Enter your email address and keep up to date with Rae:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Consumption Practices of Black British Women in their Twenties (Part Two)

Click here for part one

The Consumption Practices of Black British Women in their Twenties (Part Two)

During the case study I had asked participants if they ever bought items to distinguish themselves from others. One of the women had stated she had used perfumes as a method of distinction, as she didn’t like that which was ‘common’ amongst people, therefore opting for high-end perfumes. Another participant went on to mention; ‘I buy clothes I know will be different. Not part of the crowd.’ The participants had touched on not wanting to be ‘part of the crowd’ and used consumption to achieve this. They selected items, which carried a positive uniqueness. I got the sense that the masses to them were not positive but rather something to distance themselves from. The decision to do such implies the participants may have been aware of the adverse connotations surrounding their demographic, and used methods of consumption to differentiate themselves from the negativity projected by the Eurocentric community towards the Black masses.

Food is a focal point within the diasporic African home, and is often a conglomerate of cultures. The latter was illustrated when I had asked participants about their food choices. I found that majority had consumed foods from across the globe but amongst their favourites were dishes from their African backgrounds.  

“…fried yams with sauce (scotch bonnet) and shito [a Ghanaian condiment] and red snapper fish. For as long as I can remember growing up this has been my ultimate ‘fave’ dish, so many flavours and it’s gorgeous. It’s from the motherland ‘uno’ and its simply delicious, honestly when I have this dish it brings me joy!”  (Lois, 23)

“Salmon with hollandaise sauce with a bit of pepper (chilli pepper/scotch bonnet ) here and there” (Damaris, 23)

“ (Ugandan) Matooke, rice potatoes beans ground nuts and beef…I like Ghanaian stew and spicy rice… I am open to new dishes” (Margaret, 25)

Participant’s food consumption choices were cross continental and inspired by others nations that also had a high diasporic influence, such as the Americas. This may have been a result of the strong influence of the northern American sphere and cultural similarities between the Caribbean and African population.

I asked the women; how do you add an African flare to your favourite dishes?

“Spag bol (Italian) the sauce has to have rodo (Scotch bonnet in Yoruba) and Maggi (this a very popular seasoning within Nigerian households)” (Esther, 21)

“I definitely add Afrikan flare to dishes via seasoning…bland food really isn’t for me. (Dami, 23)

“African flare, always. Due to the fact it gives the food flavour and life.” (Damaris, 23)

“The African flare would be eating with my hands [and] using meats like gizzard and kidney.” (Mariam, 23)

“…I love fusion food. So blending Mexican with French or Nigerian dishes with Italian meals is something that I do quite regularly” (Esther, 21)

The participants commentaries implied the inclusion of what I term as an African flare into the most traditional of Western dishes, was a vital aspect of their food consumption. In doing so they gave food vigour, brought different influences under one palette and used it as a method to merge their dual nationality and also explore other cultural influences. Food was used to outline aspects of their identity.

‘‘Identity is fluid; it is a socially constructed form of presenting oneself to the world’’ (Grace, 22).
Those who embody a fusion of cultures, have a tendency to acknowledge the different cultures they are a part of. Dual nationality gives you fluidity in relation to identity, for one does not have a static identify. The latter is not only a result of having dual nationality but a consequence of globalisation infused with neo liberalism, where the masses are free to select the ideal self through means of consumption, this can help an individual to develop or enhance aspects of their identity and community.

“…I try not the expose my mind to TV, songs, and media which glorifies Eurocentric standards of beauty. I also listen to Yoruba music, and films, which reaffirms my sense of self. I try to support brands, which promote and support African business such as ‘Sheabutter Cottage’. I read African literature and attend some Africa inspired festivals. All round, I try to support, and reinforce within myself a positive image of an African self” (Grace, 22).

“Identity is rarely fixed in my opinion. We borrow so much from the things, which we are exposed to. We mix and match, take and discard the things, which we feel fit us most at any given moment or time in our lives.  We are products of a lot of things. How we process information and people and places and ideologies, shapes our individual, cultural, socio-political identity”  (Esther, 21).

When the women were asked about how they saw identity the general consensus was it was something quite fluid. The women used it as a tool at their disposal. Aspects of an identity/ culture they favoured were embraced and areas, which did not encapsulate their ideal identity, were discarded. Such method enabled the women to further dispel of negative stereotypes and evidently showcased that in regards to black female identity one box does not fit all. One of the females partially dislodged the notion of equating products or experience with black or white identity.
I classify most of what is around me as having an existence of its own. I don’t believe that things belong in sacred boxes or categories.’ (Grace, 22)

It could be said that such response was a rejection of what I referenced as the one-box fits all that is very common when targeting products or experience at Black women. The participant suggests that she saw consumption as a singular experience that was not necessarily based on pluralities such as ethnicity or social classes. Stuart Hall’s theory on encoding or decoding audience though is to do with the media can be applied when looking at consumption. Hall’s ideology implies there is individuality when understanding the media, like Bourdieu this is often a result of social, political and economic factors. Although there may appear to be individuality in relation to consumption there are many singular factors, which are put together that make up this singular experience. For example buying goods that support small BME business may be done individually but has an impact on the BME community.

In the UK areas whereby the target demographic is the black woman would suggest that black women would dominate ownership of such sectors but rather this is not the case. An area where this is very apparent is the hair industry. ‘’Shopkeepers who sell black hair products are also less likely to be men or women of African descent. This monopolization of the black hair care industry leaves few opportunities for women of the diasporic community to gain economic independence in countries where they are simply regarded as consumers” (Walter, 2013). The domination of others in the black hair industry has meant that black women have found it difficult to be competitors in their own race  and unfortunately have been lagging behind.Black women in the UK spend six times more than their white female counterparts on beauty products. Statics like the latter have prompted big corporate establishments to further tap into the ‘brown pound’ (Smith, 2005), Black women are often seen as a means to someone else’s treasure and not their own. Ten years have passed since Smith’s article, has any thing changed? Are black women still being pickpocketed and short-changed from their markets?  

Stay tuned for part 3! Please Share.
Hall, S ‘Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse’, Birmingham, University of Birmingham (2013)
Smith, L. ‘Big brands lock on to the brown pound’ The Guardian 19th August 2005 [online] Accessed 28th August 2015
Walter, T L 2013. ‘ Black British Women Literature and Politics of Hair’. In Routledge, London eds Maria, Duran-Almarza, E and Lopez, E.A, Ch 3 pp 59-62

The phrase Fusion of Cultures has been inspired by the Youtuber 'Fusion of Cultures' 

Tweet me: @raescorner

Disclaimer: This essay was written by myself, feel free to share and get inspired by what has been written but please do not declare it as your own.  

You're what you eat. Have you checked out my post of why I became a vegetarian here ?
Do you want to read more? if so click here 


  1. That was an interesting read, and research. Well done.