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Image Of African American Women Essay

1043 words - 5 pages

Image of African American Women
Despite the strong presence of the beautiful, powerful, black women in the media, such as Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyoncé Knowles, African American females have been deemed unattractive in society’s eyes. These notions did not develop overnight, but remain as obstacles birthed from slavery. These stereotypes keep the black female incarcerated under the belief that they are not beautiful. However, black women have fought and are fighting these harmful perceptions in many different ways. My project will focus on two artists in particular, Maya Angelou and Kara Walker. I will look at three poems of Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Women, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Still I Rise while examining the artwork of Kara Walker to compare the different approaches to transform the unfavorable images of African American women.
An acquaintance of mine expressed to me that he found dark girls “hideous.” I was shocked upon hearing this because not only was his comment insensitive and racist, he was a black as well. This comment did not surprise me as it is popular belief that dark girls are not attractive. In Hey Girl, Am I More Than My Hair?: African American Women and Their Struggles with Beauty, Body Image, and Hair Tracey Owen Patton provides a historical review on the emergence of black stereotypes, elaborating on how black women earned the status of inferiority. Black women are held to the Eurocentric expectations, causing these adverse perceptions to evolve from the created principle that white women are the only defining archetypes of beauty (Patton 26). The societal practice of comparing black women to white women sheds a negative light on the black female community, leading to the manifestations of the oversexed jezebel, the tragic mulatto, and the mammy figure (Patton 27). Ruth Feldstein, author of The World was on Fire: Black Women Entertainers and Transnational Activism in the 1950s, also asserts that black women aren’t viewed positively and demonstrates how black female artists of the 1950s used fashion and hair in resistance to the stereotypes. Black female entertainers avoided form fitting gowns while performing in order to gain respect as African American women (Feldstein 27). They utilized their natural hair to confront and denounce the negative and false presumptions regarding the black image (Feldstein 27). Black female artists wanted their audience to recognize that they were black women in order to break the racially barriers, disassemble the erroneous portrayals, and reconstruct the black image (Feldstein 27). After review the past actions, I will assess the actions that are being taken currently. Tal Dekel’s, In Sex, Race, and Gender: Contemporary Women Artists of Color, the Case of Kara Walker, focuses on the black females’ sexuality and how an African American artist, Kara Walker, works to remodel the image of black women and the black community as a whole. Historically, back in 19th...

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