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Research Paper on Cultural Influences on Body Image for African-Americans

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As a nation the United States is one that is preoccupied with the appearance of others. However, the African-American culture is different than the rest; they don’t put emphasis on weight or the ideal body unlike other cultures. As a culture they have been relentlessly persecuted by others and yet, they still have the highest rates of self esteem. African-Americans appreciate a curvier woman, which is unlike mainstream societies ideal. However, when African-American women grow up in prominently white areas they begin to take on the ideas of mainstream culture’s perfect.

African Americans have higher self esteem rates and lower body dissatisfaction rates than other cultures. African American culture appreciates all body types; they embrace their bodies no matter how they look (Parker O'Neal, 2012). The African-American culture puts less emphasis on body image compared to other cultures, therefore, people within the culture develop healthier body images (III & Thomas, 1991). African-Americans’ beauty standards are a lot more flexible and laid back compared to the standards of a Caucasian woman (Molloy & Herzberger, 1998). Caucasian woman put a lot more stress on the way their bodies look while African-Americans put more emphasis on the way their hair looks (Patton Owens, 2006). Women base majority of their beauty standards off of what men think and since African-American men prefer a curvier figure then women in that culture feel a lot less pressure to be thin (Awad & Norwood, 2014). African-American women’s beauty conceptions aren’t based off the way a person looks, it’s more about the way they carry and present themselves. African-American women tend to not internalize mainstream America’s ideal body. Celiah Ford, a freshman at Chico State, believes that African-American women are so confident and happy with their bodies because they were raised in a culture that appreciated them no matter their size. She credits her family, culture and the way she was raised for her high self-esteem rate (Ford, 2015). Compared to other cultures African-Americans have high rates of self-esteem and low rates of body dissatisfaction.

African-American men appreciate a curvier figure; Cultures base their beauty standards off of what the opposite sex finds attractive and In the African-American culture men are more drawn to a “thicker” curvier figure. In White cultures the men appreciate a lot skinner of a figure so when African-Americans live in this culture they adopt the same body ideal. However, since the African-American culture appreciates a thicker figure young girls don’t feel the need to diet and feel more secure in their bodies at a young age (S, 2013). In a study done by Josephine Boyington (2008) the results show that young girls are influenced more by their culture and their social settings than outside pressures (Boyington & Edwards-Carter, 2008). In a study done in Washington D.C of 500 African-American women 50% of them reported being happy with their body weight because of the fact that their signifigant other liked the way they looked (Brock, Mines, & Boykins, 2005). When a culture



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