Black History Month came to a close Sunday, and with March begins Women’s History Month. Thursday’s event could serve as a transition between the two.
The symposium, “ Black Female Bodies: On the Auction Block Again… and Still,” will focus on black feminine identity including the sexualization of female bodies in the past and today, said Novotny Lawrence, chairman of the Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media.
Keynote speaker Janine Jones, of University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said black girls, women and trans-women will be at the focus of her presentation.
“The treatment and devaluing of black girls and women has its historical roots in slavery and in colonization,” said Jones, whose research interests include philosophy of race.
She said the media perpetuates certain stereotypes, playing a clear role in the way black women and men are viewed in society.
Christiana Johnson, a junior from Ottawa studying marketing, said a lot of potential relationships are ruined by the way black women are approached.
“If I go out to parties, it’s not uncommon for somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’ve never been with a black girl before, and I have this fantasy about being with a black girl and your skin’s just so beautiful’ blah blah blah,” Johnson said. “It’s like, OK you f—ing creep.”
Diamond Trusty, a freshman from Chicago studying journalism and television, said black women are pressured to have the body image—big breasts and wide hips—advertised in the media.
Johnson said she has noticed similar stereotypes in the media.
“I don’t have to be able to twerk and I don’t have to do everything that black girls are supposed to be able to do,” Johnson said.
She said they make many black women feel self-conscious about their bodies.
“[Some black women] are stressing themselves out or working themselves really hard to look a certain way the media says they should,” Trusty said.
Lawrence said the images portrayed show what those who wield power think about black women’s bodies. He said the media plays a role in our socialization and how we view the world in general.
“Whatever it is that we are talking about, we have to acknowledge that the media plays a role in how we think,” Lawrence said. “Sometimes telling us how to think about it or even if we should think about it.”
The symposium was put together by Joseph Smith, a doctoral candidate in philosophy.
It will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library.
“There is victimhood with both black males and black females,” Jones said. “Both have been victims of white violence—from white systems.”
Jones will speak at the symposium for about an hour and Lawrence will respond.
Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected]