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White Weddings: Bridal Magazines Reflect White World

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Lawrence Mower, Review-Journal, Dec. 11, 2006

Thoughts of getting married generate images of white — white dresses, white flowers and white wedding cakes.

But according to a recent study, they also generate images of white brides. White, thin and attractive brides, to be precise.

Women of different ethnic groups, particularly black brides, are continuously left out of advertising and content of the three major bridal magazines, creating a reflection of which group of people should get married in American society, according to Cynthia Frisby, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Frisby, along with Erika Engstrom, assistant dean of the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, conducted a study that found fewer than 2 percent of brides featured in the three major bridal magazines were black.

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Of the more than 6,000 ads, fewer than 2 percent featured a black woman as a bride, the study found. No black woman was featured on the cover, and the most frequent image of a black woman in the magazines was as a bridesmaid.

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Statistics show that black women are less likely to get married than other women.

According to a 2005 U.S. Census report, 43.4 percent of all black women have never been married, a rate that is far higher than for whites, Hispanics and Asians. The national average for women who have never been married is 25.8 percent. Figures from 2004 show that 12.8 percent of the U.S. population is black.

The study, published in the fall 2006 issue of the journal Media Report to Women, also says the lack of black brides in the magazines communicates “a negative assumption that it is better for African Americans to stay in background roles as opposed to positions equal in status and power to their White counterparts.”

Bridal magazines, because they consist almost entirely of advertisements for dresses and other wedding products, are an accurate projection of what group of people businesses cater to, according to Engstrom.

“Bridal magazines are basically a specialized form of publication. It kind of tells us something about society in general.”

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Bridal magazines are available that cater to women of color, such as Brides Noir, but the report said those were insufficient and shouldn’t be viewed as substitutes.

“We believe such demarcation between ‘White’ bridal magazines and ‘Black’ bridal magazines only emphasizes segregation of races,” the report stated.

The study suggests advertisers, not readers, could be the only party interested in seeing only white brides.

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Original article

(Posted on December 11, 2006)

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