Stereotypes of African American Women

Kyla Gaines

Dr. Jordan


October 4, 2009

Stereotypes We Face

Stereotypes, they have plagued African American women for years.  Whether it be the stereotype of a Mammy, a Jezebel or a Sapphire people have developed these negative stereotypes of black. “Young Black females often struggle to invent themselves against the distorted images of “money hungry heartless bitch,” “Jezebel,” and good ole “Mammy” among others, many of which were created during slavery” (Elaine Richardson, 676). Even in recent years the media has heightened these stereotypes and these assumptions of black women have become stigmas on the African American community.  But, people rarely know that black women are so much more then these three negative characteristics.  Over history and even today African American women have proved to be intellectual trailblazers.  But, it is difficult to get people to see the positive impacts African American women have on their communities as well as the world around them.  As black women it is our job to break the stereotypes society has set in place for us, and I believe we are able to break these stereotypes as Spelman women.

In the 1960s the stereotype of the mammy was set in place for black women.  The image of the fat jovial black women who was there to please white’s, who were not very bright, and who was there to serve whites (WordPress, Abagond/Stereotype about Black Women). It is important to note that although this stereotype became more apparent in the 1960’s black women were pigeonholed years ago when black female slaves were forced to work in the kitchens, and homes of their slave masters.

“The first controlling image applied to African-American women is that of     mammy- the faithful, obedient domestic servant.  Created to justify the economic exploitation of house slaves and sustained to explain Black women’s long- standing restriction to domestic service, the mammy image represents the normative yardstick used to evaluate all Black women’s behavior” (Patricia Hill Collins, 71).

 Today African American women are sometimes over looked for job positions because of this ‘mammy’ stereotype.  Some employers believe that black women are only good for cooking and cleaning.  Even with college degrees African American women have difficulty being taken seriously in the corporate world. 

I believe African American women today can avoid this stereotype by striving for more through their education.  We must prove to society that we as African American women can achieve more than just being housekeepers and cooks and that we want to work to get our high school and college degrees.  Often times we as African American women conform to society by giving into the stereotypes society has placed on us because we are too lazy to go against them.  As Spelman women we can show society that are reliable to work at fortune five hundred companies, to work at hospitals, and other high end occupations. But often times we do not always receive the support we should in these various fields because people do not believe in black women the way they should. “African American students are predominately Europe- American campuses has shown that when African American females show up in majors such as engineering, they receive less support, are asked to change their majors, and are expected to fail by White male professors” (Arnold and Murphy). We can pull away from these stereotypes and prove the “White male professors” wrong. Overall I believe Spelman does a good job of developing their young women for the outside world when it comes to education and life in general.  That is one of the reasons I applied to Spelman because I wanted to be fully prepared after my collegiate experience to challenge the stereotypes society has placed on us.
            The Jezebel stereotype of black women has been around for years just as the Mammy stereotype has been.  Although the Jezebel stereotype goes all the way back to biblical times refereeing to Jezebel, who was an evil queen at and that time (Website). She was seen as “a scheming, manipulative woman who did more than anyone to promote an evil religion” ( (Jezebel, Bible).   Over time African American women were given this title of Jezebel.  But, over the last few years this stereotype has heightened due to the media. Black women are portrayed as sex symbols in society.  White society often sees black women’s only job as being “used for sexual exploitation, and they enjoyed it” (Richardson, 676).  In the past black women were seen as seductresses who’s only goals were to get other women’s men by using their sexuality.  Today black women are often seen as sex symbols because they are seen gyrating and exploiting themselves on television, and in movies. The clothes we wear may send off the wrong message because our chests, and hips are a little curvier.  But sometimes as African American we conform to the Jezebel stereotype by exploiting ourselves in music videos, on TV, acting certain ways in public, and dressing certain ways and purposefully extenuating the curves God gave us. But just as we as Spelman women can change the Mammy stereotype we can change the Jezebel image.

Published in: on September 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. Dear Kyla,

    After reviewing your essay you have a lot of great evidence to support your claim. This is good because it helps establish your credibility and the meaning you have for the argument. The outlining of each stereotype in order of introduction (Mammy, Jezebel, etc) makes the argument well organized and easy to follow, and overall the topic was one of great choice and one you have a personal connection to. Although you have a lot of evidence from credible outside sources I think that you can do a better job at connecting yourself to the topic; how the issue affected you negatively or could possibly do so in the future. Once this personal connection is displayed affectively it will add some extra umph and transform this constructive argument into an extremely powerful piece of work that will make others want to take part in the struggle.

    But on a more technical level, you nailed your topic on the level of pulling biblical references, logical, and historical appeals to support your claim, this amount of diversity will help you reach and make some sort of connection with the audience in which you are hoping to connect with. In your next draft I hope to see how you hope to address the other side of the argument (people against the removal of these stereotypes) and how you will tie all in which you discussed into a well-developed ending.

    Some other hints to look out for are:
    -to remove the “I believe statements,” I think that there are at least two that are present.
    -other than the corporate world/job realm, in what other ways can these stereotypes have a negative impact on the African American Community
    -Keep in mind that this is a public document now, Spelman students are not the only ones who may read this document or be moved by it
    -continue the heavy use of evidence into your next stereotype because it will result in a well-rounded argument

    In the end, you have put in a lot of time and effort developing this paper and it is noticeable. Keep up the good work and just think about these suggestions. You made me want to know what else you have to say and I look forward to seeing what you have to present in the near future.

    Your Classmate,
    Dymond Elise

  3. We’re meeting in Tapley 133 on Wednesday, Oct. 7th.

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