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ESSENCE’s Images Study: Bonus Insights

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Present Yourself Well
Photo Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill

In our November issue (on stands October 11), ESSENCE presents the sobering results of a study we conducted, in collaboration with research consultants Added Value Cheskin, about the images of Black women in media.

In the study, more than 1,200 respondents told us that the images we encounter regularly on TV, in social media, in music videos and from other outlets are overwhelmingly negative and fall into categories that make us cringe — Gold Diggers, Modern Jezebels, Baby Mamas, Uneducated Sisters, Ratchet Women, Angry Black Women, Mean Black Girls, Unhealthy Black Women, and Black Barbies.

The study also revealed six types we feel we don’t see enough in media, types we feel more genuinely reflect us and the Black women we know: Young Phenoms, Real Beauties, Individualists, Community Heroines, Girls Next Door and Modern Matriarchs.

Check out the top findings of our Images of Black Women in Media study in November’s ESSENCE (on stands October 11) — but here are 8 surprising, bonus details and insights from our research you might find interesting:

1. Negative imagery of Black women is seen often twice as frequently as positive imagery. For instance, 85% of our Black women respondents reported they regularly see representations of Baby Mamas in media, while only 41% said they often see Real Beauties. The type seen least often? Community Heroines.

2. Modern Jezebels and Gold Diggers are the types that cause Black women the most embarrassment. Our African-American respondents reported that they are most uncomfortable when White women view these sexual and greedy typologies. 

3. Our Black respondents said the typologies that best represent the Black women they know in real life are the positive ones — including Real Beauties, Modern Matriarchs, Girls Next Door and Individualists.

4. But non-Hispanic White women cited negative typologies as most representative of Black women they’ve encountered in real life — namely, Baby Mamas, Angry Black Women, Unhealthy Black Women and Uneducated Sisters.

5. Younger women — ages 18-29 — were more likely than older women to be aware of negative typologies and also more likely to find them compelling. This may be because younger generations consume more media overall, especially digital media, where many of the negative types run rampant.

6. Our study also dug into the differences between Black and White women when it comes to how they regard themselves and their satisfaction with certain aspects of their lives. African-American women reported higher levels of happiness with their natural beauty and appearance, plus their spiritual lives and religious commitments. Meanwhile, White women reported higher satisfaction with their homes, their relationships with significant others, and their savings and investments.

7. Both Black and White women reported that the strongest influence for boosting their sense of worth is themselves. But while Black women cited their mothers as the second strongest influence, White women say they look to their significant others to lift them up.

8. Interestingly, women who were compelled by negative typologies also reported they find physical features including lighter skin and straight hair to be most beautiful.

Read more of our Images Study in the November issue of ESSENCE.

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