Media image stereotypes and ethnic identity of young Black college women

Kourtney Bennett, Fordham University


Media images continue to reflect potentially damaging images of Black women, the ramifications of which are associated with women’s low self-esteem, self-objectification, poor body image, and eating disorders. These images, highly accessed among young adults ages 18–27, may influence and transform gender and ethnic identity development among Black emerging adult females. Thus, the relationship between ethnic identity and experienced sex role and gender stereotypes, within the context of media exposure, was examined among 126 Black undergraduate women. Black feminist theory and intersectionality theory were used to provide a context for understanding the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and gender among Black women. Four stereotyped images of Black women were considered: the Jezebel, the Mammy, the Sapphire, and the Superwoman. These constructs were operationalized using the Stereotypic Roles of Black Women Scale (SRBWS). Findings indicated an inverse relationship between participants’ commitment to ethnic identity and endorsement of the Sapphire stereotype. Women who engaged in higher daily media use also showed greater endorsement of Mammy and Superwoman stereotypes than participants with lower media use scores, pointing to media’s potential role in shaping the social identity of Black women. Collectively, these findings have implications for understanding Black female emerging adults’ conceptualizations of racialized gender stereotypes presented in media and for the consideration of intersectionality in the evaluation of identity formation.

Subject Area

Black studies|Womens studies|Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Bennett, Kourtney, "Media image stereotypes and ethnic identity of young Black college women" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10116314.