Are African American Women Protrayed Negatively in Media?

For women some common criticisms in media have to do with physical attractiveness, weight issues, and managing status as a spouse, mother, and working woman. The idea is that a women should be physically fit and “all done up” 24 hours a day. To further complicate the role of women in media I have to state the obvious: women are not the same. Race and ethnicity play a huge role in media and how people and especially women are portrayed.

Thomas Mascaro in Issue 3 “makes the point that African-American women have often been stereotyped in television sitcoms, but during the seven seasons of the hit TV show, Homicide: Life on the Streets, African-American women were given a venue for portrayals that were more socially significant and socially relevant.” Pg 49 After reading his argument I can’t say wether I agree or disagree. He has valid a point that we have come along way socially from the 1963 but African-American women are still negatively portrayed the majority of the time even in the TV series Homicide. The main characters in this series were depicted as women in a leadership role but is that enough when the sub-characters are women who are on drugs or have teenage boys that are killing or being killed?

I do agree with Sanchez-Hucles that the ads that African-American women are in are for hair care, alcohol or cigarettes and birth control. Pg. 66 When I read this I sadly agreed. Have I become so immune to this way of viewing ads that it became “socially OK” for it to be this way? Is it even wrong that African-American women are in these ads if the products are directed towards that population? These are the questions I started asking myself when I finished reading Sanchez-Hucles point of view. As a psychology and marketing major I can see how magazine ads of African-American women depicted mostly in these forms are both positive and negative. Positive from a marketing stand point if the products are geared towards African-American women to create a need and brand recognition. Negative because if as an African-American women consumer if that is the only image they see of themselves there is no room for improvement or change accept in those advertised areas.

Considering what we have learned in class on media and “who owns who” it would be naive to think that African-American women-being a minority group-would be portrayed accurately. As Newcomb and Hirsch stated in our last discussion “if disagreements cut too deeply in the value structure of the individual, if television threatens the sense of cultural security, the individual may take steps to engage the medium at the level of personal action.” Pg 20 This statement applies in not only television but in all mediums in mass media. The media-in all forms-has a huge financial interest in maintaining a certain image--wether accurately or not--to it’s consumers; it is therefore up to us as consumers to make a change rather than to expect the media to change.


  1. I totally agree with your assessment. You've put together a great argument. Consumers of the media do have a significant power. WE need to use it and are doing so through the use of the Internet. Twittering away.....following you from MBC follow me club.

  2. Thank you Kaydee! I appreciate your comments. I am using twitter as well... Let the Battle Begin!