Talk will look at impact of sexual stereotypes on young black women

Harriet Tubman logo
Harriet Tubman logo

In the first talk of the 2013-2014 Harriet Tubman Institute Speaker Series, Ciann Wilson will discuss sexual stereotypes of young black women.

Her talk, “Jezebel: Exploring the Impact of Stereotypes on the Sexualities and Sexual Health of Young Black Women”, will take place Thursday, Oct. 3, from 3:30 to 5pm at 280N York Lanes, Keele campus.

A PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, Wilson coordinated the Let’s Talk About Sex (LTAS) project, funded by the Ontario HIV/AIDS Treatment Network while pursuing her master’s degree at York. For her Jezebel talk, Wilson drew from the CiannWilsondata produced in this project.

One of the photos produced during the Let’s Talk About Sex project, titled Safety First. The narrative behind the photo discusses the broad accessibility of condoms in schools, juxtaposed with the barrier of social judgment cast on those seen taking them

Data collection for the LTAS project occurred during a photovoice workshop held once a week for nine consecutive weeks in the Jane-Finch community. This workshop was completed by 15 young ACB women ages 14 to 18. These young women used photography and creative writing to express their opinions on the barriers and facilitators to making healthy sexual decisions.

A major issue identified by the young women was negative stereotypes associated with being a young woman from the Jane-Finch community. Stereotypes of the “pregnant and promiscuous girls of Jane-Finch” were perceived by participants to originate in the media and were upheld by “outsiders” of the community.

These stereotypes were internalized by participants, leading them to socially distance themselves from the labels as well as other young women in the community they perceived to fit the stereotypes.  These stereotypes also operated to mediate the sexualities and sexual lives of the young women as they avoided accessing sexual health resources and information because that was a form of “outing” one’s sexual activity.

The presentation will examine how this larger stigmatized environment, in connection to race, racism and sexism, gives rise to assumptions about the sexualities of young black women from the community.

A direct reflection of her lived experience as a racialized woman and youth advocate, Wilson’s research interests include youth health; urban health; HIV and AIDS; political economy; social determinants; critical race and class theories; and qualitative, quantitative, community-based and indigenous research approaches.

Wilson’s work is currently supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Research Award.