Black women often ignored by social justice movements

July 13, 2020

Black women are often less likely to be associated with the concept of a "typical woman" and are viewed as more similar to Black men than to white women, which may lead to some anti-racist and feminist movements failing to advocate for the rights of Black women, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Black women are often overlooked in people's conversations about racism and sexism even though they face a unique combination of both of these forms of discrimination simultaneously," said lead researcher Stewart Coles, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan's Department of Communication and Media. "This 'intersectional invisibility' means that movements that are supposed to help Black women may be contributing to their marginalization."

The research was published online in the APA journal Translational Issues in Psychological Science. The study was conducted online with more than 1,000 participants from the United States who were asked whether 41 positive or negative stereotypical attributes (such as hostile, sexually promiscuous or determined) were associated with different races or genders. Participants were told that their responses were not an admission that they believed these stereotypes so they would answer honestly.

Some participants were asked about stereotypical attributes just for men and women or for Black people or white people. Then other groups were asked about a combination of race and gender (Black women, Black men, white women and white men). The clustering of the responses showed how Black women were viewed in relation to the other groups. The typical woman was considered to be much more similar to a typical white woman than a typical Black woman. Black women and Black men also were considered to be more similar to each other than to white women or white men.

"The operative word in defining how similar to other groups Black women are is more 'Black' and less 'women,'" the journal article noted.

The underdifferentiation of Black women from Black men may help explain why Black women face similar rates of racial disparities in traffic stops and arrests, but anti-racist movements often focus on Black men in the fight against police brutality, said Josh Pasek, PhD, one of the researchers on the study and associate professor of communication studies and faculty associate in the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan.

"This is reflected both in terms of the victims of brutality who are highlighted and whose voices receive the most attention," said Pasek. "In this moment, we can see how much more attention has been paid to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd than the murder of Breonna Taylor."

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot dead in February after being chased by three white men as he jogged through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment in March. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis in May. His death set off protests across the country.

Previous research has found that Blackness is associated with masculinity, leading to errors when categorizing Black women's gender or recognizing Black women's faces. Other studies have found that Black women and girls are more associated with threat and danger than are white women and girls.

Feminist movements that focus only on issues that predominantly affect white women without addressing racialized sexism ignore the needs of Black women, who face higher rates of police abuses, including sexual violence, Coles said. Previous research also has found that Black women experience much higher rates of domestic and sexual abuse from partners than white women, and Black women are less likely to report this violence than white women.

Feminist and anti-racist movements should include Black women in leadership roles and advocate for the rights of Black women, Coles said.

"The key often starts with listening to Black women about their concerns and what their needs are and then delivering accordingly," he said.

Three out of four study participants were white, while 8% were Black, 8% were Hispanic and 5% were Asian. The responses weren't analyzed based on the ethnicity or gender of the participants because the study wasn't examining whether the participants endorsed specific stereotypes themselves.

"Previous research suggests that members of marginalized groups are aware of stereotypes of their groups," Coles said. "Thus, they would likely report the same awareness of stereotypes as would members of other groups."
-end-
Article: "Intersectional Invisibility Revisited: How Group Prototypes Lead to the Erasure and Exclusion of Black Women," by Stewart M. Coles, MA, and Josh Pasek, PhD, University of Michigan. Translational Issues in Psychological Science. Published online July 13, 2020.

Full text of the article can be found online at https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/tps-tps0000256.pdf.

Contact: Stewart M. Coles may be contacted at smcoles@umich.edu.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 121,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

American Psychological Association

Related Stereotypes Articles from Brightsurf:

Stereotypes and discrimination contribute to HIV-related stigma among nursing staff
To describe the attitudes of the university nursing faculty toward caring for PLHIV; and to identify the relationship between faculty attitudes and explanatory factors such as age, education, religion, nationality, teaching in a clinical setting, years of experience, and university attributes.

Pregnancy stereotypes can lead to workplace accidents
A study of pregnant women in physically demanding jobs found that their fears of confirming stereotypes about pregnant workers as incompetent, weak or less committed to their job could drive them to work extra hard, risking injury.

Effects of gender bias, stereotypes in surgical training
This randomized clinical trial investigated the association between pro-male gender bias and negative stereotypes against women during surgical residency on surgical skills and proactive career development of residents in general surgery training programs.

Do girls read better than boys? If so, gender stereotypes may be to blame
A new longitudinal study of fifth and sixth graders in Germany examined the relation between classmates' gender stereotypes and individual students' reading outcomes to shed light on how these stereotypes contribute to the gender gap in reading.

Bad behavior between moms driven by stereotypes, judgment
Mothers are often their own toughest critics, but new Iowa State University research shows they judge other mothers just as harshly.

Even scientists have gender stereotypes ... which can hamper the career of women researchers
However convinced we may be that science is not just for men, the concept of science remains much more strongly associated with masculinity than with femininity in people's minds.

Study: Some stereotypes seem to be universally applied to biracial groups in the US
A new Northwestern University study has found evidence that there are some stereotypes that seem to be universally applied to biracial groups in the U.S.

In fiction young people choose traditional love and gender stereotypes
Fictional television series can have an influence on the construction of young people's identities and values.

Stereotypes of romantic love may justify gender-based violence
The media have become key agents of socialization in the construction of teenagers' and young people's identities.

Us vs. them: Understanding the neurobiology of stereotypes
In a review published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, and colleagues describe how non-invasive brain stimulation -- a technique he and others have pioneered to unlock the secrets of the brain -- could shed light on the neurobiology underlying implicit bias.

Read More: Stereotypes News and Stereotypes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.