Black women are a party to two marginalized groups—women and black people—which have both been historically deemed inferior. More specifically, black women have often been conceptualized and labeled far more negatively than white women. These stereotypes have culminated in the dehumanization of black women.
The black woman’s appeal is betrayed by negative depictions like the mammy, jezebel, tragic mulatto, and sapphire.
Associated with female slaves taking care of white children, the mammy stereotype manipulates and mocks the image of fat black women; it is a commentary on their failure to meet Eurocentric beauty standards. Today, the mammy image has been modernized and reconfigured with the face of pancake and waffle mix: Aunt Jemima.
The Jezebel stereotype was used to justify sexual violence toward black women at the hands of their white slave masters, depicting black women as “easy” individuals with unsatisfied sexual appetites and a strong desire for white men.
Most tragic mulattoes—people with mixed white and black ancestry—were depicted as self-seeking women who would risk everything, including their black family, to identify as white women. They were said to hate black people, their culture, and the blackness in themselves; tragic mulattoes were portrayed as fearing white people yet seeking their approval.
The convention of the sapphire depicts black women as angry and ill-tempered. This has enabled society to criticize black women when they express intense emotion.
These stereotypes have suffocated black women. Through my deconstructed collages, I want to create awareness of how black women are continuously perceived, oppressed, and disrespected.