by Carmen Van Kerckhove
There’s an interesting study just done by a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher who found that African-American women are practically non-existent within the pages of bridal magazines:
Frisby and Erika Engstrom, professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, studied mainstream bridal magazines published from 2000 to 2004…
The covers and advertisements of 57 randomly selected issues of Bride’s Magazine, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride published from 2000 to 2004 were analyzed. Frisby and Engstrom did not find a significant improvement in the portrayal of African-American women: fewer than 2 percent of the advertisements featured African-American brides, and not a single magazine analyzed had an African-American bride on the cover. Images of African-American bridesmaids were more common.
“Our data seem to support the idea that the phrase ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ was actually meant for how women of color are represented in bridal magazines,” Frisby said. “Such portrayals of African-American women as bridesmaids may communicate a negative assumption that it’s better for African Americans to stay in background roles as opposed to positions of equal status or power. Various forms of bias in bridal advertisements not only harm African-American women’s sense of identity, but also derail attempts to show that our society is multicultural and accepting of people of color. Interracial settings and frequent portrayal of African Americans as main characters may help break down cultural and racial barriers and increase communication among people of all colors and ethnicities.”
I’m sure a lot of this is influenced by the (unfortunately) pervasive stereotype of black women as unwed mothers. And let’s not forget that mainstream magazines are extremely reluctant to put women of color on the cover because anytime they do, newsstand sales take a nosedive — even when the woman is a superstar like Halle Berry or Beyonce.
(Thanks to Kimberly for the tip!)