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How African American Girls/Women become freaks, gold-diggers, 

We know what the problems are. What About Solutions? WAOD is  starting a series to focus on people or groups who are doing their part to fight the War on Black women. Our first What About Solutions Contributor is Njeri Santana, the founder and owner of Urban Playdates. Urban Playdats is a FREE social-networking site connecting parents & caregivers that are raising or involved in raising children of color www.urbanplaydates.com

By Njeri Santana:

Have you checked out the avatars on some of these black gossip sites? Is it me or doesn’t it seem like some of these women are posting pics from their soft porn portfolio? Sad part is that these soft porn pics are more prevalent on teen myspace pages. Why?

Looks like Dionne P. Stephens has the answer. I came across Dr. Stephens’ paper Freaks, Gold Diggers, Divas and Dykes: The Socio-historical Development of Adolescent African American Women’s Sexual Scripts. After reading her paper I had what Oprah likes to say was my “aha” moment.

Dr. Stephens' “examines socio- historical factors shaping minority populations’ sexual health processes, with emphasis on gender and ethnic/ racial identity development. Her most recent research examines the constructions of sexual scripts and their influence on sexual risk outcomes across ethnic groups.”

What is a sexual script?  Sexual scripts are culturally defined as a set of guidelines prescribing appropriate forms of sexual behavior and ways of managing sexual encounters. Think of it as the blueprint or roadmap that outlines visual descriptions or actions of characters and their dialogue.

Dr. Stephens not only breaks down the history of the sexual scripts that African American teens are bombarded with.  She provides extensive examples of these scripts as well as how men view women within each script.

Let’s take a look at one…. the Gold Digger.

According to Stephens the Gold Digger trades social status for sex describes the Diva, it is the Gold Digger who trades sex for a harder currency. A Gold Digger is a woman who explicitly seeks material and economic rewards above all else, and is willing to trade sex for it. Sex is her commodity because it is the only valuable thing she has in society. …Gold Diggers seem to have the most obvious awareness that sex is their most powerful commodity. Sex may be used to barter for basic needs such as a bag of groceries, getting rent paid, or making sure their lights do not get turned off. However, manicures and pedicures, new clothing, vacations, or having a car note paid are also possible wants that Gold Diggers may be willing to trade sex to get…..the sexual links to poverty and its relevance to survival are clear. Their lives have been called “ghetto fabulous,” where they are socially embedded in a culture of poverty, yet have the economic means to procure middle-class goods. The song “Project Chick” (2001) by male rappers Big Tymers discusses how their financial means can entice a Gold Digger to give up and put out”

How often have you seen a teen looking like a video vixen on the street and said to yourself “what is going on in that child’s mind”? After reading Dr. Stephens paper you will have a clear idea and that’s what makes this paper sooo powerful.

Dr. Stephens’ is truly a warrior in the fight against the media’s distorted perceptions of African American women. She’s fighting the war by “identifying developmental factors promoting resilience and buffering negative health outcomes” Yes negative outcomes like rape, HIV, domestic abuse and teen pregnancy. Can’t be made at that can we?

Want to play a game. Here’s a list of the sexual scripts listed in Dr. Stephens’ paper. Write the first image that comes to your mind. Once you’ve completed this exercise read her paper and compare your images to her definition.



Welfare Mother


The Diva

Gold Digger

Freak- aka slut ho chicken head hood rat floozy women


Gangster Bitch

The Sister Savior

The Earth Mother

Baby Mama

Dr. Stephens' goal is to identify developmental factors promoting resilience and buffering negative health outcomes. I interviewed Dr. Dionne P. Stephens on The Urban Playdates podcast where she spoke about her work.

If you've found a solution or know of a group or individual taking action to fight the War on Black Women, feel free to contribute a What About Solutions? guest post so that we can highlight them. Contact us for more information. Note, WE aren't writing the post, YOU ARE!

Reader Comments (63)

This is very POWERFUL and thought provoking.

Sisters have to do more to protect our image. I am not sure we do a good job of conveying to young girls and other women that our beautiful is not solely based on our sexualness and attractiveness.

We are all guilty of using sex as a weapon and tool and calling card. We all have to bear the responsibility of the messages we send not only to our daughters but our sons, nephews and uncles and everyone else who looks at us as objects.

Our sexual selves and erotic fantansies has a place. And ought to be embraced. But not at the expense of young girls and young women.

Being an Earth Mother does not ring sexy. What woman doesn't want to be sexy. But what we are seeing is women becoming soft porn starlets and making careers based on their sexual expertise.

I'll skip the game. I am fully aware of who I am and I know the roles of the sexual script. Very thought provoking.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlovebabz

Love it Gina!!!! This is an awesome direction to go towards!!!

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShermayne M Brown

Where can I access the podcast when you interviewed Dr. Stephens Gina? Is this podcast accessible through the Urban Playdates website?

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterak

What solutions is Dr. Stephens offering exactly?

I've read the piece before, and if I remember correctly it didn't put any new information forward.

As far as Gold Digger - Sex has always been currency...

A woman's youth beauty and working uterus
For a man's wealth, status and security

In more at risk environments - it works for status and securing goods you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford...so wealth and status.

But unless there's a radical change in the environment and available opportunities, I don't see how you change that mindset.

If you don't have anything, and you get "paid" for something you'd do for free anyway why not get the goods as well? Why not get with the guy who can provide the most?

Gold Digging works as nice survival mechanism. And for women who play their cards well a secure home for themselves and any future kids they may have.


Practical solutions please. "Cause this is one of those conversations tht never seem to go anywhere.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

interesting research and writing.
the way she breaks it down is good.

i also have noticed the pics and screen names that some women chose to identify with---sad, very sad. a lot of confusion and self-loathing is apparent.

glad to know the primary source of this research comes from dr. stephens and not some other bloggers that have written on this subject but not given credit due.

thanks for the info.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwisdomteachesme

@JJ I eagerly await you post highlighting a solution. This was Njeri's first post. I appreciate the effort.

If you read the post, the Dr's goal is to identify developmental factors promoting resilience and buffering negative health outcomes. Identifying the problem is part of the solution.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

lovebabz: We are all guilty of using sex as a weapon and tool and calling card.

You really think all women or all balck women use sex as a weapon or as a tool? How would you know?

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterak

thanks for the article. I will check it out
i do ask that you check the comic book series:

Y the Last Man...
very very interesting outlook on gender roles. the premise:
all men on earth are killed in a plague except one young man and his pet monkey. They explore several sexual scripts throughout the series.

It just wrapped up earlier this year but its interesting since one of the protagonist, Agent 355 (note she is not named), is a black woman who is a deadly field agent for the U.S. and is tasked to protect the last man.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdantresomi

So black women becoming a "dyke" is a archetypical manifestation of socia-economic factors?

I saw that Layli Phillips was a co-author. I took one of her Women's Studies classes. I'll read the paper before fomulating an opinion or attemtping to offer a solution.

I'm not very comfortable with the implication that a black lesbian's sexuality is controlled by her environment.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBLKSeaGoat



I read the post...

My point is "solutions" are macro in scope not micro.

I'm clueless on how to convince someone who may not be that bright, or if bright, lacking the funds to pursue a higher education that's no guarantee of a good paying job instead of becoming the next Buffie the Body or Karrine Steffans, both of whom have secured a level of financial success many low income (and some middle class) women could only dream of.

Especially when they have the looks and assets to pull it off. I don't pretend to know. In a country as narcissistic and materialistic as the US one doesn't get bonus points for being moral but poor.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

ak you can go here to listen to the podcast http://www.blogtalkradio.com/urbanplaydates

@JJ….Ironically the Washington Post has an article: Anti-Prostitution Initiative Taken to D.C. Schools http://www.washingtonpost. @com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/11/23/AR2008112302241.html

The article tells about an organization that is working with teens and uses 50 cent’s P-I-M-P to show them that what they hear and see isn’t going to led them to secure wealth and status. In most cases in these “at risk environments” as well as the not so at risk environments it will lead them into a life of prostitution, abuse, drug use and death. Gold Digging is exactly that: a survival mechanism and isn’t a long term solution that offers any women a 401k. While Buffie and the other one seem secure now their stories are far from over.

Education is the solution that Dr. Stephens is offering. Education can be used on a micro level like the organization in the washpo article is doing. If that’s too big folks can start talking individually, or organize a group of their family members, girlfriends, co-workers, church members, or neighbors in which they discuss these scripts, there effects as well as outcomes.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthelildiva4u

What about educated women who employ the same strategies as freaks and Gold Diggers to obtain wealth, power, and influence? How do we know that Karrine and Buffie don't have 401 (k)s and high performing investment portfolios?

There is no difference between a woman in finishing school or a woman from the projects using their gender, physical attributes, and sexuality to get what they want: a Financially secure, wealthy, and generous man OR IN THE CASE OF THE "DYKE" mentioned in Dr. Stephens' paper, a woman.

These scripts have been known for quite some time. When I learned about them they were called archetypes. I'm not knocking Dr. Stephens' intellectual pursuits; having a PhD and being a part of university faculty is nothing to sneeze at.

However, this problem is not a new one. Perhaps she may be the first to have gotten the level of attention needed to gain a broader, solution-oriented base, but there are no solutions in the paper.


Don't you think that most of the black community institutional constructs that influence the lives of black women do more to perpetuate the scripts? How then do we work against that type of force?

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBLKSeaGoat


How successful is the program?

I know girls/women who have an education (Bachelors or better) and still pursue said lifestyles. Do quite well and have 401ks or rich husbands.

Do you approach this as a "moral" issue?

A feminist issue?

A self respect issue?

Education is all fine and dandy...but I also know plenty of well educated poor folks a fact one too many young lady will gladly point out to you.

I've worked with my fair share of at risk girls (and those not at risk)...and it's a mentality that's hard to shake.

And to be perfectly honest, I don't have a good response. The girls aren't ignorant of the risks and the smarter ones avoid said risks rather nicely... can preach the value of self-respect and education all day long...but hey I live with my mother so my words fall on deaf ears.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

I think individual redemption must come before communal redemption.

Helping people individually first will give us enough 'cells' in place. By helping, i mean coaching or opening their eyes to the fact that no matter what their financial state, they still have dignity, they are still entitled to things, they still have value and worth, and to remember that they were made in the image of the Almighty Himself. Basically infusing them with self worth, self respect, and /or just alternative means.

That should be quite difficult in the materialistic U S of A. *smiles*

These "cells" can hopefully get activated when the situation comes up. That is to say, when by chance they meet up with other women or girls who still have the old mindset, these "cells" can encourage and help those women or girls who are ready or are searching for an alternative.

Enough of these cells and soon enough the whole community will /can change. If the girls and women of the community bounce from "cell" to "cell" enough, they will see that there is an alternative way to see things and its not a minority or unpopular view. This will hopefully make the change in them easier.

Isn't that what a lot of bloggers are trying to do? Shouting above the BET noise? Just thinking out loud but I wonder how many cells were already created like this.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterboo

Hmmm... This paper was published in 2003, which means it probably went to peer review earlier that year. Gina, were you able to ask Dr. Stephens if the scripts list has changed to include more or fine tune the current scripts?

I'm trying to access the podcast, but I'm having trouble with BTR.

What has Dr. Stephens done in the last 5 years regarding follow-up?

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBLKSeaGoat

I DID NOT WRITE THE POST. Did y'all read. It is by Njeri aka thelildiva4u.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

I don,t like being called a golddigger or a welfare mom the name my mother did not give me I,m 46 years young and been working since I was sixteen.Had four children only two survived.Was diagnosed with arthritis when I was only a teen now the disease has escalated.But I still work cause the social security office keeps denying me disability I think it has alot to do with where you live and how old ypou are.If I stop working I would have to stay in a shelter till I get my disability.who knows how long that will take.Some black women are still mothers and nurture the childern they have while others don,t care and let their boyfriends rape there children all kinds of things be happening behind closed doors you can only imagine!

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngie Jackson

I'm gonna be blunt...

Using your physical attributes, intelligence or what have you to secure a, "Financially secure, wealthy, and generous man," is not a bad thing.

Securing your and your offsprings future is A-OKAY.

But where do you draw the line?

Think Karrine...


U won't find me knocking those chicks...but at the same time I don't want my daughter growing up and foloowing in their footsteps...


I'm back to where I began.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

***posted under wrong screen name***

This is interesting. Most of these scripts have been around for a long time, but I think they manifest themselves in a very different way than they used to because of the prevalence of pop culture.

One script left our was the “wifey” script. This is not the “baby mama”, but the long time girlfriend who will always be “yours” no matter how long you string her along. With the exception of your mama, she’s the only of other women your friends show respect to and it’s cool to go sleep with the “freaks” cause you always have your “wifey” at home.

I see plenty of young girls trying to be “wifey”. “Wifey” is seen as an upgrade-something to be proud of. Sometimes they don’t care how disrespectful a man is to women in general, as long as he respects them. Perfect example are some of the hip-hop wives and permanent girlfriends who don’t care how many bitches and hoes they’re say to put food on the table as long as they respect their “wifey”.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteriman


Wrote a post about that a while back called:

Why the Jumpoff Has It beter Than Wifey


November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

@JJ Okay I see where you are coming from and to a certain extent I don't disagree that people look for certain qualities in mates. That's normal. That's natural.

My problem is this. These women aren't getting what they think they are getting and far too many women get NOTHING of value and end up used up and discarded. No security for them or their offspring.

This post if I read it correctly was about teenage girls who don't understand the EXCHANGE part. No reciprocity or outright exploitation.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

And you're right, many women view the "wifey" status as something to be proud of...one of the many things I just don't get.

I'm not sure I agree with your "bitches and hoes" example however. Plenty of people have jobs they don't like or don't agree with but they put food on the tables.

Rappers are no different.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ


I won't argue with you there. In my experience none of the girls beleive they will be one of the ones who doesn't "make it."

They think they will be the exception. The smart one...the issue I have with Steffans first book..it's like a how to manual on how to get rich and famous by sexing your way through the industry...just don't do the drugs and alcohol.

How do you compete with that message?

By comparison most folks lives are dull, boring and penniless.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

@JJ I think we compete by offering up an alternative "fantasy." I would agree, we tell them not to be Karrine, but Karrine appears to be having a heck of a time.

One of the limitations of blogging is that we are basically speaking to the choir. We tend to focus on what we don't like, but can't offer young Black women an alternative that is just as exciting or engaging as the same old trite roles created for them by those who control the entertainment industrial complex.

For example, sure its anti-feminist pablum of the damsel in distress, but this week millions of little white girls are going to imagine themselves being rescued by a handsome vampire. When was the last movie where a teenage black girl was rescued by anything, vampire, astronaut, security guard... Where is the excitement in their lives other than living vicariously through the lives of the men they attach themselves to?

So I agree. Those who lament these roles have to acknowledge that we aren't offering an "exciting "alternative.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

OMG! I used to work with Dionne Stephens and have seen her presentation about this paper while I was at FIU. I love the imagery she had to show the different tropes. She is a remarkable woman and very down-to-earth.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJamerican Muslimah

I don't see anything wrong with wanting a financially secure, attractive, or even well-off man. While I would rather date a man that loves and respects me who shares most if not all of the values that I have, I find it patently wrong that some women would use sex to secure a better life for themselves or their kids. That to me is no different than prostitution. Nobody said life would be easy. Nobody said parenting would be easy. It's hard work and it can be straining but the pride that I get from working through the fire and still coming out and top for myself, my kids and our family is priceless. It also shows my young sons that a woman can and should be strong. It shows them that they don't have to settle for less.

I know my boys will one day bring home ladies that they are serious about and want to marry. I would hope that they would pick the hardworking young lady who achieves her goals through merit and not her genitalia. I can't and will not respect that and I am teaching them through my own actions that they shouldn't either.

These "golddiggers" are no good to the men they are with. Often times they can't support them emotionally or spiritually but they're a good roll in the hay. That's not good enough when there are women out there who can give a good roll in the hay, go to school, be part of the team and be there for them.

The issue is that people feel the need to put women into neat little groups, when women can be and are multi-faceted. A golddigger is not multi-faceted, she is one dimensional. She is not complicated. She is like a pet. You give it a toy and it is happy. I dare say a dog is more dependable.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSeattle Slim

Iman: the “wifey” script. This is not the “baby mama”, but the long time girlfriend who will always be “yours” no matter how long you string her along. With the exception of your mama, she’s the only of other women your friends show respect to and it’s cool to go sleep with the “freaks” cause you always have your “wifey” at home.

I see plenty of young girls trying to be “wifey”. “Wifey” is seen as an upgrade-something to be proud of. Sometimes they don’t care how disrespectful a man is to women in general, as long as he respects them. Perfect example are some of the hip-hop wives and permanent girlfriends who don’t care how many bitches and hoes they’re say to put food on the table as long as they respect their “wifey”.

Wow Iman that is so sad, it makes me wanna beg God to please NOT make me a black woman in the next life: Cause I think what you just mentioned is QUITE enough for one lifetime thank you!


I'm not knocking what you're saying Iman at all, I agree because I've been seeing proof of that among black people for years it all really kicked off and went with my generation during the 'gangsta-rap-b****-h*' 1990s.

Of course there a long list there where black men of that generation are to blame a list you could wrap around the world at least once but the young black women who grew up with the 'wifey' mentality in front of their eyes are to blame also.

Because if they don't want to respect other women, not even other black women, then this will always foster the whole crime rampage against black women where cases go unreported and if they are reported barely anything is done to find justice for the black women victims or provide safety or prevention from attacks against black women.

Because you have to give respect in order to get respect, but until black women at least ally themselves with one another in that respect, things will never improve.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterak

All of you guys should go read Khadija's blog Muslim Bushido, and read especially the comments section from the post with the tile 'All Colored People Who Want To Go To Kansas....' that Khadija posted up on November 18th.

She and Lisa who has the Black Women Blow The Trumpet blog break down what you're all talking about, including the 'wifey' stuff in a way that you won't believe, or just don't choose to see in order to believe.

They both have a gift of pointing out what's obviously been going wrong with black women, black men and black families that everybody else has decided to ignore on purpose.

Read the comments under that particular post on Muslim Bushido. It puts all of the 'wifey' stuff that young women are so proud of today all to shame.

Then again it's always been pathetic and shameful, it's just people choose not to bring that stuff up anymore.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterak

Perhaps black women should take the "Sgt. Waters" track from "A Soldiers' Story." No not his maniacal attack on "CJ," but for his World War One remembrance (check the film).

We men often muse how the silence is deafening from many black women when other black women degrade themselves on "Flavor of Love," or the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" are spotlit as the pinnacle of African American female achievement. Or "Dirty Girls" on Oxygen, or Video Vixens writing bestselling books while women attempting to pen art or tell true stories can't even get agents. And as for film industry--it's as sexist and negative as Hip Hop. But many women say hey it's only entertainment. Don't take it seriously. The sistas are just making that paper, ok?
No it's not ol. Maybe it's time to go Sgt Waters on these women directly. Go Drop Squad. Figuratively, I mean. Toss out the convention that sisters must all stick together. Call out people. Call out audiences, fans, bookclubs, etc--NOT just corporate interests. Maybe some figurative busted lips and blood will dissuade others from making the conscious choice to clown themselves and become hoes just for cash and 15 minutes of fame.

Sgt Waters was a sad conflicted man, just as much a victim as his victims. But damn if he didn't have the right idea...

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Chambers

Whew…I didn’t think this topic would head in this direction. The post wasn’t about whether being a gold-digger was a legitimate hustle. The post was supposed to highlight individuals/groups that are combating negative images of African American women.

This specific post was about society sexual scripts, their historical background and how it’s affecting young black girls. Seems like some of us missed the 11 other scripts described in the paper. I implore folks to read the paper in its entirety. It’s long, but well worth your time.

Are theses scripts new? No! But, what this paper provides us is diagnosis by taking an in-depth look at what they are, how they started, how society views them and how men view them and the negative outcomes that are associated with them.

Look we don’t have an abundance of positive scripts/images that bombard us through the current media. And the fact still remains that the current negative ones are becoming a cancer in our society. I had hope that maybe we would have discussed solution. Dr. Stephens has done for recent work, which can be seen via her site.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthelildiva4u

This is the new mainstreamed version of prostitution. It's been normalized.... brought into everyday relationships. Young women (and men) are bombarded with the script at an early age.... and as they reach adolescence the script is reinforced with messages in music, & TV...with programs like "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire", "The Bachelor", "The Bachelorette", "Real Housewives of Orange County", "Real Housewives of Atlanta", "Bridezilla", "A Wedding story" (yeah...even the legit wedding programs are sending the wrong messages IMO).....etc etc etc.

There are exponentially more messages that tell them that this is o.k., than there are messages that tell them it's wrong (in some cases there are probably no countervailing forces telling them it's wrong). And they see so many examples of the payoff....as someone mentioned before... The NBA wives, the NFL wives, the College Football Girlfriend, the Video vixens, the disgusting Rapper groupies, the R&B trash, the stripper, the prostitute, etc.... is there much difference between them? Perhaps... but their core motivations are arguably the same... I hate to write it...but it's true. And once young women realize that they can use what they have to their advantage...and that there is almost always a payoff... that's it. The lifestyle itself is addictive..... at least the idea of the payoff is... so once they have commodified themselves in this way (with the help of the larger society steering them down this road almost from birth), it is hard for them to give it up and do anything else or to see themselves as something better.

I don't have the answers to this.... it's a problem so big that only a big cultural shift will probably change things for the better. The only way to avoid this madness is if you become Amish...or raise your sons and daughters on an isolated compound. OR you can try to instill the right value system early...shield them from the worst images and audio content (i'm reluctant to call it music or art) and just hope for the best. But this approach might only give you a 50-50 chance of raising kids (especially daughters) who will avoid falling victim to this society.

Step one has to be instilling values, self pride and self worth.... (what happened to that?). Women used to have this as a barrier.... but in the so-called "Black community" rap culture has destroyed these values in women.... black women/girls are broken down early and objectified....and told that they aren't worth anything. They begin to view themselves as just sex toys by the time they hit puberty (the internalization of the "sex toy" image by the victim is worse than the initial objectification).

I'm always trying to find the answers to this...

Perhaps Obama will help bring some "change" (although there are no signs of any "change" anywhere on the horizon.... symbolically the same characters, same stage, same government script.... different costumes).

BUT.... word on the blogosphere is that Obama plans a lot of shuffling at the FCC...and perhaps a Black woman may be appointed to leadership there... this could be an opportunity to bring up those issues that you all raised a year ago... with the whole Congressional testimony....the Bobby Rush hearing with the Record company execs...etc. Make your case again via the FCC...and maybe there could be some changes. I doubt it... because it does not appear (as I speculated) that the Obama Administration will be the "Change" that folks were hoping for. But it would be nice if something meaningful could finally happen on that front. I would love nothing more than to see Rappers and Record Companies begin to go out of business.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Angry Independent


We women often muse at the deafening silence from men when their ilk engage in violent, sexiste, misogynist behavior...and are in many ways the brains and money behind much of the entertainment you mention.


Looks like we both have a lot to do.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

People have to tell these young girls that the so called glamorous life of a gholdigger or a Buffy the Body really doesn't last. What will happen to Karine Steffans when she hits thirty-five or forty? The only reason she's famous now is because she's young and cute.

What happens is these pseudo celebrities, video vixens and the like get used to the lifestyle, they get used to walking the red carpet, getting a table in a good restaurant, etc. Then one day they hit thirty-five and there's a new vixen on the horizon who everybody wants to know. Then the "old lady" is put out to pasture but she can't deal with that because she wants to be young and fly and the center of attention again, she has no real talent, she may have money but she wants more, she needs that attention. So what does she do? She gets breast implants, has plastic surgery, goes on a reality show, anything to keep her name in the papers.

That's the reality. Sooner or later all of these women will reach the "ripe old age" of thirty.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEva

Great guest post Njeri! I am printing Dr. Stephens' paper as I type. Thank you! You know you hit a good topic when you get this much debate going about it.

I just had a big-ass cup of coffee so I'm about to climb up on my soap box. Bear with me, because this topic is big with me...Obviously no one has immediate answers but I hate to see so many almost dismissing the gold-digger/ho mentality as if it can't be changed. Our girls deserve better than the jacked up, limited view of womanhood being presented to them.

Change begins with outreach and media literacy to the people who need it most; the people who are targeted hardest by the materialistic, hypersexualized media of today...KIDS.

Angry Independant put it very well above...as long as marketers are making money peddling pop-culture prostitution they have no reason to change. But you'd be amazed how easily kids can grasp an idea and flow with it. Teenagers don't like the idea of getting played... but everytime girls drop it like it's hot to a song where half of the lyrics are calling them a b**ch and reducing them to body parts, they're playing themselves big time. And boys are getting a backwards view of what it means to be with a woman. Nobody wins...except the marketing execs hitting their numbers and bringing home fat bonuses. Oooh...don't get me started!!

Even if it's as small as talking to teens or young adults in your neighborhood or family about these issues, it's something. Someone will hear you. And I'm finding that there is a growing voice of parents, bloggers, educators and organizations who are starting to talk about these issues, so change will come eventually. It's not around the corner, but it's coming.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMommy B

JJ So the key is NEITHER men nor women do a very good job of policing our own. Maybe we all should. There are more critical things at stake than the appearance of solidarity, be it sistahood or bruthahood.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Chambers

Hey there!

I posted this comment under the other post by accident. Sorry about that.

I listened to the blog talk that you shared! Excellent interview! We need to spend more time discussing these scripts and SHOWING black women how to dismantle the conditioning. It’s one thing to recognize the conditioning…but so many really don’t understand the stages that are required to dismantle it.

If I may digress for a moment and mention an unrelated matter….

We need all trumpets blaring to protest the racist disparagement of the black scholar, Dr. Yolanda Pierce, by students at Princeton.


Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBlackWomenBlowTheTrumpet

"Sisters have to do more to protect our image. I am not sure we do a good job of conveying to young girls and other women that our beautiful is not solely based on our sexualness and attractiveness."


I think there are two parts to creating the protection that is needed. First, we have to turn off the media that send the message that our beauty is defined only by sexuality-on-demand (it's always the demands of others, btw). Those producing these media will not stop sending these messages, so we have to turn them off and keep them out of our homes and gathering places. See how hard it is to do this and you will see what we are up against.

Second, we have to begin to write, publish, and distribute another model of what beautiful AfricanAmerican femininity looks, sounds, and acts like. It may only be a trickle in the beginning, but we have to start.

Yes, it is a moral question. Why? Because it speaks to this question: what do you want to be, and why?

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah

I am going to repeat what Deborah said because it bears repeating:

[W]e have to begin to write, publish, and distribute another model of what beautiful AfricanAmerican femininity looks, sounds, and acts like. It may only be a trickle in the beginning, but we have to start.

We have to begin to compete for the hearts minds and imaginations of young Black people... the old ones too. Even if we got rid of all the garbage, what would we replace it with. Remember that passage in the Bible about seven demons. You can clean out the house, but if you replace it with nothing the demons come back and brings friends. Matthew 12:43-45

So even if we get rid of the dominant stereotypes of the day and the imagery we find objectionable, until we replace it with something else. We still have a problem.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

As long as profit is the main/sole motivator, women (and men) are going to exploit any and everything they can to achieve that singular goal - even if it's themselves. Creating and disseminating a new model of African American femininity is a great start, but doesn't quite get to the root of the problem, which I believe is this culture of unabashed consumerism that we all live in and contribute to.

This is what I have been saying....

All you professional Black women (authors, doctors, attorneys, business women, middle managers, corporate women, social workers/social scientists, journalists, educators, accountants, ministers, actresses, talk show hosts, etc) you should be out front shaping an alternative image...an alternative model.

You could create a program modeled after 100 Black Men. There is an organization called 100 Black women... but they don't seem to focus enough on youth/mentoring....and the negative images so you may have to call the organization something else. It would be nice to see an organization that focused more on young Black women.... restoring self-worth/pride, mentoring them, showing them that there's an alternative to the vixen/gold digger lifestyle, teaching them about what qualities to seek in a partner, teach parenting skills, set up a crisis network, partner with jobs programs and food banks to help provide assistance, restore a value system, teaching the value of education, teaching them to be ladies (but strong ones).... teach the importance of community and giving.... etc etc also...it could have programs to offer scholarships... Another part of the mission could be to lobby Congress and the FCC to fight the negative images.... through policy- making...legislation, etc. For example... you should have lobbyists in Washington full time...through perhaps a DC chapter.... just like the oil companies, the Financial firms, the gun lobby, the auto industry, and everyone else. You all are one of the few constituencies without lobbyists in DC looking out for your interests.

There are probably enough of you to set up independently operated chapters in every major metro in the Country. There could be a main office and a President that would set a general vision...and mission statement. But the chapters would be run on their own...by chapter leaders.

Would it change things overnight? Nope. Might not even make a dent in the first couple of years. But in 5 years, 10 years....or more, it could make a difference. Something like this won't solve the bigger problem.... but the idea is to offer an alternative route. Right now... so many young Black women don't even see a fork in the Road anywhere to even make a choice (they don't even see being a corporate leader, a political leader, an attorney or doctor as being viable options). There are no maps for them because so many have had their journeys pre-determined.

They at least deserve the fork in the Road...with a sign pointed in the right direction. They at least deserve options.

And with a Black woman leading Domestic Policy at the White House.... Hell... you might even get Federal funding.

Better figure out how to write a Grant proposal. :)

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Angry Independent

The thing that confuses me especially about black folks is that whatever problem we have *automatically* someone else caused it. ‘oh, it’s the media’ or ‘the media is too negative’. Whatever happened to parenting. Do black folks parent anymore. I mean seriously so now the media is responsible for raising black children. Karrine had two parents, where were they when she was engaging in what she was engaging in. and these other women that do whatever, where are their parents. As far as I’m concerned, not everyone is doing their part. In normal societies, everyone is expected to raise their own children with values. If the kids mess up, it’s a reflection of their parents. I think black people are one of the few people on earth that believe external forces have more power over their children’s self definition than the parents do. That is simply bizarre. There are many young black women growing up around the same media images and they just fine. WHY?? Because they have someone in their lives guiding them, isn’t it amazing what good ole fashion parenting can do.

There can be no solution if things remain as they do. First of all, when fathers abandon their children, the mother has to work long hours to support her child and this is where the damage begins. Children are not born with a set of morals and values. In many societies out there, a woman’s priority in life is to properly raise her children; in fact, making sure that the children have morals and values is considered women’s work. But these women are not expected to bring home the bacon, nor are they expected fight for their men AND race or basically the other nonsense that is expected of black women. as I see it, a lot of black women don’t have the time or energy to properly raise their children and make sure they’re growing up with concrete values. When you’re working two jobs and hardly seeing your children, they’re not learning from you, they’re learning from marcus, demarcus and tyrone or whoever elses comes into their path. I mean, I know black women with degrees whose children are messed up, guess what the common denominator is……they’re all unmarried!

So ladies and gentlemen, there is no simply solution and we can discuss this stuff till kingdom come but NOTHING will ever change unless black women start getting married by these men that impregnate them. And even that won’t happen until a majority of black males actually turn into men and start taking care of their responsibilities as every other group of men out there do. That’s the only solution I see. We need to stop blaming the media or whatever cause the media is NOT responsible for raising black children. Parents have a stronger influence over their children than the media. Black people are just people at the end of the day and going against tried and true human institutions and transformations such as married and males BECOMING men, going against them will simply destroy us. And the destruction has already begun. And if black men don’t want to marry them, black women clearly need to move on cause we will be talking about this for centuries if black women keep on have illegitimate children

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary

That's a very good point, gem. I think it starts with us. It stars with speaking to our friends about their questionable behavior should there be any. It starts with a grassroots movement. That's how bad it's gotten. It's about talking to the younger sisters whenever we get a chance about what they are seeing and the myths behind them.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSeattle Slim


This isn't a Black issue. This is a societal issue. White girls are selling themselves just as short - sometimes for less reward - Girl's Gone Wild anyone?

We live in a world that values profit above all else. You're judged by the what you have nd the money you make, nice people are seen as suckers...I know plenty of people form great homes and good parents that still see their physicalness as a mens to a financial end.

The culture needs changing - not this Black culture but American culture.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

"In many societies out there, a woman’s priority in life is to properly raise her children; in fact, making sure that the children have morals and values is considered women’s work. But these women are not expected to bring home the bacon, nor are they expected fight for their men AND race or basically the other nonsense that is expected of black women."

True again.

In fact, this is 100% true and reading your comments, Mary, makes me wonder how and when we as Black women accepted this "mule of the world" role. We must reject it, no matter what the short term effects of rejecting it look like. As you said, the patterns we are following are NOT sustainable and we are looking at the beginning of the end.

As Gina said, we have to vision and create what we want in exchange for this failed way of being. We have to believe another way is possible and preferable. That is a moral and spiritual dilemma, but we have to take it on because what we are doing now is killing us.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah

"We are all guilty of using sex as a weapon and tool and calling card. We all have to bear the responsibility of the messages we send not only to our daughters but our sons, nephews and uncles and everyone else who looks at us as objects."

Speaking truth to power.

I read Karrine Steffans first book and she said it was a cautionary tale. It wasn't...it was basically "Whoring For Dummies." I saw on a table in Harlem a bunch of these "tell-all-sex-tales-with-rappers" books by a bunch of young sistas. Who's publishing this stuff?

After her first book, we should have all gotten together the way Aunt Esther used to 'round up her church posse to go after Fred on the old "Sanford & Son" tv show, and given Karrine a teachable moment.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwanda



This isn’t a Black issue. This is a societal issue. White girls are selling themselves just as short - sometimes for less reward - Girl’s Gone Wild anyone?

The culture needs changing - not this Black culture but American culture."

This is a cop out. There is no excuse for not doing better. Just because others are losing their collective minds doesn't mean its ok for Black People to do so as well - especially since Blacks suffer more as a result of such actions.

Others can and will take care of themselves and their own.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOshun

'Whoring For Dummies' LOL Priceless! You may have just given that company a new idea for a new book.

I mean I'm sure they have 'Breathing For Dummies' out there as it is!

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterak

There's some really great comments and suggestions here, but I'd like to take things in a somewhat different direction and offer the most important solution.

We must CLAIM our DIVERSITY. We must CLAIM our image. We must demand our place at the table and be allowed to not be limited by other's stereotyped views of who we are.

Notice I didn't say RECLAIM it because sad to say it's never been in our hands. From the time we were brought to these shores, everyone else has defined who, what and why we are EXCEPT US. We've been mis-led and mis-labeled and we've pretty much been quiet about these roles that do not speak to the entirety of black women. We have a RIGHT to be human beings--with all the bumps and bruises and triumphs that entails.

We can blame bad parenting, bad media, racism, etc. and while these aspects definitely share a burden of the blame, we black women have been complicit in our own destruction. It hurts my heart and soul to see young black girls think themselves ugly or unworthy and to see that our silence has brought this about.

I'm sorry, but the moment we ran from the idea of the "strong black woman", things just went to hell for us. We allowed other folks to define and denigrate "strength" and allowed ourselves to get pushed around. We must embrace our inner warrior and start speaking up. We have got to demand diversity in the media, in politics, everywhere. And we have to not be afraid to "upset" people when we do it. This is NOT the time to be polite, because the future of our girl (and boy) children is at stake. One of the best things about Michelle and Barack Obama's visibility is that we can start showing young black women that they too can have a respectful and loving relationship with a man (and not necessarily black) and that they shouldn't settle for anything less than that. Our young black men can see that it's very "masculine" to adore one's spouse and value her insight as well as her beauty.

Not enough of us got into mainstream feminism's face when Gloria Steinem tried to play "whose oppression is worse" during the presidential primaries. We've sat in the shadows long enough while misogynist rappers use the beauty that is black womanhood to denigrate us for dollars.

Bottom line: we must empower ourselves FIRST before we can empower the rest of the community.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKymberlyn

@Mary, I hear you. Now, stop making so much sense....

I don't have a TV. I don't read the black (or other) celebrity blogs. I've never read "ghetto lit", so a lot of these "silly wife / smart, happy slut / everyone is a gold digging tramp" lifestyles are a mystery to me. Color me normal and banal.

"Jezebel" started with slavery to justify the rape of black women. Today, the piss-poor image of black women in mainstream culture is the province and product of black entertainers.

I guess when jumping off bridges become popular, folks will say it's "What we all do ..." to justify stupidity.

How to countermand it? I haven't got a clue. I was raised by two parents, with the guidance of older brothers, and plenty of uncles.

I was surprised to discover that a long, long time ago US schools used to teach morality and manners.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoldenah

Mary - you hit the nail on the head! And I'm having the hardest time finding empowering programs to list as per request.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

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