Sex Roles

, Volume 55, Issue 11–12, pp 739–755 | Cite as

The Politics of Protection: Body Image, Social Pressures, and the Misrepresentation of Young Black Women

Original Article


As part of a larger multi-method study, 15 Black women college students participated in focus group discussions on the body. Contrary to popular theories that propose that Black women are protected by a “Black Culture” that buffers them from negative effects of body representations—thereby leaving them with higher body esteem—the themes that emerged in the focus group discussions indicate that young Black women are indeed feeling (1) pressures to be thin, (2) pressures from the preferences of men of diverse ethnicities, (3) competition with other Black women in the realms of beauty, and (4) a strong sense of being misrepresented by media images of thin Black women. These results not only indicate that body image issues are of real pressing concern to young Black women, but that psychological research methodologies may be adding to the misrepresentation of young Black women and their struggles. Qualitative methods must be utilized in order to hear more clearly the voices of Women of Color.


Body Beauty Ethnicity Race Qualitative 



Special thanks to Michelle Fine, Rhoda Unger, Ruth Hall, Collette Daiute, and Vita Rabinowitz for their advice. Thanks to research assistants Beverly Aravjo, Jasmine Martinez, Ana Morales, and to co-facilitator Diane Wilson. Thanks for the support from Kerry Dennehy, Donna Foster-Paley, Tracy McFarlane, Michael, Ela, and David Poran. Great appreciation and thanks to the young women who shared with me and spoke with such great energy, enthusiasm, and insight.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRamapo College of New Jersey—SSHSMahwahUSA

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