RSS Feed

Category Archives: media

Solidarity is for White Women: A Re-cap

This past week, via Twitter, originally started by blogger Mikki Kendall, the hashtag “solidarityisforwhitewomen” trended as a statement that white feminism leaves out women of color.  (History behind solidarity is for white women hashtag).  (NPR Story) The hashtag went global.  I picked up on this trending and then got to watch it and learn.  I recommend you search #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but I have included some great examples. 

This story is nothing new.  This dialogue was part of my education in Women’s Studies, that women of color did not have a voice at the so-called feminist table.  Women of color were left out of this very white “problem that has no name” movement.  Women of color were left out of the suffragist movement.  Look around the tables where you sit.  What do you see?  I see that we are still not doing a good job at being inclusive.  My workplace is a microcosm of the world.  There are very few women of color on our faculty, or men of color, for that matter. 

Many of the tweets include great examples from media and pop culture that reinforce white privilege, power and white supremacy.   As someone who considers herself a social justice critic of media, I know, as a white women, I notice sexism instantly, but I have to continue to push myself to see the racism. This hashtag, this trend, is asking white women to do just that.  Push yourself, learn, and LISTEN.  Actively listen. It was listening to my friend Cynthia that got me interested in the drama Scandal.  When I learned the history of how few black women had held the lead in a network drama, I was shocked and appalled. (My take on that subject). 

I often criticize an artistic director friend of mine for not producing enough plays by women and people of color.  His response is that he produces a lot of shows by gay men and that he “can’t cover every cause.”  This is the kind of non-intersectional thinking that we get stuck in and one that gets perpetuated in our society. Last year I decided I couldn’t subscribe to theatres who don’t make an EFFORT, even just the slightest effort, to diversify their seasons.  What does this mean?  It means I’m not supporting the arts with my dollars.  I’m picking and choosing what shows I see instead of subscribing.  It means I’m not watching much television today because I’ve become too wary of watching something that misrepresents people. So what else can we do as white feminists who want to eliminate racism and end white supremacy? 

When I was teaching Women’s Studies, one question I always asked my students was “what if the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and the civil rights movement of the 60s had joined up?”  What if groups representing oppressed people weren’t divided up and given pieces of a pie to share? 

Mikki Kendall has a great article in XOJane this week talking about next steps. 

What this hashtag trend has done for me is to challenge me to be even MORE intersectional in my work with student and in my own thinking.  We’re starting out the semester by doing a privilege worksheet to lay this stuff all out on the table at once.  We’re running a social justice media literacy conference and I’m asking all the presenters to keep an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class and sexuality as the foundation for all their talks/workshops.

And I’m looking in the mirror, constantly reminding myself to pay attention and to call out that misrepresentation wherever I see it:  the workplace, the media, and in the theatre.

A Media Vacation

Last Tuesday, we loaded up the camper and took off for the 23rd Annual Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, New York.  The drive takes six hours and for most of it we listened to music on the radio or on my iphone.  That evening we swam at the pond, had dinner with my family and sat around a campfire  talking and laughing.  No TV was watched that day.

The next day we hung out by the pond some more.  (It was in the high 90s).  And later that day my husband and I went out for an early dinner with my brother and his lovely partner at a restaurant called Stonecat in Hector, NY and off to play nine holes.  The night ended, again, by the campfire by the pond. My birthmother’s husband built a pyramid style campfire that night.  I began to avoid social media as well.  No TV was watched that day. 

On Thursday the men in my group (my husband, brother and a friend) biked the three miles into town where our cars were lined up to get into the festival.  I got dropped off a few hours later.  We were in and set up at the festival by 12:40pm.  The next four days were spend by our campsite at the festival, seeing live music at one of the four stages, eating at the vendors, or heading out to the pond for an afternoon cool down.   No posts to Facebook.  No Tweeting.  No TV was watched those four days. 

We didn’t read any newspapers.  I left my iphone in my camper top drawer merely so I could hear if I got a text from someone local, usually asking if we needed anyone to pick up beer or ice.  We saw some great music.  My top three include DriftwoodThe Mad Tea, who I have loved since first seeing them at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in 2005, and Spam Allstars, who “blend improvisational electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop and dub to create what they call an electronic descarga.” I always love seeing one of my favorite bands Donna the Buffalo

We leisurely packed up the camper on Sunday to make it back to the pond for dinner and a final campfire before we took off on Monday morning.

A week without any media (other than live music) is something more of us should experience.  Most of what I write about for this blog is about critiquing what I see on the TV or hear about in the news.  I didn’t have much that pissed me off all week except hearing the stories from my family of the Pro-Fracking folks in the area.  Perhaps I would be less pissed off if I was less engaged with the media.

As I drank my coffee Tuesday morning and watched a bit of the Today show with my nieces and in-laws, I wanted to throw up.  The two big news items were that the Pope’s car  had been surrounded by people in Rio, as his driver took a wrong turn, (surrounded by Catholics dying to get a blessing?  Oh my God!) and the new baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  These two examples were enough to make me want to throw out our TV.

Spend a day or two away from media and see if it changes your perspective a bit.

It’s so Easy to Hate the Media

I haven’t written for two weeks.  I have a good excuse.  Last week I was on vacation and tried, as best I could, to stay away from technology.  My laptop did not come on vacation with me.  The week before, I was hard at work on a 30+ page Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women Grant to help end violence against women on college campuses.  I submitted it yesterday.

In the midst of vacationing and grant writing on topics like sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, I see numerous posts on facebook about CNN and its horrible coverage of the Steubenville rape case.   I read a few of the blogs and articles about CNN’s coverage.  Some feminists believe CNN actually had better coverage overall of this entire case than any other media outlet.  And others suggested we look back at “the gushing coverage from virtually every network during Kobe Bryant‘s rape case, which did affect the judicial process to the detriment of the victim in that case, and women as a class. Those proceedings deserved tons of petitions from women’s rights groups, but got none” (Murphy, Women’s ENews).

What is being understated here is that any coverage is coverage.  We need to talk about rape culture in media over and over and over until SOMEONE (anyone? hello?) starts getting it.  A student of mine, who is a self-identified gay male feminist sent me a link to this website.  Barstool Sports.  It’s a popular “man” blog about men, and sports, and of course, misogyny.  Furthermore, if you search for rape on the internet, tons of videos come up actually showing rapes.  I’m appalled that You Tube even allows that kind of material.  I’m sure if someone wanted to put up a video on how to lure a child into a car, it would be banned.  But raping women?  Sure, that’s fine!

The rapper, Rick Ross, who is also a Reebok spokesperson, has a single out that includes the lyrics “put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”  In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t!), “molly” is a popular street drug similar to ecstasy, which is used to distort reality and reduce inhibitions. This is not “metaphorical.”  He is literally singing that he drugged and raped a woman who was not capable of consent.  There is currently a petition to get Reebok to drop Rick Ross as a spokesperson here.

We know that false rape reports are few and far between, but college students believe that half of all rapes are fabricated. But I don’t blame college students.  I blame a patriarchal media, owned, in general by just a few men, who perpetuate women as objects and glorify rape.  This media seeps into all areas of our lives:  television, movies, music, the internet.  We have to begin being more critical about what we watch and listen to.  We have to tell advertisers and producers we will not tolerate women being served up as victims over and over again.  We have to get schools to talk about these issues.

In 1992, the year I graduated from college, the famous movie Thelma and Louise came out.  I saw it with one of my closest friends.  The media backlash against this film was astonishing.  They called it “male bashing” and violent against men.  If you haven’t seen it, shame on you, go rent it. Or borrow it from me.  But the gist is that a woman is raped and her friend defends her and then they go on the lam.  I wasn’t a blogger back then — oh year, there was no Internet!  But if I had been I would’ve written about how the majority of the movies we see have some form of violence against women in them but there isn’t an outcry from women and women’s groups screaming “Women’s Bashing!”  “Down with Misogyny!”

I could spend all day detailing all the violent depictions of women in media.  This is one reason I refuse to watch any of the plethora of crime drama’s on television.  Probably 90% of the story lines are about women being slaughtered by one psycho or another.  As we move into Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality has some great events to raise awareness.  You can find them at our website or on our facebook page. If you’re not in the Southcoast of Massachusetts, take a small step and be more critical about what you choose to watch.  Make sure the movies you go see meet the Bechdel Test (see my blog from October 25, 2012).  And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for your mother, or your grandmother, or your daughter or your niece.  I want my nieces growing up in a world that actually thinks rape is a problem, not something to joke about, sing about, or show videos about, on the Internet.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

We’ve been showing this documentary, Miss Representation, as part of our Women’s History Month program, our theme being Women Enacting Change.  While this movie certainly has it’s problems. like the fact that the majority of the celebrities who speak in it are gorgeous stereotypical women, it’s underlying theme of how we are represented in television, the movies and in the news is significant. View the trailer here

We hosted a showing of the movie in New Bedford as part of a collaboration with other women’s agencies to a packed house.  Then we showed it to a group of middle school girls for a day long empowerment event with the YWCA and the AAUW.  Lastly we showed the entire movie on campus for anyone on campus or in the community.  The group of about 50 people was made up mostly of community women.  Some of these were mothers who brought their daughters to see the movie.  These young women were riled up by the movie. 

I asked them who in the audience identified as feminists and as some of them raised their hands, one girl said “I do now!”  This is my takeaway.  If one 90 minute film is going to help a middle school or high school girl identify with feminism then I need to show it everywhere.  I showed the movie to an 8th grade class the other day and while we were watching the clip, my college student who was there to help me lead the discussion whispered that she “feels that way too” in reference to women hating their bodies.  I let out a big internal sigh.  This woman already identifies with feminism and gets what the media is doing to us, but still can’t separate the message from the way it feels on the inside.  We need to start younger.

This is my new plan of action:  take this movie to young women. 

Here are just a few disturbing facts from the film.  

  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
  • 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.

I hope you will support me in my plan to take this movie to young girls in Southcoast Massachusetts and beyond.  With your energy being sent my way, I know we can change the way media controls our lives, one girl (and maybe even one boy?) at a time. 

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.