According to a video posted on ATTN, only forty-one percent of Black women feel like they’re depicted as beautiful by the media. The prevalence of images where Black women are angry, oversexualized, and uneducated is the primary cause of this feeling. While it pains me to read statistics such as these, I would rather read that Black women do not feel they that have been depicted as beautiful than that they don’t actually see the beauty in themselves. After all, Black women are at the top of their game economically, educationally, and stylistically.
What lies beneath these statistics is the effects of media portrayal. It is one thing to know that you’re at the top of your game, but it is another to be recognized for it. It matters for young Black girls who are still developing and finding themselves, it helps to establish the respect level deserved, and it lets people know what Black women truly are. In a Western society where it seems as though media outlets still have a face value understanding of Black and minority cultures, it may just come with the territory.
I question to what extent the media portrayal of Black women is due to misunderstanding and how much is deliberate. How are we still being subjected to one-dimensional, stereotypical representations of Black women when it is pretty well known that the story of Black women (and Black people overall) is so complex and multilayered? How are fewer than half of all Black women surveyed comfortable with how the media depicts them, especially when there’s fashion magazines that appropriate the hairstyles and fashion they created long ago? How much of the story is one of cultural theft and appropriation?
I hope that the remaining fifty-nine percent of Black women can view the world with an analytical lens, to see just how broad their span of influence reaches. I hope they see imitation as the best form of flattery, as corporate retailers siphon the aesthetic of Black style and culture directly from the Etsy and Big Cartel sites of Black women. I hope that Black women see the strides being made and the power that is up for grabs, so that progress can transpire at an accelerated rate. Maybe their sons and daughters can get a different narrative one day, driven by Black-owned, Black-backed, and accurate media depictions. Black women have that much power.