Why Representation of Black Women In Advertising Needs To Change

Why Representation of Black Women In Advertising Needs To Change

The representation of African-American women in advertising needs to change.

African-American men and women have been plagued with insulting stereotypes for many years. These stereotypes include African-American men being thought of as criminals and drug lords and African-American women being thought of as single mothers and “angry black women.” These stereotypes for African-American women, in particular, have translated to how they are and have been portrayed in advertising since the 1870s, when African-Americans first appeared in advertisements in the United States.

From the beginning of the 20th century to the mid-1960s, advertising used stereotypical images of African-American women to make them appear subservient to white people, ignorant, and ugly[1]. However, these stereotypes have transcended through decades, and there are many modern advertisements that still use them.

In addition to these offensive stereotypes of African-American women, offensive methods of white-washing and blackface have been used in modern advertisements, despite online backlash against it. Therefore, African-American women have faced offensive representation in advertising.

White-washing and blackface have contributed to the poor representation of African-American women in advertising. Blackface was either a layer of burnt cork on a layer of coca butter or black grease paint, and it was used for white people’s characterization of plantation slaves and free African-Americans during the era of minstrel shows from 1830-1890[2]. However, variations of blackface still exist in the United States and in other countries around the world.

One example of blackface being prevalent in a modern advertisement is in a 2016 advertisement from Seoul, Thailand, for Seoul Secret Snowz, which is a beauty pill made to make a woman’s skin tone whiter. In this advertisement, a 35-year-old actress and model named Cris Horwang who says that the whiteness she achieved through beauty products had brought her fame[3]. While she says this, the skin tone of a model next to her begins to blacken, and the model appears sickly and depressed.

Another example of blackface was in a Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement where a black woman wearing what appeared to be blackface with exaggerated, bright pink lips was eating a black “Charcoal Donut.” These uses of blackface made African-American women seem dirty and ugly, thus poorly representing them.

In addition to blackface, white-washing is a common way to manipulate the appearance of African-American women in advertising. It is often used for beauty products, makeup lines, and magazine covers for African-American women.

The concept of white-washing means to lighten and digitally manipulate a person’s skin tone to make them appear more like a white person’s skin tone. It is used to meet the standards of beauty in American society that favor white women over minority women.

The first example of white-washing included lightening Beyoncé’s skin tone for her L’Oréal advertisement.

The second example included lightening Gabourey Sidibe’s skin tone for her cover photo of Elle magazine.

One example of this stereotype being famous in advertising is the stereotypical African-American ad character of Aunt Jemima. Aunt Jemima first appeared in 1889 and was historic as the first ready-made pancake mix. This character had exaggerated features and had what appeared to be blackface on her face.

From the end of slavery to the period of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, advertisements in the United States continued to show African-American people as Aunt Jemimas and other stereotypical characters, which were characters who were subservient to white people[6].

Another example of this kind of representation was an advertisement for the German company Gisele Bundchen. In this advertisement, a white woman in a golden leotard is being held up by four African-American men. It made it look like the African-American men were subservient to the white woman.

In addition to being subservient to white people, African-Americans have been represented in advertisements as exotic and in African jungle environments.

One example of this was in an advertisement for the World Wildlife Fund. The ad showed an African-American woman dressed in exotic clothing, and she was posed in an African jungle environment.

The second example of this kind of representation was in an advertisement for Moschino. The ad showed an African-American woman dressed in a leopard-print outfit pressed up against the wall.

The third example of representing African-American women as exotic was in an advertisement for a perfume called “Animale” by Macy’s. The woman in the ad is covered in tiger print makeup to make her appear more "exotic."

These advertisements represented African-American women as exotic. This is poor representation because a white woman would not have been represented like that. They were represented that way in those advertisements because they were African-American.

Lastly, African-American women are stereotypically thought of as single, struggling mothers.

This idea is prevalent in a 2014 advertisement for Baby K’Tan diapers. In this advertisement, there are two packages next to each other. One package features a white family with a mother, father and baby. However, the second package right next to it features a single African-American mother with a baby. This advertisement is blatant racism, using the stereotype of African-American women being single mothers.

In many advertisements, white women have been seen as superior to black women.

The first example is from Dove, and it shows a “before” and “after” picture of skin. There are three women featured in a line. From left to right, the women are African-American, Latina, and white. From the way that the ad is designed, it looks like being white is the goal of the product and having darker skin isn’t preferred. Therefore, it makes white women look superior to African-American women.

The last example of the idea that white women are superior to African-American women is an advertisement for PlayStation Portable White. This ad features a white woman and an African-American woman who is clothed in dark colors, making it difficult to notice her. The white woman is turned toward the African-American girl and she has grabbed the girl’s face in a dominant manner. This ad makes white women seem superior to African-American women.

In conclusion, advertisements have provided poor representations of African-American women for many years. These poor representations have been created by hindering stereotypes of African-American women being subservient to white people, being single mothers, and being ugly, ignorant and angry. It’s time to start representing African-American women for the beautiful people they are.

Works Cited

“African-Americans: Representations in Advertising.” Advertising Age, 15 Sept. 2003.


advertising/98304/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

“Beauty Whitewashed: How White Ideals Exclude Women of Color.” Beauty Redefined Blog, 1

Feb. 2011. http://www.beautyredefined.net/beauty-whitewashed-how-white-ideals-

exclude-women-of-color/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

Dicker, Rory. “Second Wave Feminism.” History of U.S. Feminisms. Seal Press, Berkeley, CA,

2008. pp. 83

Holmes, Oliver. “Thai ad with 'white makes you win' message lambasted for racism.” The

Guardian, 8 Jan. 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/08/thai-advert-

white-makes-you-win-skin-whitening-lambasted-for-racism. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

Kelley, Raina. “The Pepsi Max Super Bowl Ad and the Myth of Angry Black Women.” The

Daily Beast, 11 Feb. 2011. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/02/11/pepsi-max-

super-bowl-ad-the-myth-of-angry-black-women.html. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

Lee, Janet, and Susan M. Shaw. “The ‘Beauty’ Ideal.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions.

McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY, 2015. pp. 192.

Padgett, Ken. Blackface! http://black-face.com. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

[1] “African-Americans: Representations in Advertising.” Advertising Age, 15 Sept. 2003, http://adage.com/article/adage-encyclopedia/african-americans-representations-advertising/98304/.

[2] Padgett, Ken. Blackface! http://black-face.com.

[3] Holmes, Oliver. “Thai ad with 'white makes you win' message lambasted for racism.” The Guardian, 8 Jan. 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/08/thai-advert-white-makes-you-win-skin-whitening-lambasted-for-racism.

[4] Lee, Janet, and Susan M. Shaw. “The ‘Beauty’ Ideal.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions. McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY, 2015. pp. 192.

[5] Lee, Janet, and Susan M. Shaw. “The ‘Beauty’ Ideal.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions. McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY, 2015. pp. 192.

[6] “African-Americans: Representations in Advertising.” Advertising Age, 15 Sept. 2003, http://adage.com/article/adage-encyclopedia/african-americans-representations-advertising/98304/.

Cover Image Credit: Washington Post

Popular Right Now

As A Female Christian Millennial, I Fully Support Alabama's Abortion Ban Because I Know God Would, Too

A life always has worth, no matter the circumstances.


Alabama's state legislature passed a bill on May 14, 2019 that makes it illegal for abortions to be performed past six weeks of pregnancy. Doctors who are caught violating the law could be sentenced up to 99 years in prison. The bill is the strictest anti-abortion bill to date this year as states try to pass laws to challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.

While the law does allow an exception to women whose lives are at risks, it does not allow for abortions in the event of rape or incest. I support Alabama's new law, and I applaud them for their efforts to protect the rights of unborn children.

As a Christian, I believe that life is a precious gift from God and should be treated with care.

The sixth commandment is, "Thou shalt not kill," and Jesus said the second greatest rule was to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39-40). I believe this applies to every person born and unborn. But, even from a secular perspective, there are reasons that support an unborn child's right to life. Let's break down two of the most important components of the bill: abortion itself and the case of rape and incest.

A big argument in the debate is whether a baby is alive before it is born or only after it is born.

I believe can be explained and answered with simple medical science. In the medical profession, a person is pronounced dead when there is no more activity in the brain, known as brain-dead.

At that point, they consider there to be no more life in the body.

The opposite of death is life, so if you have electrical signals still coursing through your brain, then you are alive. A fetus begins to have electrical activity in its brain at six weeks. Most women do not find out they are pregnant until around that time, so by the time they decide to have an abortion, the baby, by all medical accounts, is alive.

Another indicator of whether a person is dead or dying is their pulse.

The pulse is how many times a person's heart beats per minute. If a person does not have a pulse, they will more than likely die if their heart cannot be resuscitated because no oxygen is getting to their brain.

Medical personnel does everything they can to start a person's heart back because they know that the heart is key to life.

A baby's heart begins to beat at five weeks old, again before the mother knows she is pregnant and can choose to have an abortion. Since the United States' justice system upholds that killing a person is wrong, then shouldn't killing a baby, who is alive, be wrong too? I think this is plenty of proof that aborting a baby is killing a living person and is therefore wrong.

Rape and incest are two horrible acts that should be punished. It is never the victim's or conceived a child's fault in the situation.

Given the reasons above for why abortion is wrong, I also believe, while both crimes are horrendous, that abortion is still not the answer to this problem. I do understand, however, that women, because of the traumatic experience or other reasons, may not be able to care for the child.

As such, I am an advocate for adoption.

There are many couples out there who cannot have children on their own who would love to adopt. In order, for this to be a viable option, though, Congress needs to make amendments to adoption laws.

Adoption is outrageously expensive, much more costly than an abortion, and is a long and tedious process.

Though the laws are in place so that not just anybody can adopt a child, the government still could stand to relax laws a little. Another option could be to offer aid to those who wish to adopt specifically to cover adoption expenses or to only those who meet certain requirements. If we want to protect unborn children, we must give women and families more viable options.

I know that my views are not popular, but God did not call us to be popular, He called us to be His disciples.

I will not compromise my convictions because I am in the minority. I support the women who have to face this dilemma, and I pray that they and our government officials make the right decisions and aid these women and families in need of help.

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.


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Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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