“This moment for life”: popular culture’s impact on the moral sphere of young black women
Tuttle, Kenya Jonell
Given the increasing influence of popular culture on today’s society, this project will analyze representations of black women to explore how these images influence young black women’s moral sphere. Cultural representations are worthy of theological reflection because these controlling images become “sacred rhetoric” within popular culture. This paper is an interdisciplinary study utilizing moral philosophy, cultural studies, black feminist discourse and womanist ethics. I begin with a historical analysis of the four controlling images of black women provided by Patricia Hill Collins black feminist and sociologist. With psychologist Mary Pipher, I assert that we live in a “girl-poisoning culture” that defeats and delimits the maturation process of young black women by inculcating racist and misogynist stereotypes through popular culture, such as hip-hop, which are internalized before young women are fully capable of discerning the effects on their identity. I show how these images operate within what womanist ethicist Emile Townes calls the “fantastic hegemonic imagination” and suggest how a theory of ontological black femininity is created in popular culture, using the work of philosopher, Victor Anderson. Using three young black women in hip-hop, one subculture of popular culture, I provide a cultural analysis of black female representations today. I then explore the complex subjectivities of black female hip-hop artists and ask who decides whether these artists provide counter narratives. Finally, I conclude by using moral imagination as a subversive religious discourse to respond to young black women’s moral identity formation within popular culture to suggest an alternative moral philosophy.