Class Year

2014

Access Type

Vassar Community Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Sociology Department

First Advisor

Robert McAulay

Second Advisor

Leonard Nevarez

Abstract

In the past, poignant controlling images and stereotypes have run prevalent in the American historical framework. However, these tropes are routinely challenged by black feminists and black entertainers in contemporary popular culture. This thesis will garner a comprehensive analysis of how the black female body has been—and is currently— portrayed in media. The analysis will create dialogue between the prevalent stereotypes of the past and how they affect the way black women are perceived—especially in regards to the dominant male gaze in our predominantly white patriarchal society. Using thorough readings of media outlets that include music videos, such as Beyoncé’s “Partition,” and television shows like Scandal, there are consistent links to black women obtaining agency despite the existing remnants of stereotypes and stigma against the black female body. Through the public sphere, black female entertainers in particular craft their self-definition and their politics around working to subvert the effects of controlling images from within the stereotypical framework that they are placed in. Therefore, while black women have achieved success from their presence in contemporary media, the fact that they must subvert images of the black female body as excess indicates that the stereotypes continue to evoke notions of sexual deviance and racial stigma in the 21st century.

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