Black Womanhood: “Essence” and its Treatment of Stereotypical Images of Black Women

by Jennifer Bailey Woodard & Teresa Mastin


One could assume it is a given that Essence magazine dispels stereotypical images of Black women and that it works to liberate them from the strictures imposed on them by a world in which they live as an undervalued and marginalized minority. After all, this is the only longstanding women’s magazine that targets Black women and addresses specifically their cultural and emotional needs as African Americans and women. This content analysis examines whether Essence works as a liberating feminist text that dispels, as opposed to validates, stereotypical images of Black women. We hypothesize that (a) there will be more evidence to dispel the stereotypes than to perpetuate them and (b) that of the four major African American women stereotypes – mammy, matriarch, sexual siren, and welfare mother or queen – the matriarch and sexual siren stereotypes will be dispelled more frequently. Results support the former hypothesis entirely and the latter hypothesis partially.

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