Deep Frames, White Men's Discourse, and Black Female Bodies
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In this qualitative study, I examine the persistent trend of black women as an excluded relationship partner for white men. Integral to understanding the exclusion of black women as relationship partners is the construction of black female bodies, by influential white men historically and contemporarily, as the abject opposite of hegemonic femininity, which holds "middle-class, heterosexual, [w]hite femininity" as the norm (Collins 2005:193). This construction essentially places black women outside the bounds of hegemonic femininity, beauty, sexuality, and womanhood. Using the theoretical concept deep frame, which is the "conceptual infrastructure of the mind" (Lakoff 2006a:12) and representative of one's commonsense world view, I argue that the ways in which influential white men have constructed black female bodies is a critical component of the raced, gendered, and classed deep frame of white men. This deep frame undergirds how many white men perceive, interpret, understand, emote, and engage in actions where black women are concerned. Hence in this study, I qualitatively examine, through analyzing and interpreting the in-depth online questionnaires of 134 white male respondents, how the deep frame of white men affects how they perceive black women and ultimately the relationships they seek with black women. The results of the study show that many white male respondents, despite most having very limited or no personal interactions with black women, viewed black women through the one-dimensional lens of the raced, gendered, and classed deep frame. Many respondents perceived black women as unattractive unless capable of a white normative standard, as possessing a negative "black" culture, and as possessing negative and "unfeminine" attributes that make them complicit in their own rejection. These findings show how the deep frame disciplines white men to view black women as "out of bounds" as legitimate relationship partners, and disciplines the types of relationships they seek with black women. The results of this study also reveal that the conceptual approach of deep frame rooted in an understanding of the power of influential white men to control and construct society provides a theoretical alternative to the outmoded interracial marriage theories of caste and exchange.
Slatton, Brittany C. (2009). Deep Frames, White Men's Discourse, and Black Female Bodies. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from