Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


We're Still Waiting: Discourses of Women and HIV/AIDS in African American Magazines


Women and Gender Studies


Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Date Range



This analysis of Essence and Ebony magazines' coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic illustrates that the magazine offered limited representations of the epidemic in African American communities. It argues that although there was some reporting on the importance of HIV/AIDS for black Americans, the magazines continued to focus on women and children as the "innocent victims" of AIDS, while blaming bisexual men and i.v. drug users for transmitting the virus to them well into the second decade of the epidemic. Essence, in particular, also emphasized a politics of respectability, encouraging women to behave as model women and citizens, refraining from promiscuity and non-normative behaviors that may put them at risk. The author calls for an attention to the ways these politics, which are used to "protect" women are also used to police black women's behavior. Examining discourses about the HIV/AIDS epidemic provides an important example of how these politics of respectability, which attempt to control gender and sexual expression can be even more harmful when topics require open discussions of sexuality. Magazine selections are analyzed according with black feminist theories emphasis on understanding how multiple identities, such as race, class, gender, and sexuality impact ones' social experiences.

Conference Name

Modern Language Association Convention 2012

Conference Location

Seattle, WA

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