Health & Wellness for Black Girls [Webinar]
With the kind support of the Heinz Endowments and FISA Foundation, we convened six of the country's leading academics on gender and at-risk youth. The report (at left) and PowerPoint (at right) detailing our main findings were the result; both are downloadable. In addition, we developed an online research clearinghouse (below), highlighting each of the key studies cited in the report, and summarizing their main finding(s).


Table of Contents
• Belief in traditional gender norms harms young women's self-esteem (2011)
• Non-physical bullying affects girls’ self-esteem and behavior (2010)
• Desire to be seen as "strong" prevents seeking help (2010)
• Stereotypically feminine behavior leads to less condom use (2010)
• Girls feel worse about their bodies after first intercourse (2010)
• Expectations of appearing "strong" affect African American women's health (2009)
• Gender roles lead to less condom use in African American women (1998)
• Black, White, Mexican, Southeast Asian girls have different sexual expectations (1998)
• Expectations of maternity at a young age affect education (1998)
• Gender roles lead to less condom use by African American women (1998)
• HIV/AIDS prevention programs ineffective at reaching African American males (1997)
• Cultural traditions, lack of power increase Latinas' HIV risk (1996)
• Safe sex programs must address cultural norms (1995)
• Traditional gender roles fuel HIV/AIDS rates (1990)
Belief in traditional gender norms harms young women's self-esteem (2011)
The degree to which young women believe in traditional feminine norms is related to their knowledge of sexual risks as well as their self-esteem. Young women who believe strongly in traditional feminine norms are more likely than their peers to have little knowledge about their sexual health and the risks of sexual activity. They are also more likely than their peers to be less comfortable with their bodies. They are less likely to use condoms and to assert their own desires and comfort levels with sexual activity. This is especially important in many communities of color where traditional notions of femininity may be narrower and more strongly enforced. To ensure young women’s sexual and reproductive health, traditional feminine norms need to be challenged and transformed.
 
TITLE: "Femininity Ideology and Sexual Health in Young Women: A Focus on Sexual Knowledge, Embodiment, and Agency"
AUTHORS: Nicola Curtin, L. Monique Ward, Ann Merriwether, and Allison Caruthers
JOURNAL: International Journal of Sexual Health YEAR: 2011
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Taylor & Francis
Desire to be seen as "strong" prevents seeking help (2010)
The gendered expectation that African American women maintain an image of strength acts as a barrier to African American women seeking help when they experience depression and violence. Historically African American women have been expected to remain steady in the face of adversity and that expectation continues today with many African American women trying to maintain their image as "a strong Black woman” at the expense of their mental and physical health. Undermining the notion that seeking help is a sign of weakness and challenging the gendered expectation that African American women need to act strong at their own expense are key steps in ensuring African American get help for depression or violence when they need it.
 
TITLE: "You don't go tell white people nothing': African American women's perspectives on the influence of violence and race on depression and depression care"
AUTHORS: Christina Nicolaidis, Vanessa Timmons, Mary Jo Thomas, A. Star Waters, Stephanie Wahab, Angie Mejia, and S. Renee Mitchell
JOURNAL: American Journal of Public Health YEAR: 2010
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from PubMed
URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20558811

Stereotypically feminine behavior leads to less condom use (2010)
Young women who try to fit into traditional feminine stereotypes instead of behaving in ways that are more true to themselves are less likely to use condoms. Women are more likely to be true to themselves and insist on condom use if the men they are in relationships with are accepting of non-traditional forms of femininity.

TITLE: "Keeping it real: Young adult women’s authenticity in relationships and daily condom use”
AUTHORS: Emily A. Impett, Juliana G. Breines, and Amy Strachman
JOURNAL: Personal Relationships. YEAR: 2010.
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for purchase from OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com
URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01290.x/abstract


Non-physical bullying affects girls’ self-esteem and behavior (2010)
A lot of research on bullying overlooks girls’ experiences because it focuses only on the physical aspects of bullying. When the definition of bullying is expanded to include non-physical behaviors such as teasing, spreading rumors, and sexual jokes and harassment – which girls are more likely to experience – it becomes clear that more attention needs to be given to girls’ experiences. This non-physical or "indirect” bullying reduces girls’ self-esteem, increases delinquent behavior, and increases drug use.

TITLE: " Correlates and Consequences of Peer Victimization: Gender Differences in Direct and Indirect Forms of Bullying"
AUTHORS: Kristin Carbone-Lopez, Finn-Aage Esbensen, and Bradley T. Brick
JOURNAL: Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. YEAR: 2010
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Journals.

Girls feel worse about their bodies after first intercourse (2010)
After having sex for the first time, girls report feeling less satisfied with their bodies while boys report feeling more satisfied. Part of the problem seems to be internalized feminine ideals of how girls are supposed to look and act. Girls feel they are supposed to monitor their appearance and behavior all the time, including during sex. With the focus on appearance instead of on enjoyment and experience of their bodies, girls enjoy their first sexual encounter less than boys do and feel unsatisfied with their bodies afterward, perhaps because they feel they did not live up to cultural expectations of feminine appearance. Unhappiness with body image leads to lower self-esteem and depression.

TITLE: "Body Image and First Sexual Intercourse in Late Adolescence"
AUTHORS: Sara A. Vasilenko, Nilam Ram and Eva S. Lefkowitz
JOURNAL: Journal of Adolescence. YEAR: 2010
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available at PubMed with subscription.

Expectations of appearing "strong" affect African American women's health (2009)
Gender-related stress is a prominent factor in African American women’s poorer health outcomes. Approximately 40% of African American women report having experienced sex discrimination in the workplace and those experiences are compounded by experiences of racism. African American women’s exposure to higher rates of sex discrimination and harassment leads to higher levels of stress in their lives. "Sojourner Syndrome”, a racial and gender role that African American women are often expected to fill, requires that African American women present themselves as strong and independent despite the adversity they face from race and sex discrimination. The expectation that African American women maintain a strong appearance again compounds the stress of discrimination. That stress is tied to a range of health issues and contributes to African American women’s poorer health outcomes.
 
TITLE: "Sojourner Syndrome and Health Disparities in African American Women"
AUTHORS: Deborah Lekan
JOURNAL: Advances in Nursing Science YEAR: 2009
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Advances in Nursing Science
URL: http://journals.lww.com/advancesinnursingscience/Abstract/2009/10000/Sojourner_Syndrome_and_Health_Disparities_in.4.aspx

Racism and sexism affect black rape survivors (2008)
Black women face a specific set for gender norms which confine them to be labeled either as a matriarch or as a Jezebel. When black women are raped they are placed into the category of a promiscuous Jezebel and are blamed for their own victimization. Fear of this blame often prevents black women from reporting the crimes. Creating an atmosphere in which black women feel safe to report their crimes requires that we challenge the damaging gender norms that are applied to them.
 
TITLE: "Living at the Intersection: The Effects of Racism and Sexism on Black Rape Survivors"
AUTHORS: Roxanne Donovan and Michelle Williams
JOURNAL: Women & Therapy YEAR: 2008
URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J015v25n03_07#preview

Sexualization of girlhood leads to early sexuality and body dissatisfaction (2007)
When girls think they don't look or act as sexy as girls in the media, they often suffer from depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem--the top three mental health complaints of young women. Television shows, music videos, movies and the internet are all full of images of sexualized girls--those who are treated by others as sex objects or who use their own sexuality to succeed. Girls who see these images assume that they, too, need to be sex objects and are more likely to feel unsatisfied with their bodies, to start having sex before they are ready and to begin smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol early.
 
TITLE: "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls"
AUTHORS: American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls
YEAR: 2007
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from the American Psychological Association
Codes of manhood encourage young Black males to have sex early and often (2007)
Codes of masculinity have a tremendous effect on the sexual behavior of African-American boys, who have three main ways to prove their manhood: 1) be an economic provider, 2) toughness, and 3) sexual prowess. Unfortunately, many of these boys have absent fathers, and no male role model to guide them on a path to manhood. Instead they rely upon their peers. Fights and threats of violence are common in order to prove one's toughness and protect economic turf. When it comes to sex, boys are encouraged by peers to have sex early. As one boy put it, "Once you're pretty much like 13,” you're supposed to have had sex already. Boys who have not done so are told to work on their "game” or get money to attract young females. Peer pressure further encourages boys to have sex with multiple partners. Monogamous relationships are discouraged because it takes a potential sex partner away from a boy's friends. These pressures discourage level-headed, responsible sexual activity in order to please others and establish manhood.
 
TITLE: "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls"
AUTHORS: American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls
YEAR: 2007
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from the American Psychological Association
Traditional female norms are damaging to sexual health (2006)
Traditional forms of femininity encourage young women to believe that they are to be seen and not heard. When adolescent girls accept these messages telling them that they should not be outspoken in their relationships, they are less likely to assert their own sexual desires and preferences. This means that they are less likely to use condoms or other forms of protection and they are less likely to refuse unwanted sex. Encouraging adolescent girls to use protection and to assert their own sexual desires rather than accepting those of male partners means addressing traditional notions of femininity.

TITLE: "Staying Strong: Gender Ideologies among African-American Adolescents and the Implications for HIV/STI Prevention.”
AUTHORS: Deanna Kerrigan, Katherine Andrinopoulos, Raina Johnson, Patrice Parham, Tracey Thomas, and Jonathan M. Ellen.
JOURNAL: Journal of Sexual Research. YEAR: 2007.
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from InformaWorld with registration.

White beauty standards affect African American women (2006)
Adherance to white American feminine beauty standards continues to have devastating effects on African American women. Media messages reinforce the notion that to be a truly beautiful woman a person must have light skin, light and straight hair, and be thin. An increasing number of African American women are feeling pressured to comply with the beauty standards applied to white women and are developing distorted body images and eating disorders. Distorted body images are linked to a number of health issues including stress and depression. Ensuring women’s health means challenging both gendered and racialized beauty standards.
 
TITLE: "Hey girl, am I more than my hair?: African American women and their struggles with beauty, body image, and hair"
AUTHORS: Tracey Owens Patton
JOURNAL: Feminist Formations YEAR: 2006
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Project Muse
URL: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/nwsa_journal/v018/18.2patton.html



Father’s absence affects adolescent gender development (2005)

The presence, or absence, of fathers in African American households has an impact on the gender development of adolescents. In homes where the father is absent, mothers tend to rely on and pressure their daughters which results in adolescent girls who identify as more masculine than their peers. Also, in homes where the father is absent, the lack of socialization from a father-figure results in adolescent boys who think of themselves as less masculine than their peers. Homes where the father is present produce the most gender-conforming adolescents. This means that father-figures play an important role in reinforcing gender norms in African American households.
 
TITLE: "The Impact of Fathers’ Absence on African American Adolescents’ Gender Role Development "
AUTHORS: Jelani Mandara, Carolyn B. Murray, and Toya N. Joyner
JOURNAL: Sex Roles. YEAR: 2005
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Springer Link for $40.


Race and gender combine to raise African American women's HIV risk (2004)*

Successful HIV prevention for African American women--the U.S.'s fastest growing group of individuals with HIV--must address how race, gender and social class interact to promote risky sex. For example, the African American community generally has a negative opinion about condom use, and, since they are supposed to be submissive to their partners, women often feel additionally uncomfortable telling men to wear condoms. This can be especially dangerous if a woman has a partner who has sex with other men, a lifestyle increasingly coming to light in African American culture.
 
TITLE: "African American Women and AIDS: Factors Influencing Risk and Reaction to HIV Disease"
AUTHORS: Lily D. McNair and Cynthia M. Prather
JOURNAL: Journal of Black Psychology. YEAR: 2004
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Journals Online for $25.


Media sexualization of Black women puts Black adolescents at risk (2003)*

Media portrayals of Black women often limit them to a small list of roles--"freaks, gold diggers, divas and dykes." Adolescent Black girls often end up believing that these are the only roles available to them as women, making them more likely to engage in early, risky sexual behavior, become pregnant, or contract HIV.
 
The same images of exotic, hypersexual and promiscuous Black women are consumed by Black boys as well. Buying into these images makes them more likely to treat Black girls as sex objects, assume that all Black girls want to have sex, and view sexual coercion as acceptable. In fact, young Black girls are much more likely than their counterparts to report their first sex is coercive.
 
TITLE: "Freaks, Gold Diggers, Divas, and Dykes: The Sociohistorical Development of Adolescent African American Women's Sexual Scripts"
AUTHORS: Dionne P. Stephens and Layli D. Phillips
JOURNAL: Sexuality and Culture. YEAR: 2003
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from SpringerLink for $34.


Gender matters: Addressing gender in sex education (2003)

Sex education for adolescents should make gender its focus and promote a comprehensive idea of positive sexual health and not just focus on telling teens how to avoid pregnancy and STIs. Comprehensive sex education would help teens learn how to appreciate their bodies, respect members of the opposite sex and be intimate without compromising their own values. To do this, sex education must consider gender roles a fundamental part of sexual health. Norms of femininity teach girls to avoid conflict, objectify their own bodies, and silence their voices--especially when it comes to their own desires--all of which may increase the likelihood of girls having early and/or unsafe sex. Teaching girls to identify gender pressures will enable them to think critically about sexual behaviors.

TITLE: "Gender Matters: Constructing a Model of Adolescent Sexual Health"
AUTHORS: Deborah L. Tolman, Meg I. Striepe and Tricia Harmon
JOURNAL: The Journal of Sex Research. YEAR: 2003
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from InformaWorld with subscription.
 


Promoting self-worth helps to overcome harmful gender scripts (2001)*

Increased exposure to activities that promote self-worth and adult role-models can help young African American women to overcome negative gender scripts. Young African American women are exposed to a great deal messaging telling that normalizes adolescent pregnancy, discourages assertion of their own sexual preferences, and establishes childbirth as a key to womanhood. Girls who are exposed to role models who have defied these norms and who are engaged in activities that promote self-worth are less likely to accept these messages and are less likely to experience teen pregnancy.
 
TITLE: "Low-income African American adolescents who avoid pregnancy: tough girls who rewrite negative scripts"
AUTHORS: Kristy K. Martyn and Sally A. Huchison
JOURNAL: Qualitative Health Research. YEAR: 2001
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Publishing


Having darker skin has negative effects on self-esteem (2001)*

Because of gender ideals, having a darker skin-tone has negative, but different, effects for black men and women. For black women a darker skin tone leads to lower self-esteem. So, black women with darker skin are less likely to claim that they like themselves, feel good, or are liked by others than peers with lighter skin. For black men a darker skin tone is associated with lower self-efficacy. So, black men with darker skin are less likely to feel like they have control over their own lives or believe that their hard work will be rewarded.
 
TITLE: " The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy "
AUTHORS: Maxine S. Thompson and Verna M. Keith
JOURNAL: Gender and Society. YEAR: 2001
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Publishing


Making girls hyper-feminine can undermine sexual health (2000)

Inquiries into sexual health have focused mainly on girls of color and those from lower income families, because of the tacit assumption that these are the only girls who are sexual. However, stereotypic beliefs about femininity threaten the sexual health of all girls, including any girl who believes her body is an object, feels she must be someone else in romantic relationships, and feels she should defer to boys in sexual matters. In fact, the more a girl believes she should let boys control her relationships sexually, the more likely she is to engage in high-risk behavior that threatens her health.

CHAPTER TITLE: "Femininity as a Barrier to Positive Sexual Health for Adolescent Girls"
AUTHOR: Deborah L. Tolman
BOOK: Women's Health: Contemporary International Perspectives
EDITOR: Jane M. Ussher
YEAR: 2000
 


Gender stereotypes contribute to violence against Black women (2000)

Hypermasculine Black men who buy into stereotypic notions of Black femininity -- the "Jezebel" image, that Black women are promiscuous, tempting, and lewd - are more likely to abuse female partners and feel that women deserve to be abused.

TITLE: "Dating Aggression Among Low Income African American Youth: An Examination of Gender Differences and Antagonistic Beliefs"
AUTHORS: Carolyn M. West and Suzanna Rose
JOURNAL: Violence Against Women YEAR: 2000
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available through SAGE Journals for $25



Gender roles lead to less condom use in African American women (1998)*

African American women report that carrying condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous, while asking a partner to use condoms reduces trust in a relationship. Both of these feelings make condom use less likely. Black women in under-resourced communities also tend to be dependent on male partners--for money, emotional support, and social standing--and are more vulnerable to abusive partners who refuse to wear condoms.
 
TITLE: "Partner Influences and Gender-Related Factors Associated with Noncondom Use Among Young Adult African American Women"
AUTHORS: Gina M. Wingood and Ralph J. DiClemente
JOURNAL: American Journal of Community Psychology. YEAR: 1998
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from SpringerLink for $34.


Expectations of maternity at a young age affect education (1998)*

Black girls are most likely to believe that they might at some point be single mothers while Hispanic girls believe that they would get married and have children at a young age, and these different expectations impact girls’ desire to continue their education. For instance, young women who expect to get married and have children at a young age are more likely to drop out of school because continuing their education is seen as unimportant. Addressing girls’ gendered expectations about motherhood in communities of color is crucial to encouraging black and Hispanic girls to stay in school and continue their education.
 
TITLE: "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Girls' Sexual, Marital, and Birth Expectations"
AUTHORS: Patricia L. East
JOURNAL: Journal of Marriage and Family. YEAR: 1998
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from JSTOR for $15.


Black, White, Mexican, Southeast Asian girls have different sexual expectations (1998)*

Black, White, Mexican and Southeast Asian girls think about their sexual futures differently, since each culture has its own ideas about women and sexuality. Black girls are most likely to think that they will have children before they get married, while Southeast Asian girls are least likely to think they will start having sex during adolescence. Black, White and Southeast Asian girls who want to do well in school also report wanting to delay having sex. Mexican girls, on the other hand, assume they will have to get married and take care of children at an early age regardless of their education.
 
However, these cultural differences are not as noticeable for girls who grow up in America and are acculturated. For example, American-born Mexican and Southeast Asian girls are more likely than girls born outside the country to anticipate having sex during adolescence and children outside of marriage.
 
TITLE: "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Girls' Sexual, Marital, and Birth Expectations"
AUTHOR: Patricia L. East
JOURNAL: Journal of Marriage and the Family. YEAR: 1998
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available online at JSTOR for $15.


Gender roles lead to less condom use by African American women (1998)

African American women report that carrying condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous, while asking a partner to use condoms reduces trust in a relationship. Both of these feelings make condom use less likely. Black women in under-resourced communities also tend to be dependent on male partners--for money, emotional support, and social standing--and are more vulnerable to abusive partners who refuse to wear condoms.

TITLE: "Partner Influences and Gender-Related Factors Associated with Noncondom Use Among Young Adult African American Women"
AUTHORS: Gina M. Wingood and Ralph J. DiClemente
JOURNAL: American Journal of Community Psychology. YEAR: 1998
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from SpringerLink for $34.



HIV/AIDS prevention programs ineffective at reaching African American males (1997)

HIV/AIDS prevention programs have not been very successful in reaching low-income African American males. Many HIV/AIDS prevention programs that simply provide education on condom use are failing to promote behavioral change because lack of knowledge is not necessarily the problem. The key to understanding African-American men’s risky sexual behavior is better research on masculinity and gender norms. Many low-income African American men believe that HIV/AIDS is primarily a gay men’s illness so they fear that using condoms might lead others to believe they are gay. For these men, increasing knowledge about condom probably will not change their behavior, but social change regarding gender norms might.

TITLE: " Urban Low-Income African American Men, HIV/AIDS, and Gender Identity "
AUTHORS: Tony L. Whitehead
JOURNAL: Medical Anthropology Quarterly . YEAR: 1997
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Wiley Online.



Cultural traditions, lack of power increase Latinas' HIV risk (1996)

Latina women have less knowledge about the risks of HIV than their peers, because HIV prevention models fail to address traditional marianismo gender roles. Cultural ideas of machismo and gender roles make Hispanic girls and women feel that they have less sexual power in their relationship than their peers. Women who have little knowledge about HIV and/or feel they do not have sexual power are less willing to ask their boyfriends to wear condoms. HIV prevention strategies should take into account gender norms that are specific to Latina/o culture. Such an approach would address gender-related power in relationships--especially cultural differences which lead to an imbalance--while teaching women to protect themselves against infection.

TITLE: "Gender, Culture, and Power: Barriers to HIV-Prevention Strategies for Women"
AUTHORS: Cynthia A. Gomez and Barbara VanOss Marin
JOURNAL: The Journal of Sex Research. YEAR: 1996
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from InformaWorld for $30.
 


Safe sex programs must address cultural norms (1995)

Because HIV prevention programs neglect the different gender roles of men and women in sex, especially among young Hispanics, they fail to be effective. Cultural gender codes, marianismos, discourage young Latinas from insisting on condom use or taking charge of their own sexual behavior. Women learn to be more submissive, and, since the man controls condom usage by being the wearer, women lack control over whether condoms are used.

 
Meanwhile young men are not taught that condom use is a positive or manly thing. Men and boys who want to be manly are more sexually aggressive and take more sexual risks. They see pregnancy as a sign of masculinity, and they dislike condoms because of it. Not using a condom under the masculine ideal could be compared to a male dog marking a tree; the boys want their peers to know where they have been.

 
Male/female power imbalances make this worse. Following learned gender roles increases the risk of HIV infection among young Latinas and women generally.

TITLE: "Love, Sex, and Power: Considering Women's Realities in HIV Prevention"
AUTHOR: Hortensia Amaro
JOURNAL: American Psychologist YEAR: 1995
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from the University of Massachusetts - Boston.


Traditional gender roles fuel HIV/AIDS rates (1990)

Traditional gender roles lead to a lack of communication about sexual practices between black men and women which results in higher rates of HIV/AIDS for black women. According to traditional notions of masculinity, men are permitted to be non-monogamous while women are expected to commit to only one partner. Men often do not inform their sexual partners when they have had sex with someone else which puts women at risk for HIV/AIDS infection. Women do not necessarily insist on condom usage because they do not understand that their partners are putting them at risk or they do not feel that men will respect their request that condoms be used during intercourse.
 
TITLE: "Black Women and AIDS Prevention: A View Towards Understanding the Gender Rules"
AUTHORS: Mindy Fullilove, Robert Fullilove, Katherine Haynes, Shirley Gross
JOURNAL: The Journal of Sex Research YEAR: 1990



   

 

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