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African-American Vs Caucasian Views on Physical Image

Essay by review  •  February 16, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,105 Words (5 Pages)  •  826 Views

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Kim Jalm

African-American vs Caucasian Views on Physical Image

The days of male domination are over; women are now becoming a strong majority in the United States of America. Women of all ethnicities are becoming active members of the political, the business, the medical, and the architectural world. Women are claiming the executive positions in companies, but there is still a demon that haunts a majority of women: self and physical image. This essay is comparing and contrasting African American females with Caucasian females while focusing mainly on their contrasting views of physical image and consequently physical worth. This essay will compare and contrast, citing the works and studies of various professionals within the fields of psychology, nutrition, and physiology. The various means and frequencies of diet and exercise among the two ethnicities, as well as the battle with eating disorders.

While this essay will focus on Caucasian females and African-American females as collective bodies, it is important to note that not all women within a racial/ethnic category have the same physical images. There is within each ethnic group a separate breakdown based on the socioeconomic class system. Research shows that African-American females in the upper-middle class to the upper class are more concerned about their body size. In this economic class, they collectively get more exercise and are generally healthier than those African-American women closer to the bottom of the socioeconomic class system. It can also be said that while Caucasian women of all economic classes statistically strive to be thin, there are variances on what makes a woman aesthetically appealing.

Physical image is what you think you look like physically. The majority of women are given Barbie dolls at a young age. Barbie represents the worldwide "perfect body" image for women. Mimi Nichter led a three-year study of Caucasian adolescent females and the effects of the Barbie doll image. She states, "...Because the girls didn't match up...they felt dissatisfied and frustrated with themselves." On the other hand, an African-American adolescent females "ideal body" focuses more on mental characteristics, as opposed to the physical elements. Nichter found that in her study, 990% of Caucasian females said that they were dissatisfied with their weight, whereas 70% of African-American females stated that they were satisfied. Stereotypically, African-American men value fuller hips, larger thighs, and a small waist. African-American women prefer a mental state: personal sense of style and the "she knows where she's going," attitude. They also prefer to emulate themselves with positive attitudes often leaning towards a spiritual basis, as well as a good head on their shoulders. Dr. Sheila Parker found that Caucasian women focus too much on their weight where as African-American women do not. The ideal healthy weight of a female (depending on height) generally lies as a medium between the two.

African-American women reflect and respect their bodies. They define beauty as coming from within. It is for this reason that African-American girls generally have a more positive body image than Caucasian girls. The majority of African-American adolescent girls are satisfied with their weight while Caucasian adolescent girls are dissatisfied with theirs. African-American teens value "the right attitude," whereas Caucasian teens are valuing blonde hair, blue eyes, and a size zero waist. There is a downside to the African-American approach on physical image; a significantly higher percentage of African-American women tend to be overweight. African-American women do not focus on vanity and because of the complete lack of focus they seldom get the exercise required to burn the calories that they take in each day. While it is good to not be overly focused on ones appearance; it is imperative that a person is conscious of their physical state at least for health issues.

Words such as "fat", "overweight", and "heavy" make a portion of the brain known as the amygdale, react and go into overdrive. The amygdale in females reacts to both verbal and physical threats. Dr. Trevor Turner states,

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