Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

27
African American Body Images

ANGELA A. CELIO
MARION F. ZABINSKI
DENISE E. WILFLEY

The study of body image is not complete without considering the cultural frameworks that influence people, both as group members and as individuals. This chapter provides an overview of the interethnic differences and intraethnic variation among African Americans that may elucidate the link between cultural contexts and the development and experience of body image.

Body image researchers seldom study African Americans exclusively. Most often, African Americans are compared with whites, although a few studies compare African Americans to other non-white groups. Researchers tend to use the broad term "black" to refer to African Americans, African Caribbeans, and those of continental African descent. However, a variety of influences may affect each of these subgroups' attitudes and values differently. Similarly, the body image literature uses the terms "white," "European American," and "Caucasian" interchangeably. We recognize the problem with such broad categories, yet for simplicity and consistency the terms "black" and "white" will be used throughout this chapter.


BODY IMAGE IDEALS IN BLACKS

In general, there appears to be a more flexible standard of attractiveness and a wider range of acceptable weights and shapes among blacks as compared to whites. While the white standard of female attractiveness consists solely of a slender body shape, black females have described their standard as

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