Recap of “13th”

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Photo via AAIHS

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“13th analyzes the marginalization of African Americans and the mass incarceration of citizens in the United States. This documentary explains the history behind institutionalized racism and its lasting impact on American culture. Scholars, politicians and activists point out the facts about the oppression that black Americans have undergone for generations. They begin by recalling one of the first times that there had been a boom in incarceration, after the thirteenth amendment was established. At this time, black citizens were being put in jail for petty crimes which in turn, stereotyped them as violent people. Since then, unfairness in the justice system, media portrayal and governmental policies have all contributed to the belief that black people, especially men in particular, are criminals. The prison system in the United States is poorly constructed and gives no hope for convicts to return back to civil society in a normal way. One of the most important messages in the documentary is that although we are passed the days of slavery as a nation, we as a society are not past racial inequality. Racism has not left America and equal justice for all still awaits.

I learned an incredible amount of new information from this documentary that further helped my understanding of institutionalized racism and crime in America. Although I have understood that African Americans have been stereotyped as criminals due to misrepresentation in the media, I did not know how it began before there was mass media. It was the widespread fear that white people created against African Americans, claiming them as predators and criminals. I also did not know about the acts of political leaders such as Nixon and Reagan’s “war on drugs” and the fact that Bill Clinton was responsible for the increase in prisons. This documentary made me more aware of how unjust the prison system is and that many of the people who are in there won’t return back to society normal because they have been stripped of all their liberties in these cells, especially the numerous amount of people who are in there wrongly convicted. There is more to racism than to just understand that it’s “bad.” One must know its history and impact to understand that it is a large party of the United States’ cultural identity and that historic injustice has affected generations to this day.

 

It’s Time We Combat Negative Media Images

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Photo via The Society Pages

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Nothing has ever pinpointed the exact inner feelings and thoughts I have as a woman as well as Jean Kilbourne’s “The More You Subtract, The More You Add”: Cutting Girls Down to Size in Advertising.”  How do I have confidence but not too much confidence? How do I act sexy and virginal at the same time? Why are sweet, nice, and kind only feminine qualities?

Kilbourne explains how the thoughts I have about how I’m supposed to act were implemented into mind starting at a very young age. Many of these gender roles, which are a social construct, are partly due to advertising. While advertising is not a direct cause of our behavior, there is no doubt that they have an influence on our mind. There are countless examples of ads where all that is represented for the woman is her body, while the man is represented for his intelligence and strength. Ads show both women and men what their bodies should look like. Women must be thin, tall, light-skinned, and look all around “feminine,” while men must have muscles, height, and look powerful. How did this become the mythical norm? Women are also often in submissive positions, or covering their mouth as if they’re not supposed to have a voice. As if they’re supposed to “just sit there and look pretty.” “At the same time there is relentless pressure on women to be small, there is also pressure on us to succeed, to achieve, to “have it all.” We can be successful as long as we stay “feminine” (Kilbourne).

My class group and I made a presentation about this topic and one of the most challenging questions we asked was, “What is the best way we can combat these negative images? How would you educate yourself, and others, on media literacy?” Well, as many of us are journalism and advertising students, a few answers mentioned were to maintain ethics in our work, to not let negative images get published. Others suggested that classes such as the one we are in, race and gender in the media, should be taught beginning at a much younger age. It’s true, classes like this aren’t offered until college, yet we are influenced by advertising and social constructions even at infant age. We must rethink the way we view the media. Now that I have a better understanding of the influence the media can have on our self- image, I can better combat these messages for myself and for others-and to think for myself.

Why Seeing Color is Important

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Photo via The Daily Beast

Saying that you “don’t see color” can come from good intentions, but can in fact be quite offensive. While it may seem like the person saying it is trying to say that race and ethnicity don’t affect how they view someone, it’s also meaning that they are ignoring what makes every individual unique. Race and ethnicity represent our cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences. Ignoring color also means you are ignoring the injustice, inequality, and or racism that people of color may experience in their lives.

It’s perfectly OK to recognize someone’s color. What’s not OK is when their color becomes a basis of discrimination for you. Popular conservative Tomi Lahren commits a lot of fallacies about race during her interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show.” One that had stood out the most was when she claimed she doesn’t see color. She said she considers true diversity to be diversity of thought (OK, sure) and not diversity of color (OK, no). Trevor jokingly questions “then what do you do at a stop light?”, but the truth is that her comment was quite ignorant. To remind you Tomi, there isn’t only one element to diversity. Diversity is a range of different things, including your appearance and experiences too. Diversity is one of the most unique aspects of the United States and it cannot be disregarded.

During an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show,” Killer Mike from Run the Jewels says “if white people are just now discovering that it’s bad for black or working-class people in America, they’re a lot more blind than I thought. And they’re a lot more, choosing to be ignorant than I thought.” He argues that the same problems we’re discussing now, about race in America, have already been discussed many years prior. Some people are just now getting the point however. This is partly to be blamed by our education system. It wasn’t until college that I was finally introduced to classes about race. In predominately white or upper-class neighborhoods, the “white” version of history is taught. So his point is spot on, race has always been an issue in our country, it has just taken some people too long to pay attention to it. So while the discussion about race will forever remain, I say embrace your color!

Feminism shouldn’t be so complicated

By: Meredith Erikson

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Photo via TED.com

Why do some people make feminism so complicated? Is it because they don’t understand the inequality and injustice that women and even men face every day? Model Cameron Russell proves that expectations and beauty standards for men and women are socially constructed. During her Ted Talk, she does so by admitting that even though she was fortunate to come from the ultimate gene pool and to have the success from being one of the most beautiful women in the world, she still has feelings of insecurity, guilt, and unhappiness. She shows just how quickly our perception of her can change through a 10 second outfit change. I’ll admit that I even fell for it too, I was shocked to think she’d give a speech in a tight dress and heels, but her outfit has nothing to do with her character. I believe that if we stop teaching young boys and girls what they should look like or what they should do with their lives, they’ll grow up to be happier. Society has formed gender roles for men and women, when in actuality, biology is the only thing that separates the two.

It frustrates me almost more than anything that there are people, even women, who oppose to being a feminist. Its message is too simple: to have social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Feminists advocate their rights because they face oppression, not because they believe all men should be inferior to them. It’s not just women that experience backlash for not adhering to roles that women are “supposed” to follow. Those who don’t support feminism tend to forget that men who do not uphold some level of masculinity are seen as outcasts too. Men and women can do and be whatever they want. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who I believe is an advocate for equality, asks why we teach girls and boys separate things. Why is it the girl’s job to learn to cook? Why do we tell women to hold back on their ambitions? Why do we teach women to not be as sexual as men? This separation of roles for men and women enhances the divide between males and females in society, not just in America but all over the world. It’s not so hard to understand why we should all be feminists.