Milke, M. 1999. “Social Comparisons, Reflected Appraisals, and Mass Media: The Impact of Pervasive Beauty Images on Black and White Girls’ Self-Concepts.”

Milke, Melissa A. 1999. “Social Comparisons, Reflected Appraisals, and Mass Media: The Impact of Pervasive Beauty Images on Black and White Girls’ Self-Concepts.” Social Psychology Quarterly 62 (2): 190-210.

Quantitative studies tend to demonstrate strong, negative impacts of media on the self; however, qualitative work demonstrates that individuals have more agency in selecting, interpreting, and criticizing media. Studies how media affects self-esteem indirectly, through beliefs about how others use/are impacted by media. Most girls view images as “unreal”, but are impacted differently on the basis of race. White girls criticize this media, but believe others (particularly boys) place importance on these images and use them to evaluate. Minority girls do not identify with “white” media, do not believe others are impacted by them – thwarting negative development of self.

Media frames, defines, and obscures aspects of the social world; are principle social and cultural institution. Works to ensure distribution of symbols, target attentions to specific instances. “Ethnic, religious, age, and gender groups struggle to influence society’s values, myths, symbols and information through the media” (Gans 1972) – 191. Individuals work to criticize, ignore, and devalue the media (Lang and Lang 1981). Cultural meanings are not fixed, but are situational, varying through cultural, historical, and social group contexts (Blumer 1969). Readers create meanings, but through the “interpretive communities” to which they belong. (Fish 1980). Interpretive communities can be based on race-ethnicity – perception and evaluation of same cultural product can demonstrate very different results (Hur and Robinson 1978, Shively 1992). People are not simply receptacles, but can criticize, resist, or reject media content, particularly those of dominant ideological messages (Mills 1963). When groups are absent or unrealistically portrayed, audience members who share charateristics (kx- or social categories) as may express dissatisfaction. “Inaccurate images may affect people in the sense that they alter the ‘true’ social definition of the group in question. This ‘symbolic annihilation’ especially affects disadvantaged groups; they have less control over the production of media myths than men and whites do, and must struggle to project a public self-definition that is more positive” (192) – (Collins 1991,
Tuchman 1978, 1979; van Zoonen 1994).

Self-comparison and presumption of how others process the media is critical to the understanding of how we ourselves consume and interpret – “reflected appraisals” (Felson 1985, 1989; Felson and Reed 1986; Ichiyama 1993) to construct ideas held by generalized other, what is considered the norm. Peers as a source of validation of assessments, appraisals. Girls’ magazines as a source of norms, acceptability; readership as desire to fit into reference group (Currie 1997). Absence of “real girls “ – racial, body, beauty representation is used as a real critique by minority girls; open recognition of problematic messages (beauty tips as means to “nitpick” one’s own body). White girls were not as easily able to opt out of this point of social comparison – (kx – representation of one’s social category, “ideals” offers them a point of privilege and disprivilege?) – created a point of national comparison introduced into the local context. This is not to say that black females are not subject to externally-defined beauty norms – fair skin, long-hair, “white beauty” creates unattainable norm for black women – (Collins 1991, hooks 1992)

Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic Interaction: Perspective and Method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Collins, Patricia Hill. 1991. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.
Currie, Dawn H. 1997. “Decoding Femininity: Advertisements and Their Teenage Readers.” Gender & Society 11:453-77.
Felson, Richard B. 1985. “Reflected Appraisal and the Development of Self.” Social Psychology Quarterly 48:71-78. . 1989. “Parents and the Reflected Appraisal Process: A Longitudinal Analysis.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56:965-71. Felson, Richard B. and Mark Reed. 1986. “The Effect of Parents on the Self-Appraisals of Children.” Social Psychology Quarterly 49:302-308. Ferguson, Kathy E.
Fish, Stanley. 1980. Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gans, Herbert J. 1972. “The Politics of Culture in America: A Sociological Analysis.” Pp. 372-85 in Sociology of Mass Communications, edited by D. McQuail. Baltimore: Penguin.
hooks, bell. 1992. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press.
Hur, Kenneth K. and John P. Robinson. 1978. “The Social Impact of Roots.” Journalism Quarterly 55:19-24. Ichiyama, Michael A. 1993. “The Reflected Appraisal Process in Small-Group Interaction.” Social Psychology Quarterly 56:87-99.
Mills, C. Wright. 1963. Power, Politics and People. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shively, JoEllen. 1992. “Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of Western Films among American Indians and Anglos.” American Sociological Review 57:725-34.
Tuchman, Gaye. 1978. “Introduction: The Symbolic Annihilation of Women by the Mass Media.” Pp. 3-38 in Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media, edited by G. Tuchman, A.K. Daniels and J. Benet. New York: Oxford University Press. Tuchman, Gaye. 1979. “Women’s Depiction by the Mass Media.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 4:528-42. van Zoonen, Liesbet. 1994. Feminist Media Studies. London: Sage.


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