Breaking Boundaries: Black Magazines Reconstructing Black Female Identity




DeLoach, Anita N.

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The mainstream media has aided black women’s subordination by depicting black women in limited and negative positions. In previous studies, the Mammy, Matriarch, Welfare Queen, Strong Woman and Jezebel models have been identified as the most commonly used stereotypical images of black women. Magazines such as Ebony, Essence, and Black Enterprise have as one of their objectives the restoration of racial pride, providing opportunities for black women to define themselves, presenting unlimited job options and increasing unheralded expectations for black women. The purpose of this study is to determine if contemporary popular black magazines reinforce existing racial stereotypes or dispel them by presenting alternative images. The contents of Ebony, Essence and Black Enterprise, were examined from 2000 to 2008 to investigate the presence or absence of the Mammy, Matriarch, Welfare Queen, Strong Woman and Jezebel images. A major finding of the study was that articles in Essence dispelled approximately 29.5%, articles in Black Enterprise dispelled approximately 38.2% and articles in Ebony dispelled approximately 32.3% of the stereotypical images. Based on the total number of stereotypical images addressed in all of the magazines, the matriarch was dispelled at a higher percentage in both Ebony and Black Enterprise. In Essence, however, the strong woman stereotype was dispelled more than any of the other stereotypical images. Dispelling the stereotypes provides evidence that the magazines do in fact adhere to some of the basic principles of Black feminism which are voice, self-definition, and resisting oppression both in practices and in ideas that justify it.



Stereotypes, Sexual siren, Mammy, Matriarch, Strong woman