Master of Arts
Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Media
Molly Scanlon, Ph.D.
Juliette Kitchens, Ph.D.
Melissa Bianchi, Ph.D.
Black women in the United States have been arguably the most underrepresented, stereotyped, and hypersexualized groups in society; their contributions in the workplace often reduced in significance. Similarly, the perceived values of the white majority have historically dictated the images of minorities in the media. In their research on visual culture, Keifer-Boyd, Amburgy & Knight (2007) suggest that those with social, political, and economic power define how groups without power are represented and stereotyped, illuminating the privileges of having visible positive portrayals. As contemporary American society shifts towards greater inclusion and participation from black women, the media is encouraged to bring messages depicting diverse professionals to the forefront. Over the last 100 years, magazine covers in particular have grown to become one of the few platforms that explicitly feature images of society’s successful people, with certain magazines circulating to millions each year and influencing the decisions of a generation; a time-capsule of American culture. This current inquiry examines the potentially stereotypical trends created over the past seven years when popular magazine outlets engage their visual power in depicting black women. Most significantly, this study quantifies the visual culture portrayed by black women featured on the covers of ten highly circulated culture-shaping magazines through a content analysis: a visual methodology informed by qualitative coding of what it means to be stereotyped, limited, and underrepresented. The result of this research, while filling the gap of feminist visual rhetoric studies on black women in a media-obsessed and celebrity centered society, is the call for revision of these limited roles in future media productions.
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Sophonie Gaspard. 2020. The Invisible Professional: Visual Culture of Successful Black Women. Master's thesis. Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved from NSUWorks, . (64)
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