Making the invisible visible: examining Black women in Black Lives Matter

Michelle L. Estes, Adam M. Straub, Maggie León-Corwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was created by three women in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin. Since inception, BLM has gained national attention through its organization of and participation in numerous social movement activities, many of which have been driven by Black women. However, previous research and the persistent existence of racism and sexism indicate that Black women may be marginalized and made invisible within mainstream news media that discusses social movement activities. Mass media continues to be a powerful agent of socialization within society; therefore, it is critical to examine how various forms of media portrays different groups. The current paper examines how newspaper media portrays Black women engaged in Black Lives Matter movement activities. We utilize content analysis to analyze 645 newspaper articles that discuss BLM. We use intersectional inequality along with Patricia Hill Collins' controlling images as guiding theoretical frameworks to analyze our data and interpret the findings. Overall, findings show that Black women are largely invisible within newspaper articles discussing Black Lives Matter. This occurs in a variety of ways, such as focusing on protester response to police violence against Black men and using gender-neutral language when discussing individuals engaged in movement activities. Moreover, findings indicate that newspaper media utilize all of Collins' controlling images in their depiction of Black women in BLM; however, the utilization of controlling images in not equal. We discuss these findings in detail in addition to providing directions for future scholarly research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-146
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Spectrum
Volume43
Issue number4-5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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