Black women interact and engage daily in a world where others may hold negative stereotypes of their group.
The Intersectionality and Marginalization (I.AM) Lab investigates both the roots of these stereotypes (e.g., the media) and the consequences of endorsing and being aware of these stereotypes for Black women’s gender beliefs, well-being (mental, physical, and sexual), and experiences of sexualization.
The Media as Socializing Agents: Where Do Young Black Adults Learn Stereotypical Beliefs?
One line of my research examines the role of the media as agents of gender and sexual socialization among Black emerging adults. Adolescence and emerging adulthood are critical periods in which youth begin to establish a coherent sense of self, initiate sexual relationships, and define what is sexually normative. Although many forces influence their emerging gender ideologies, one prominent contributor that I focus on are the mass media— known for their limited depictions of femininity, stereotypical portrayal of Black characters, and objectifying images of women. Because Black adolescents consume more media than their peers of other racial groups, the media are a particularly salient component of the social environment through which traditional gender beliefs and stereotypical notions of Black women may be learned and reinforced.
Stereotype Awareness, Stereotype Threat, and Black Women’s Wellbeing
A second line of research explores how the awareness of dominant stereotypes about Black women influences their physical, mental, and sexual health. Both theoretical and empirical analyses suggest that stereotype endorsement affects Black women’s well-being. However, stereotyping is a two-way process, and when we only study stereotype endorsement, we fail to capture other pathways of influence. I argue that Black women need not internalize stereotypes for them to be damaging. Drawing on notions of metastereotyping and stereotype threat, I investigate whether awareness that out-groups hold stereotypes and may consequently judge Black women’s behavior is sufficient to lead to detrimental consequences for Black women’s well-being.
Currently, I am examining the influence of negative sexual stereotypes, specifically, on Black women’s sexual agency and sexual health. Here, I focus on the Jezebel stereotype, which depicts Black women as hypersexual and promiscuous. These studies use data from a longitudinal, multi-site survey data collection that explores the psychological, gender, racial identity, and sexual development of over 900 Black women as well as experimental methods. I find that Black women who believe that others hold the Jezebel stereotype report less sexual agency, more sexual inhibition, and more sexual risk.