The Issue

 

Research has shown that media stereotypes based upon race, gender, religion, or ethnic background have a negative effect on our society. It is also known that there is a causal relation between media consumption and behavior.  Many of the most popular reality shows on television promote violence as an acceptable way to handle conflict. They also cause viewers to internalize negative perceptions of women of color while simultaneously reinforcing cultural acceptance of their abuse.  

Although Black women comprise a little more than 6% of the U.S. population, roughly half of all reality shows on TV are made up of all Black or partially Black casts whose behavior reinforces damaging, violent racial stereotypes. Truth In Reality is often asked about the specific types of shows that are harmful. Our focus is on reality television shows that have been demonstrated by research to have harmful effects on viewers that have the following key elements:

  • Cast members comprised primarily of women of color who regularly practice relational aggression such as bullying, domestic violence, verbal abuse, et al.
  • Cast members whose primary means of financial support is via her current or prior relationship with a partner who exhibits abusive behavior.
  • Shows in which relational violence between cast members is the primary storyline.
  • Shows which depict women of color as modern day equivalents to historical stereotypes such as the “Jezebel”, “Mammy”, “Sapphire”, or “Welfare Queen” et al.

Black women suffer from the highest rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, intimate partner homicide and HIV infections in the United States. Truth In Reality is not implying that reality shows have created these issues however certain types of unscripted television shows normalize interpersonal behaviors that do contribute to the overrepresentation of Black women in these areas.

It is for these reasons that Truth In Reality seeks to challenge the harmful messaging and behaviors promoted on violent reality shows featuring predominately Black female casts through the Redefining HERstory Movement.  It is our belief that if we can affect change on a micro level (such as in how Black women are being portrayed on reality television), eventually this will create a shift in our imagery overall in media and create greater opportunities for Black women's economic and social advancement.

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