It’s meaningful that a white woman can turn on a TV and find a broad range of characters, but Asian Americans are portrayed the same way over and over again. For someone struggling with self-esteem issues, this reinforces the feeling of invisibility.
Dr. Teresa Mok, a clinical psychologist who treats Asian American college women with eating disorders.
Eating disorders are often seen as a “white woman’s issue,” she says, a stereotype reflected in the lack of research on this topic among women of color. And interestingly, race not only ties in to how eating disorders are portrayed, but also how they develop. From the Asian American clients she sees at her private practice in Urbana, Ill.,Mok discerns a common theme that lies at the root of many eating disorders, albeit subconsciously.
“It’s not just about weight. There’s always a racial component to it,” she said. “There’s a general body dissatisfaction with eye shape, hair color, breast size, nose,” but, she added, “No client [overtly] says, ‘I want to be white.’”
A study of tweens found that television raises the self esteem of white boys—but lowers the self esteem of girls and children of color. The authors use cultivation theory and social identity theory to explain why. Full coverage at Racebending.com’s blog!
Co-researcher Nicole Martins explained the contrast between white male, female, and black male characters on television:
“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for [people who look like] you. You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there.
“If you are a girl or a woman, what you see is that women on television are not given a variety of roles. The roles that they see are pretty simplistic; they’re almost always one-dimensional and focused on the success they have because of how they look, not what they do or what they think or how they got there.
“Young black boys are getting the opposite message: that there is not lots of good things that you can aspire to. If we think about those kinds of messages, that’s what’s responsible for the impact.”
Amy Jordan, director of the Media and the Developing Child sector of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, noted to CNN that pre-teen boys are exposed to a lot of television shows featuring superheroes.
Superhero television shows almost always feature a majority of white male main characters(even if they do have black or female characters, these characters are usually featured less often than white male characters, and nearly always in secondary roles. Including off to the side in promo pictures.) Kids notice when people who look like them are not as represented or are depicted as less important. It is significantly harder to find television shows featuring women or characters of color, particularly women characters of color, and that is what makes shows like The Legend of Korra–which targets the tween demographic–so important.