Blog Posts

Cultural Appropriation at Coachella

Festival Fashion At The 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Weekend 2
Photo via LiveJournal

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I never remember which weekend Coachella is, until I see that Kylie Jenner has changed her hair color and her and her entourage are hanging out in a dessert at someone’s mansion. I’m not hating, they all look good in their super trendy outfits. But that’s until they start showing their cultural appropriation. Not just her, but many other festival attendees like to dress in cultural wear. Coachella has been the staple for trendy cultural fashion ever since it became popular. But it’s hard to tell when someone’s crossing the line of a cute outfit to an offensive one. In our class, we took a look at Teen Vogue’s article “How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation at Coachellato better understand the difference.

A student in the class made a good point, Coachella is the place for people who can afford to go can show off their wealth and the latest fashion trends. The article says the type of cultural appropriation that is seen at Coachella is “the kind that reeks of privilege.” They can afford the expensive feathered headpieces and body paint. But why can all of this be seen as offensive instead of a tribute? For the person who wears it, it represents ignorance and disregard towards other people’s cultures. It appears that someone’s culture is just a costume. “But that doesn’t mean anything to those Coachella attendees who don’t respect other cultures. When you can’t see the humanity in people who are different from you, you find no fault in treating their sacred cultural symbols as something to be worn and discarded,” (Andrews).

Also, the trends that have existed in certain cultures for forever, are becoming appreciated now that white celebrities are wearing them. For example, cornrows have been worn by black women for centuries, but once the Jenner’s started wearing them, they became cute and edgy. The media covers stories about them as if they invented the trend. This is especially an issue when there have been bans on certain black hairstyles in schools and even in government positions. They have been stigmatized as unprofessional and ungroomed and it’s unfair that white people can get away with it.

When citing this article, I found out that it was originally called “Dear White Women, We Need to Talk About Coachella.” I appreciate them changing the article name as anyone can culturally appropriate another culture. Nevertheless, I appreciate that this article addressed this issue and reminds people that it’s not OK.

 

Andrews, J. (2017, April 16). Dear White Women, We Need to Talk About Coachella. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://www.teenvogue.com/story/coachella-cultural-appropriation

Miss Representation

 

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Photo via Documentary Lovers

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To put my last blog post into a bigger perspective, women have been misrepresented in the media since it existed. No other documentary explains this truth better than “Miss Representation,” directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone wanting to learn more about race and gender in the media.

Actresses are often put into a “box”, playing one type of role that doesn’t include any complexity. I learned from this documentary that in the early days of film, women played versatile roles and more intricate characters. Now, in many mainstream movies we see women playing generally one, stereotypical role. Often she is playing a role meant for male satisfaction. She may be the sexy, strong, bad ass chick. Or she’s the feisty boss who gave up having a family to dedicate herself to her career. Perhaps she is an independent, savvy woman who is solely looking for a man to complete her in a “chick flick.” We see these roles played repeatedly.

The more unrealistic images we see in our media, the more our society is going to hold each other to unrealistic standards. For example, we see the same body types in advertisements all the time. Women feel like they need to look like models, while men judge real women based on the women they see in advertisements. The same can be true in the reversed sense.

The documentary features Katie Couric and her opinions about being a female broadcaster. Women have pressure to look young and beautiful to stay on air while men don’t have to carry any attractiveness, nor have concern about their weight or age. She jokes about how she can’t tell whether some female broadcasters are delivering news or are cocktail waitresses. Our society continues to downplay women to their bodies instead of their success. There achievements are overlooked while nothing other than their appearance receives commentary. Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin are clear examples of this treatment.

Documentaries like these make me wonder how many people in our society truly see the misrepresentation of women in media or if they just consume these generalizations and stereotypes. Since gender construction is taught so early on, I believe the truth of the media needs to be taught early on.

Reality TV and its Cultural Myths

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Photo via The Huffington Post

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Reality television producers often construct their shows around ideology that our society gets from other popular culture. For example, The Bachelor and other similar dating shows depict what’s known as “The Cinderella Myth,” says Jennifer Kramer, author of “IT’S OK THAT WE BACKSTAB EACH OTHER: CULTURAL MYTHS THAT FUEL THE BATTLING FEMALE IN THE BACHELOR.” The Cinderella myth is the idea that women compete with other women based on beauty and wanting to be the wife of a charming, successful man. It insinuates that marrying the man who “has it all” will promise happiness. It suggests a possibility of success for the woman and the challenge of capturing a man’s love even with the competition of other beautiful women. It sends the cultural message that this is an acceptable, possibly realistic, way to find the perfect man. Viewers who are very into the show may use these ideas as guidelines for their own dating lives, which could in turn be disappointing. You can see the reversed roles in shows like “The Bachelorette,” I Love New York,” and “A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila,” where men compete for women. Producers will often choose the contestants based on whether they have clean backgrounds, are attractive, and hold a typical “American” beauty standard. Producers also choose people that are willing to give up their privacy and they then find out their weaknesses and fears to play off them to enhance views. “These shows preserve the cultural plotlines that have kept them in power… if enough women watch the show, they perpetuate the myths that keep women backstabbing each other instead of challenging the man who is cheating on them and the double bind that continues to limit their power.” (Kramer 212)

The narrative of a female identity is represented “My Super Sweet 16.” The young girls in the show represent the “daddy’s little girl” role. They are spoiled and sassy, mom is the evil one, and dad is the nice one because he can’t say no to what his little girl wants. “A prime example is the maxim “Daddy’s Little Girl,” thought to epitomize the ideal father-daughter relationship. In this relationship, the little girl is the perfect daughter while daddy is the ultimate ever-loving and forgiving parent […] The phrase Daddy’s Little Girl creates a box all little girls are put into. To play the Daddy’s Little Girl role, a girl must be pretty, quiet, and submissive, a thing to be admired,” says Terri L. Russ, author of “IS DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL A BITCH OR A PRINCESS?: NARRATIVES OF FEMALE IDENTITY ON MY SUPER SWEET 16.” It shows an unrealistic lifestyle for young girls in the United States, and it makes it seem that this lifestyle is more prevalent than it truly is (cultivation and social learning theory). People interested in the show are fascinated by this cultural phenomenon of a rich person’s lifestyle that they’re not a part of. It’s showing young girls that it’s O.K. to behave like a brat on a day that’s all about them. Reality shows depict women as decorative, overly sexual, dumb, bitchy, and emotional. The framework of reality shows show much more about our culture than I ever realized.

Sources found in:

Lind, R. A. (2010). Race, gender, media: considering diversity across audiences, content, and producers (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

“I Love the Way You Lie”- a song I have overlooked for too long

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Photo via YouTube.com

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I recently wrote a blog post about lyrics aimed towards women in music. It didn’t include domestic violence or violence against women because that needed its own blog. This topic can be found especially in Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie.” This song came out when I was in high school, a time before I thought deep about the meanings of song lyrics. I had never watched the video either until now, and it conveys an issue that is more prevalent than people realize.

In the video, Megan Fox’s character is in an abusive relationship with a man. They scream and fight at each other, yet on a few occasions they end up hooking up in the heat of their arguments. The lyrics get quite extreme as Eminem says “I’ma tie her to this bed and set this house on fire.” In Rachel Alicia Griffin and Joshua Daniel Phillip’s “Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie And The Normalization Of Men’s Violence Against Women,” they make a very good point. They say “we argue that the song’s lyrics and video imagery reproduce cultural myths about domestic violence, including notions that: (1) men and women are equally responsible for perpetuating violence in relationships, (2) women “ask” to be abused, and (3) violence is a means to ignite sexual arousal.”

Our class last week discussed the misleading messages that the video portrays. For example, Rihanna’s lyrics “that’s alright because I like the way it hurts” and “I love the way you lie” indicate a pleasure for pain and a sort of normalization of this kind of abuse. Also, when Megan Fox is shown hooking up with her man after he has physically and verbally abused her, it shows that the violence is igniting that sexual arousal. In this case, the misconceptions about domestic violence relationships aren’t going to help decrease this issue’s prevalence. It’s important to recognize these lyrics with a deeper meaning considering that audiences typically learn from what they see and hear within popular culture.

You Can Be a Woman and Still Love Hip-Hop

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Photo via Stuff.co.nz

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Anyone who knows me can tell you that when they think of me, they think of my love for rap and hip-hop music. I’m talking all kinds of rap here…from club music to slow, poetic verses, I listen to it almost every day. Yet I find myself holding back on expressing how much I love this music because I support the empowerment of all women. How can I listen to hip-hop music when it has objectified us? Having to defend my love for a style of music that is seemingly at conflict with my values hasn’t been easy to explain. So, I wrote this post, which is in no way meant to defend or support the objectifying of women but instead to create some understanding as to why hip-hop is always the target for this criticism.

Let’s first state the obvious that not all hip-hop contains sexist lyrics. However, even since its early days, hip-hop has had the reputation of being sexist, misogynistic, heterosexual, and demeaning. It’s unfortunate to say, but hip-hop hasn’t come very far from losing its association with those words. Luckily though, it has become recognized and we are starting to have conversations about it. But why is hip-hop the biggest target? Perhaps it’s because hip-hop is one of the most global, trend-setting genres in our society. It’s played everywhere, and the lifestyle of a rapper, at least in my opinion, is fascinating to keep up with. It’s a dominant part of American pop culture.

But we must get one thing straight- hip-hop is not the only genre that includes sexist lyrics, nor was it the founder. Sexism has existed in just about every other style of music, even before the birth of hip-hop, so why are those lyrics overlooked and justified? Perhaps the rock, punk, country, or indie songs including the sexism aren’t as mainstream. Maybe because the objectifying of women isn’t as obvious in their music videos. Whatever the case, the popularity of hip-hop shouldn’t be a reason these other genres are ignored. Not acknowledging other sexist lyrics won’t help change anything and it isn’t fair to all women.

Race plays an important factor in hip-hop’s image too, as it was popularized by black and Latino youth in New York. It’s often the narrative in the critique against hip-hop. Our society already stereotypes black men as being very masculine and aggressive so it blames these rappers and makes them the easiest target. This offers another possibility as to why other artist’s lyrics aren’t criticized-because they’re white. We also know that due to the imagery in rap videos, gendered, racialized, and even sexist meanings have been attached to African-American women’s bodies (Lind 274). . Back in the day, Europeans used to create images of women of African descent and label them as sexually deviant because of their large hips and butts. But in hip-hop, these features are desired. With that, I believe rap has helped create a new beauty standard for American women. I find it empowering that often these artists praise larger and curvier features. Not at all to say other body types aren’t beautiful or should be degraded in these songs, but in a society where larger body types are not the ideal standard, it’s nice to hear them commended. But its important to understand when these artists are praising or degrading. And to include women rappers, when I see someone like Nicki Minaj dancing in a video, I don’t think she’s being overly sexual, I think she looks confident.

You can be a woman and still love hip-hop. Yes, there are lyrics towards women that can cross the line. And in that case, I chose not to listen to the song or watch the video. That’s easy for someone who has taken courses about the media and its influence. I am aware when offensive music starts to affect me. But for those who have not been media trained, it’s important that we teach each other about the influences of music and the media. I believe a step in the right direction is to keep the conversation about sexism alive. Although just refusing to listen to a certain song may not sound like much of an effort to change these lyrics, it’s a start.

“Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants”

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Photo via Temple University

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Last Friday, I had the insightful experience of listening to Dr. Anna Sampaio, a professor of ethnic studies at Santa Clara University, discuss her book “Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants: Race, Gender, and Immigration Politics in the Age of Security.”

Dr. Sampaio describes this time as an “exhausting and relentless time.” In regards to the 2016 elections and Trump presidency, Latina/o citizens in America, whether American-born or not, are facing heightened discrimination and exclusion. Trump’s campaign largely influenced this through rhetoric that appealed to white voters and creating fears aimed towards Latinas/os by  making them seem as threats to national security.

Dr. Sampaio explained how immigration politics and practices have changed in the last 30 years, especially post 9/11. She mentions new federal and state immigration legislation and policy. The most important aftermath of this change is that it empowered local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. In addition to this policy change, there has been increased scrutiny and policing, increased detentions, and increased deportations. There have also been discursive shifts about Latinas/os during this election. Dr. Sampaio believes there is a “resurgence of security as a dominant narrative, tethered to racialized demonization, and the enemy target is demonized as foreign and threatening.” There’s also an increase in masculine protectionism.

The changes under Trump in regards to immigration are raids in at least twenty states, removal of the PEP standard, and ICE officers emboldened. Dr. Sampaio especially brings attentions to raids, past and contemporary. Raids commonly occur at airports, federally secured facilities, places of commercial employment, and residential neighborhoods. I found out that by 2007, raids had occurred at more than one hundred airports. Yet to my surprise, most of the people questioned were janitors or food service workers. After 2005, more women and children were apprehended and sexual abuse of immigrant women increased. With all said, it’s time we change the negative discourse surrounding immigrants. I found her presentation very explanatory and I believe her information is essential for everyone to be aware of.

Anna Sampaio is an Associate Professor with specializations in Latina/o politics, race and gender politics, critical race and gender theory, intersectionality, transnationalism, and immigration.

https://www.scu.edu/cas/ethnic-studies/faculty–staff/anna-sampaio/

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.