Black women are not seen as threatening as black men, according to Katherine W. Phillips
in her talk at the Stanford Humanities Center Thursday. Phillips is an associate professor of at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a visiting scholar at Stanford.
Her talk, “Black Women and the Backlash Effect? Understanding the Intersection of Race and Gender,” was the last in the Clayman Institute’s series for the 2010-11 academic year, “Beyond the Stalled Revolution: Reinvigorating Gender Equality in the Twenty-First Century.”
At Kellogg, Phillips and her colleagues conducted studies to examine whether black women are subject to double jeopardy as targets of both and racial and gender discrimination. One theory suggested that these biases had an additive, or maybe even a multiplicative, effect. Other models expanded the notion to include class and sexual orientation.
In “Untangling the Effects of Race and Sex: The Disadvantaged Status of Black Women” (1975), Elizabeth Almquist wrote “Racism and sexism pervade American culture, creating an usually disadvantaged status for black women.”
The studies at Kellogg involved questions regarding how desirable it is for a person to possess characteristics of communality (compassion, warmth, helpfulness, cooperation and friendliness) and of dominance (controlling, forceful, aggressive, intimidating and dominating). Another series of questions dealt with stereotypes, as the respondents were asked how common or typical is it for a (black/white) (man/woman) to behave with such characteristics.
Phillips found that prescriptions and descriptions of communality were nearly equal for both genders and races. But for dominance, white men were most highly prescribed, followed by black women, black men and white women. However, black women were rated highest in description of dominance, followed by white men, black men and white women.
Another study performed by Phillips examined likeability and hireability. Black women turned out to be the most hireable and white women least hireable. Phillips concluded that “black women have more latitude to display dominance than both white women and black men.” She also asserted that sees no evidence for the double jeopardy hypothesis in her study.
Phillips suggested that black women may not be seen as prototypical women or prototypical blacks. She presented some interesting statistics that support her observation.
Nearly two-thirds of all African-American undergraduates are women.
Nearly 40 percent of African-American women ages 25-54 have never been married.
Between 2002-08, the number of firms owned by African-American women grew by 19 percent—twice as fast as all other firms.
Phillips said men are attracted to feminine women, and black women are not seen as feminine as Asian and white women. The upside is that black women are more acceptable in the workplace. She concluded that racism and sexism coming together is more complex than we’ve thought and worthy of further study