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Gendered Experiences of Racism - Essay Example

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The short film A Girl Like Me (Davis, 2011) deals with the experiences that many contemporary young African American women have in relation to their own body image. Through interviews and an experiment involving children choosing and rating black and white dolls, it is shown…
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Gendered Experiences of Racism
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Gendered Experiences of Racism. The short film A Girl Like Me (Davis, deals with the experiences that many contemporary young African American women have in relation to their own body image. Through interviews and an experiment involving children choosing and rating black and white dolls, it is shown that African Americans grow up with a constant social pressure to conform to ideals and norms that are based on traditionally white features such as light skin, and a demure personality. Very young children, who cannot yet use rational thought to work things out, seem to internalize the prejudice around them, so that the majority of black children prefer a white doll to a black one, and put a higher value on the white one.
Racism is translated into a concept of beauty and self-image because of the use of stereotypes in the media which promote particular styles and shapes in a positive way, and relegate other shapes to a lower position. Thinness, for example, is seen as a desirable quality, while girls who are heavier are often portrayed as problem characters. African American physical shapes can come in all forms, some of them larger than others, The promstion of Barbie-doll like figures to black and white children alike, creates an unachievable ideal for both, but the distance between real bodies and the dolls is greater for black girls than for white girls. In addition to the issue of shape, African American girls often also have curly or nappy hair, and darker skin, both of which are qualities which traditional American culture sees as negative. This is a relic of race prejudice that stems from the time of slavery and even though the practice of slavery has stopped, the unconscious assumptions and prejudices associated with it can linger on into the present.
African American culture has been affected by the diaspora from Africa, and this affects the self-esteem of black young people more than white ones. In the film one speaker speaks of the loss that occurs when someone does not know even the exact country of his or her heritage. Africa is a big continent, and the diversity of it is lost in this enforced ingnorance. White girls, in contrast, can enjoy exploring their British, Italian, Swedish, Jewish, or any number of other cultural identities which can be traced back, but African American girls cannot do this in the same way. In relation to boys, there is a lot of suppressed resentment and aggravation in the African American community, and this can be expressed sometimes in demonstrations of misogyny and disrespect, because there is no outlet for the righteous anger of the boys. Latina girls have a respected role in the community through church and motherhood, which are revered and because of their lighter skin they are less “different” in white communities. African American girls wear their heritage literally in their skin and a tendency to evaluate this as of lower value follows them throughout their lives. It was very striking to see in the film how diverse the interviewees were in appearance, being both light and dark, with curly or straight hair, natural or complex hairstyles, and different personalities. It was encouraging to see them all fully aware of the pressures on them, and yet happy to choose their own personal look and style without feeling pressurized by social prejudices any more.
Reference
Davis, K. (2011) A Girl Like Me. Reel Works Teen Filmmaking. (Video) Available at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyI77Yh1Gg Read More
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