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Controlling Images of Women of Color

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Brock Webb

on 29 January 2014

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Transcript of Controlling Images of Women of Color

of Women of Color
Controlling Images
What is a Controlling Image?
Controlling Images of Black Women
Controlling Images of:
Asian Women
Controlling Images of:
Latina/Chicana Women
Controlling Images of:
Native Americans
"As part of a generalized ideology of domination,
stereotypical images of Black womanhood take
on special meaning. Because the authority to define
societal values is a major instrument of power, elite
groups, in exercising power, manipulate ideas
about Black womanhood. They do so by exploiting
already existing symbols, or creating new ones."
- Collins, "Black Feminist Thought", 76
The Mammy
The Dragon Lady
The Ancestral Native American Grandmother
The Fiery Latina
- Are there controlling images for any of these groups that you think should be added to this list? Why?

- What are some ways that we can shift representations of people/women of color?

-Can you think of counter-examples to these controlling images?
This means that controlling images are:
- Circulated in the media
- Contain an ideological components that are essential to maintaining oppression
- Define the woman of color by her 'outsider' status
- Continue to proliferate even when the initial conditions that created them disappear.
The Matriarch
The Welfare Mother/Queen
The Jezebel/Whore/"Hoochie"
"The faithful, obedient domestic servant. Created to justify the economic exploitation of house slaves and sustained to explain Black women's long-standing restriction to domestic service,... the mammy symbolizes the dominant group's perceptions of the ideal Black female relationship to elite White male power." (Collins, 80)
The Mammy must appear as "warm and nurturing" and maternal (Collins, 80).
The Matriarch "symbolizes the mother figure in Black homes. Just as the mammy represents the 'good' Black mother, the matriarch symbolizes the 'bad' Black mother. Spending too much time away from home, [the matriarch] ostensibly could not properly supervise [her] children..." (Collins, 83)
The Matriarch is: a working mother, overly aggressive, unfeminine, emasculating, a failed mammy (Collins, 83).

"The image of the welfare mother fulfills this function by labelling as unnecessary and even dangerous to the vaules of the country the fertility of women who are not White and middle class... Like the matriarch, the welfare mother is labeled a bad mother. But unlike the matriarch, she is not too aggressive--on the contrary, she is not aggressive enough... The image of the welfare mother represents another failed mammy, one who is unwilling to become 'de mule uh de world.'" (Collins, 87)
The China Doll
Once again, originated during slavery, when black women were portrayed as "sexually aggressive wet nurses" and serves to control the 'threatening' deviant sexuality of black women. "Jezebel's function was to relegate all Black women to the category of sexually aggressive women, thus providing a powerful rationale for the widespread sexual assaults by White men typically reported by Black slave women." (Collins, 89)
Collins points out that the Jezebel image has transformed into the contemporary "Hoochie" which has "permeated everyday Black culture" especially within rap and hip-hop culture/music (Collins, 90).
Stereotype of East-Asian women as strong, deceitful, domineering, and/or dangerous.
Distinctly Western stereotype that does not hold within East Asian cultures.
Female counterpart to the Fu Manchu Controlling Image.
The Model Minority
- Not specific to Asian women.
- Depicts people of East Asian descent as hard-working, politically inactive, studious, intelligent, productive, and inoffensive.
Multiple forms, including: "Geisha Girl/Lotus Flower/Servant/China Doll: Submissive, docile, obedient, reverential; the Vixen/Sex Nymph: Sexy, coquettish, manipulative; tendency toward disloyalty or opportunism; the Prostitute/Victim of Sex Trade/War/Oppression: Helpless, in need of assistance or rescue; good-natured at heart."
Many white people will claim to be part Native American/American Indian and will point to a mythical Native American (Great) Grandmother. Deloria jested about this trend: "I once did a projection backward and discovered that evidently most tribes were entirely female for the first three hundred years of white occupation. No one, it seemed, wanted to claim a Male Indian as forebear." (3)
The Savage
Male Indians, especially, are culturally constructed through this trope: with an "aura of the savage warrior, the unknown primitive, the instinctive animal" (Deloria 3).
This is the image that is recreated constantly through Western films and novels, through the Cowboys and Indians narrative trope, and through sports teams around the country.
The Mystic/Indian Princess
Finds ground especially through New Age religious/health practices, and points to the American Indian's mystical connection to the land/earth without any real understanding of the religious principles and social structures behind these broad stereotypes.
In particular, the Indian Princess is often constructed as a mystic who recognizes the savagery of her own people and falls in love with a (White) pioneer/settler. Trope that represents the White Man's mastery of the natural world.
Hypersexualized (so maintains femininity) even though portrayed as sexually aggressive. Often stretches across age ranges. The Latina character who always has a quick, harsh verbal response and doesn't take shit from anyone.
The Maid
Latina/Chicana/Hispanic Maids and Domestic Servants
compromise the majority of roles for Latina... actresses on television and in film.
In some cases, these characters have few lines, or speak spanish and are immediately othered by a leading character who proclaims that s/he "doesn't speak Spanish" and demands an English response.
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