievers. Racists then twist the reasons behind this lack of achievement and use it as evidence that members of the group are inferior (Gimlin, 2005). Racism and discrimination are both common threads in prejudiced activity toward black women, and this works to perpetuate the problems that they have faced in the past and that they are still facing in society today.


There is little that can be done to eliminate biological differences between the ethnic groups, but society can change differences that have been created by its own political and economic systems. Some psychologists even argue that racism should be treated like a mental health issue. Racism, therefore, becomes a double-edged sword and both the oppressors and the oppressed suffer from and for it. The oppressors have guilt, shame, and remorse, while the oppressed have anger, despair, and thoughts of revenge. None of these feelings are productive for the person or for society.

It has been noted that ethnocentrism is at the core of these prejudicial attitudes and beliefs. Ethnocentrism is defined as having an exaggerated preference for dealing only with one's own group and a very strong dislike of those who belong to other groups. Both minority and majority groups can be guilty of perpetuating separation, because comfort with people of their own kind is inviting. It fosters a sense of belonging and safety that few people really like to let go of, in many cases. Some members of both mainstream the majority culture and of minority cultures glorify ethnocentrism and they detest the idea of adopting other cultural values, attitudes, or opinions, because they believe that anyone who is 'not like them' is wrong.

White people often enjoy the fruits of racial privilege, while black people and other minorities struggle to keep up and to be treated fairly and equally by all others. Both the majority and minority groups often also reject those people who succeed through becoming linguistically anglicized or culturally Americanized -- or 'Caucasianized.' In other words, those people of either the minority or the majority group who change their attitudes and their beliefs enough to 'fit in' with another group of people are often ostracized to a certain degree by the original group they belonged to (Gimlin, 2005; Espiritu, 2007). Black women are put down by white people and by black men. If they become 'more black' to f it in with what black men want, white people look down on them further (Collins, 1998; Hook, 1998). If they become 'more white' so that they can be more respected and move ahead, black men see them as thinking that they are better than they really are, and they can be shunned by 'their own kind.' It is becoming increasingly more difficult for a black woman to remain true to her roots and heritage and also be successful in what is largely a white society (Collins, 1998).

The nature of race and its association with what are commonly called in-groups and out-groups has been debated for a long time. However, there are many who believe that the process of dissolving any kind of racial identity in a very diverse and still somewhat-racist population is extremely difficult, and that is magnified when gender also plays a role (Collins, 1998; Hook, 1998). Minority groups are naturally expected to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, regardless of the societal bias against them based on their group affiliations. Often, though, they need help to do this, and they are not getting any of this help based on prejudices that many others have toward them.

Black women and other minorities are confused by dual messages of equality and inequality that are so prevalent in American society today, and these messages seem to be growing stronger over time. Because of that, they may alternate between feeling they need help and believing they can succeed on their own, without needing to change who they are in order to belong or be (and feel) valuable to society and themselves. They may also alternate between their cultural heritage and what they feel they must do to fit in with white society. These black women have not yet been completely able to resolve internalized tensions that they have between pride and shame. They want to be proud of who they are and their cultural heritage, but yet society all too often reinforces the message that, without change, they are inferior.


Collins, Patricia Hill (1998) "Mammies, matriarchs, and other controlling images, black feminist thought" New York: Routledge

Espiritu, Yen Le (2007) "Chapter five: Ideological racism and cultural resistance." In Asian-American women and men: Labor, laws, and love. New York: Rowman and Littlefield

Hook, Bell (1998) "Selling Hot Pussy: Representations of Black Female Sexuality in the Cultural Market" in: R. Weitz (ed) The Politics Of Women's Bodies: Sexuality Appearance and Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford…

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