Throughout history women have been portrayed as inferior to men because of misinterpreted religious and cultural ideologies. According to the Language of Gender, women have three parts to them, Female, femininity, and feminism. The female aspect is defined as the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, the Feminine counterpart is defined as the characterization of possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman, and the Feminist characteristic is defined as the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. This construction of the three parts of women have been used to socially, politically, economically, and sexually oppress women throughout the world. This dilemma affects all women, regardless of age, race, or belief, however, feminism alone fails to address the plight of black women, the fact that no matter where they are in the world there is and has always been a stigma against them, women of color. However Black Feminism fosters to the problems that black women face on a day-to-day basis, Black Feminism is is a school of thought which argues that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together. (Wikipedia) American media has embodied the “idea” of black woman in three specific stereotypes: the Mammy stereotype, the Jezebel stereotype, the Sapphire stereotype. According to American Media these are the three parts to a black woman, it isn’t solely the female, femininity, or feminism aspects , but there is a portrayal of how black women “truly” are. These three stereotypes have shaped the way black women are perceived in America, and have undermined or prolonged their influence socially, politically and economically.
“Black woman are the mules of this world”
–Quote from Their Eyes Were Watching God
In American media, Black women are portrayed as having characteristics of the female construct, however women of color aren’t necessarily portrayed as feminine, but as three major stereotypes: the “Mammy”, “Jezebel”, and the “Sapphire”. These stereotypes are seen in major movies such as The Help, Monster’s Ball, and in about every one of Tyler Perry’s films. The Mammy stereotype illustrates a black woman who plays a “motherly” role in an all white family home. The Mammy stereotypical role is perceived as maternal, usually overweight, unattractive, non threatening, and deeply religious. In the movie The Help, Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark, a maid who has
spent a majority of her life raising white children. Aibileen Clark fits the characteristics of the female diagram and also the characteristics of the “Mammy” because she is a female, and because she is a maid who works for an all white family. Studies have shown that the only time Black women has ever won
an Academy Award were in fact depicted as one of the three stereotypical views of black women in American Media.
The Jezebel stereotype is the most of the three shown in American media today, the Jezebel character is an overly sexualized black women, who obtains exaggerated body parts, such as huge lips, and an even bigger rear end and waist, this character has come to define black women, and how they are viewed. This character is shown in Halle Berry’s
Monster’s Ball, where she plays Leticia Musgrove, a struggling black woman, who loses her husband, and has a difficult time raising her son, Tyrell, sounds familiar? Like every other movie that has a struggling black woman as the lead role, Monster’s Ball exploits Black women by overly sexualizing Halle Berry’s character to fulfill sexual fetishes of black love. Throughout time Black women have been made into sexual objects because of the falsehood on how they were perceived. For instance, black women slaves were subject to physical and sexually abuse on plantations because they were seen as seductive, and because of their strong desire for the “all so great” whitemen they so desperately longed for, the sexual abuse that was done to them was seen as being justified. Halle Berry’s character in Monster’s Ball embodies the three-part female construct and also the Jezebel stereotype that has plagued Black women in American media throughout history.
Tyler Perry films could not be complete without a black women being portrayed as the Sapphire stereotype, the Sapphire stereotype illustrates black women as rude, rowdy, loud, angry, bitter, and obnoxious females. This portrayal of black women in the media has socially put black women on the bottom of the social class. The Sapphire depiction shows apparently “too strong” black women, who emasculate all men, particularly black males, and for this reason Black women are not seen as being feminine, but aggressive. In the media Black women are seen as the Sapphire stereotype,which contrasts White women in media, who are seen as beautiful,
young damsels or princesses in need of a man to save
them. For this reason, it has to be reiterated that white women and black women do not go through the same oppression. Black women are plagued with the oppression that has been placed on women and also the wrongful stereotypes that places catalyst in the eyes of those who watch American Media.
American media has illustrated black woman in three specific stereotypes: the Mammy stereotype, the Jezebel stereotype, and the Sapphire stereotype. Feminism fails to grasp the concept of the problems that Black women face alone, therefore the parts that make up a women of color according to society is female, the three stereotypes, and black feminism, this is because the three-part construction doesn’t illustrate black women, as they are perceived by society. What can we learn from all of this? We should learn not to be quick to judge, not to be quick to believe everything we learn from the media.