Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense Tamiah N. Brevard-Rodriguez: “Beauty Performances of Black College Women: Exploring the Impact of Race, Respectability, and Beauty Standards on a Historically White Campuse”

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
ABSTRACT: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder has been said countless times.” However, the concept of beauty was socially constructed to value traditional beauty standards that directly contrast with the facial features, hair textures, skin tones, and body types of Black women and girls (Awad et al., 2015). Many Black college-aged women enter college already socialized to the hostile anti-Black women narratives perpetuated by the mainstream media, their schools/teacher bias, their families/communities, music, and historical issues (i.e., slavery, black femininity, racism, colorism). Historically the culture at predominately white colleges and universities is primarily shaped by the social structures that enforce racial, gender, and class inequities (Henry et al., 2010; Leath & Chavous, 2018; Shahid et al., 2017; Shavers & Moore, III, 2014). As a result, young Black college women enrolled at historically white institutions are in a constant flux of juggling the socialized respectability messages that define not only how they should look, but also question how they should behave.
The purpose of this narrative inquiry is to understand how Black college women navigate and negotiate their blackness through beauty performances and the impact of their beauty influences on their self-esteem as well as valid acts of resilience or resistance during their collegiate experiences. The following theoretical frameworks, Black Feminist Thought and Critical Face Feminism, are critical to evaluating the respectability politics associated with beauty performances. The scope of this study aims to answer the following questions:
1. What are the respectability performances and pressures Black college-aged women experience on college campuses?
2. What are the positive and negative outcomes of their collective respectability experiences?
3. In what way does respectability politics impact Black college-aged women’s “true” self-expression?
My study uses purposeful sampling to recruit 6-10 self-identifying Black women between 19- 26 years old. Each participant will be individually interviewed twice and asked to provide and reflect on a beauty specific artifact. By examining the beauty performances and pressures of young Black college women, this research will hopefully add valuable context to the Black college female’s identity development, coping skills, and academic success.
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