08 SES 03 JS, Gender, bodies and risks
Joint Paper Session NW 04 and NW 08
The pressure experienced by Black young women in and outside institutions is rarely discussed; instead, more research has focused on the failure of Black boys and Black men. Over the last few years the lack of discussion concerning Black young women has caused concern. Moreover, although much has been said about Black young women and their endless drive towards being strong and resilient (Mizra, 1992), recent information and evidence indicate the opposite. It is noticeable that many Black girls and Black young women are starting to crumble because they are unable to release the internalised stress that arises from the pressure of living with such stereotypes. Much of the evidence has come from anecdotal sources, and provides a starting point for this research. Through the use of narrative this paper will attempt to uncover what is actually going on with Black young women whilst in education and/or the workforce.
The research methodology stems from a qualitative approach and includes the use of interactive focus groups and interviews. It was felt that focus groups along with semi-structured interviews were the best research tools to ensure that the Black young women would speak together as a group. The use of focus groups enabled the researcher to get ‘upfront and personal’ with the chosen participants and to persuade them to share their stories, especially if there was any hint of hesitation. The focus groups provided a safer environment so that the Black young women were able to speak to the researcher. In addition the intention of the focus group was to provide an informal atmosphere that encouraged the participants to connect with and support each other during and after the telling of each of their stories. There were five different but connected focus groups that took place during a 12-month period. Three of the focus groups were held in Nottingham and the other two in London. The focus groups attracted 35 Black young women.
There is a need for education specialists and mental health practitioners to work together to identify what is actually going on with Black young women. Is the shield of confidence that many display actually something to do with their lack of self-esteem? Is there a way that Black young women can be Black and English/British without the need for assimilation? Instead of talking at young people policy makers need to be talking with them about mental health and creating a new discourse which works to destroy existing stereotypes. If one looks at the way in which Black young people with mental health issues or illnesses are portrayed in the media in comparison to White young people, the outcomes are concerning. When reporting on Black young people who are experiencing mental health problems, the media create a somewhat demonic image which incites fear and rage, in contrast to the White person who is usually portrayed as ‘suffering’ with a mental illness and is then presented as needing care.
Clark, T. T., Salas-Wright, C. P., Vaughn, M. G., and Whitfield, K. E. (2014). ‘Everyday discrimination and mood and substance use disorders: A latent profile analysis with African Americans and Caribbean Blacks’.Addictive Behaviours, 2014. Crenshaw, K. (1995). Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement. The New Press. Dei, G. J. S. (1997). Reconstructing'dropout': A critical ethnography of the dynamics of black students' disengagement from school. University of Toronto Press. Douglas, J. (2013). ‘Black women's health matters: Putting black women back on the research agenda’. In Roberts, H.(ed.),Women’s Health Matters. Routledge.
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