Black Women Ignore Many of Media’s Beauty Ideals

White female college students at the University of Michigan are
more likely than black female students to feel self-conscious about
their bodies or exhibit signs of bulimia after watching a popular
television show full of characters perceived as sexy, like
Beverly Hills 90210, Frasier, Friends,
Martin, or Sister, Sister. That’s because our
popular culture encourages white women to trim down and fit into
that skimpy skirt, while applauding more voluptuous black

The study, ‘Who’s That Girl: Television’s Role In The Body Image
Development Of Young White And Black Women’ — conducted by the
University of Michigan and published in the current issue of
Psychology of Women Quarterly — found that ‘black women
shrugged off the ideal of the thin, pretty white woman as
‘unattainable for themselves and as unimportant to others in the
black community.” Granted, most female beauties gallivanting
across the television screen are white, and why would blacks try to
identify with them in the first place? ‘Basically, black women just
don’t feel bad in the same way white women do by watching
television,’ says L. Monique Ward, a professor of psychology at the
University of Michigan and one of four authors of the study.

But the difference also lies in how beauty is perceived by
different racial groups. For instance, 77 percent of black women
are overweight in America, compared to 57 percent of white women,
according to a report released earlier this year by the American
Heart Association. ‘Black women are a lot more confident about
their bodies, even if they are overweight,’ says Cynthia Frisby,
assistant professor of journalism at the University of Missouri,
who conducted a similar study in March. ‘Much of it is cultural,
with black men preferring women with bigger hips and bigger butts.’
The majority of black women in Frisby’s study had more curvaceous
bodies, like that of singer Beyonce Knowles.
Jacob Wheeler

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Women Ignore Many of Media’s Beauty Ideals

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