From Jezebel to Ho: An Analysis of Creative and Imaginative Shared Representations of African-American Women
Critical race theory has affirmed that popular culture represents African-American women in narrowly defined stereotypical roles that are long lasting, dichotomous and degrading. However, not as common are studies that look at creative and imaginative shared portrayals of the group. This essay applies symbolic convergence theory (SCT) with its critical method, fantasy theme analysis (FTA), to explore Don Imus and his co-hosts’ use of stereotypes in their depiction of members of the Rutgers basketball team. While Imus began the characterization of members of the mostly black team as “rough girls” and “nappy-headed hos,” his co-hosts contributed to his fantasy, resorting to stereotypes deeply entrenched in cultural narratives of black women. The Imus faux pas occurred several years ago; however, many of the same stereotypes continue to resurface in media portrayals of African-American women, particularly in social media outlets. For instance, dozens of Facebook hate groups target Michelle Obama, using both racist and sexist language that questions her personality, femininity and beauty. While media have made inroads in improving representations of women and people of color, historical stereotypes of black women are still a prominent part of cultural narratives. Scholars must constantly challenge such portrayals and advocate for alternative, meaningful and consistent depictions.