Oprah Winfrey Network and the National Research Group today released a survey examining how Black women see themselves reflected in the media. Among the key findings is that while strides have been made in the amount of representation on the screen, the quality of that representation must reflect the true diversity of the community.
93% of respondents said they wanted to see “more complex representations of blacks on screen”.
Media professor and behavioral scientist at Rutgers University Shawnika Hull said, “We want our media to empower us for change. We want to see the richness of who we are reflected in us. We want varied representations of ourselves. It’s not about ourselves. just to see ourselves on the screen, but what the media say about us “.
The media can and are making a difference, according to the survey, which found that 71% of respondents say diversity in the media “has the most influence” in making them “feel more confident and proud.” As a result of progress on this and other fronts, nine out of 10 black women report feeling “a renewed power and strength to change.” But more work is needed.
For example, 81% believe that the media stereotype of the “strong black woman” leads many to expect them to be “stronger than others”. As a result, 66% of black women feel judged more than others if they make mistakes. Therefore, they are held to a higher standard.
“There is a pressure for black women to be strong and to be able to survive anything,” said Jacqueline Stewart, Chief Artistic and Programming Officer at the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum and Professor of Media and Cinema Studies at the ‘University of Chicago. “Vulnerability makes people recognizable and there is a lack of content that shows the vulnerability of black women.”
Of the respondents, 95% said they wanted to see more stories about black joy rather than black pain and struggle, with healthy romantic love being the main theme respondents wanted to see, at 58%.
In addition to the nine subject matter experts, the survey collected information online from 713 black American women over the age of 18. It was commissioned in May of this year by OWN, who collaborated with NRG on the research.