Friday, December 2, 2022

W&M researchers talk underrepresentation of intersectional groups in media

College professors highlight intersection of identities, gender stereotypes in online dating. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Rebecca Klinger, the Flat Hat)
College professors highlight intersection of identities, gender stereotypes in online dating. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Rebecca Klinger, the Flat Hat)

On Friday, April 12, Asian and Pacific Islander American studies professors at William & Mary Monika Gosin and Joanna Schug presented the results of their study on intersection invisibility.

The study showed black women and Asian men are more likely to be rendered “invisible” — or overlooked and forgotten — than any other intersectional group.  

Founding APIA Program Director Professor Francis Tangloa Aguas has organized all of the events in the lecture series, inviting guest from around the country, including professors from Harvard University. 

“Three years ago, on May 1, 2016, [APIA] was chartered,” Aguas said. “We have grown immensely and will only continue to grow.” 

According to Gosin and Schugdespite the recent efforts made by publications to give more attention to the representation of diverse groups, gender stereotypes are still readily apparentGosin said these stereotypes are most apparent in research on mating and dating in the United States, and that proportions of mixed-race marriages are often skewed along gender lines. 

“75 percent of Asian-white marriages are between a white man and an Asian woman, 73 percent of black-white marriages are between a black man and a white woman and 86 percent of Asian-black marriages are between a black man and an Asian woman,” Gosin said. 

Schug then followed up by comparing the translation of marriage and dating to similar research done using online dating websites. The results nearly mirrored those of the findings between interracial couples, which did not come as a surprise to the professors.  

The professors are using their findings to identify intersectional stereotypes, or as Gosin and Schug deem them, stereotypes of stereotypes.” 

“Some dating sites will let you list what groups of people you might be or might not be willing to date, and research has shown the majority of men are going to list Asian women as a preferred group they would consider dating, but only a small percentage of men will list black women as a preferred group,” Schug said.  

According to the professors, the conclusion of the study of intersectional dating was that the appeal of Asian men and black women was significantly lower than that of Asian women and black menFollowing this discovery, Schug and Gosin deepened their study to include why this phenomenon exists, and turned the study towards examining media representation of these four groups in the media 

During the study, Schug and Gosin requested their research assistants to collect magazines targeted either specifically for women or men, including examples like Vogue and Sports Illustrated. The research assistants also collected textbooks and other academic reading materials. The point of the study was to calculate the amount of times the intersectional groups  black women, Asian women, black men and Asian men  appeared in these sources through text reference or in photographs.  

In their studies of literary documentation, the professors found results that paralleled those of their study on intersectional dating. 

“Even though [in the media] you do see the representation of black women as beauty objects, we know people like Beyoncé, they are esteemed for their beauty, but the representation of darker skin women is lacking,” Gosin said.  

Like earlier findings, the research indicated severely limited visibility of Asian men in conventional media sources. 

“When looking at Asian men in the media there are few who are eligible as sex symbols, or noted as sex symbols,” Gosin said. There is this little bit of movement as Asian men as sex symbols but really not much.”  

Gosin and Schug incorporated Gender-Race Theory to support the findings of their own study. Gender-Race Theory, or Critical Race Theory, emerged in the early 1980s as social scientists began to look at legal studies that pertained to race issues. The findings supported the scientists theory that cultural claims and categorizations of race and power are evolving relationships. 

“When we think about intersection identity, we are drawing on research that draws from the marginalization of more than one social category and what that means,” Gosin said. We can think of the black feminists, Civil Rights movement and feminist movement overlooking the value of black women and other underrepresented groups.  

Back in 2015, the professors had begun to deduce that the results of their studies were influenced on cultural plane in addition to a psychological one 

According to the professors, in order for these longstanding stereotypes of various groups to fade, the media must more forcibly incorporate diversification into their representation of different individuals. 

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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