Creating Our Own Reality?

Everyone is guilty of flipping channels only to find that the only thing on is Kardashian or Teen Mom reruns and getting sucked into a multi-episode reality TV spiral. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, in moderation.

Reality TV is addicting. I don’t know if it’s the yelling or the fancy hair and clothing or maybe just the way it allows us to look into the lives of people we would never otherwise cross paths with. Whatever it is, it lets us escape the world of mundane schoolwork or family life and enter into one of stolen boyfriends and intense girl on girl drama.

I’m not someone who denounces all who watch as anti-feminist drama queens but I can recognize the impact these shows have on our society. By portraying “real” women as catty and men-obsessed its not only setting a bad example for young girls and women but for grown men who then view women that way; and in a male-dominated society, this can be a big problem. 

When media corporations think that all women want from TV is petty trash TV and lifetime movies about unrealistic love stories, they are denying that women are complex, intelligent and capable members of society. When we watch these shows weekly and with the vigor of some Twitter superfans, we’re telling them their right and that it is profitable.

Women are interested in politics and math and the future of our world and we need to show these old white guys sitting around a table at CBS that we want more than just another season of The Bachelor. We want strong female leads and multidimensional characters who aren’t afraid to be a bad ass.

But that doesn’t mean that occasionally, we can’t snuggle into our couches, grab a bottle of wine and find out what exactly went wrong between Kourtney and Scott.

Yours Politely, Natalie


Where Have All The Female Journalists Gone?

I’m currently taking an opinion writing class as part of my major and in it, we talked about the discrepancy between the amount of women and minorities in journalism schools versus the amount that are actually working in newsrooms across the country. This has really stuck with me since then seeing as I am a minority female journalist (looks like I hit the jackpot). 

What my professor said was that although women overwhelmingly outnumber men in schools like mine, UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism , when they get to the newsroom, something makes women leave.

This isn’t that surprising when you look at the history of media industries. With the “Mad Men” past of the advertising world and the “Boys Club” that was (is?) the print media world, it’s no wonder women and minorities feel unwelcome, perhaps they still are.

I decided to look this up after listening to my Race, Gender and the Media class discuss how unfair the media world portrays women. If we don’t have women in newsrooms, how will we ever get accurate representation?

According to an article published by The Washington Post, my professor was right. They looked into the annual newsroom census (below) and discovered that newsrooms are still about two-thirds male and as for supervisors, 65.4% are male.

Taken from The Washington Post, “Is journalism really a male-dominated field? The numbers say yes.” Amy Joyce

This is bad news for thousands of aspiring female journalists like me and should be worrisome to everyone. Without female an minority voices, you’re not getting the whole story.

What I want to know is why. Is it the lack of support from male bosses? The threat of sexual assault? Or is it something far too common in all fields, we just don’t make the same kind of money.

Taken from BuzzFeed, “Here’s What Female And Male Journalists Actually Make”

According to BuzzFeed, its the latter. Just like in Hollywood and your local doctor’s office, women just can’t seem to get equal pay, an isn’t it about damn time we do something to change that?

Yours Politely, Natalie

Miss Representation: A Response

We watched the film Miss Representation in class this week and it discussed many issues and topics that we have discussed in class previously, but gave a more personal take on it.

This film by Siebel-Newsom explores all the ways that society and mainstream media effects young girls and how this impacts the course of the rest of their lives.

From the oversexualization in advertisements and music videos to the lack of political efficacy due to low female political representatives as role models, our society is built to let girls fail, or at least stay home and leave the real work to men. 

I had seen this documentary before but every time I watch it I am reminded of how many things in our society are stacked against women. Were told that the way we look is the most important thing and that the only reason we don’t see more female doctors, politicians and engineers is because we just aren’t interested. 

This couldn’t be more wrong. Girls are conditioned to see these industries as reserved for men and that math is stupid or too hard. If, however, girls had strong, intelligent successful role models to look up to, maybe they wouldn’t feel this way. 

Women make up 51% of the US population but only 17% of congress, according to the documentary, but if you talk to elementary girls, they are just as interested in politics, it’s only later that they realize this isn’t “realistic”. 

Because of this and because women don’t produce the majority of media, women grow up with dangerously low sense of competence and self-esteem. The film states that 65% of women have an eating disorder and it’s no wonder when the women we look at on the cover of magazines and on TV shows look nothing like the average woman.

This documentary is vital to understanding the complex struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal society and how to navigate this and come out the other end a better person. Allowing yourself to be aware of these issues and to treat them as real, harmful problems within our society is something we must all do and is something that can only help everyone in the long run.

Yours Politely, Natalie

In Defense of Twilight – A Feminist Success

In class a group presented a summary of an article explaining all the ways that Twilight, the teen movie about vampires in high school, is an anti-feminist train wreck.

I disagree.

Not only do I disagree because the teenage Natalie who spent her 16th birthday in Forks is begging me to defend Bella and Edwards love story but because of all the teen blockbusters of the last 20 years, this one got the short end of the stick.

When Harry Potter came out, it was heralded a major success on all accounts and now boasts theme parks, multiple movie franchises and even a online subscription site. No one talks about how the main character is a cis-white male or that the main female lead is portrayed as a bratty know-it-all who puts her nose where it doesn’t belong.

Twilight was branded “cheap fiction” from the time of its publication but with the release of the somewhat cheesy movie adaption, it entered the realm, for some, of worst franchises of all time.

The problem I have with this classification is that, thanks to the hype surrounding its release and the hoards of teenage girls showing up to the premiere, people forgot to look at it for what it is, a low-budget, independent film that was the result of three bad ass women making a movie they believed in.

Catherine Hardwicke, Kristen Stewart and Stephanie Meyer on the set of Twilight

Director Catherine Hardwicke, along with her good friend (and indie darling of 2008) Kristen Stewart created a film with an up and coming studio that was never meant to be a global commercial success.

But it was. And because of that, it was judged on the same level as films with triple the budget and the backing of a major studio. This meant that all the things that this film, and most indie films in general, do right were overlooked.

“[Twilight] made $400 million on a very tight budget… there’s just no reason why I couldn’t have been in the club of successful directors, getting offers. Why wouldn’t I have gotten offered a three-picture deal? Or a one-picture deal? Or a development deal? Or an office at a studio!” – Catherine Hardwicke on sexism

One complaint that is often raised is how white the cast is. I’m sorry but vampires are pale and it takes place in Forks, Washington, a town of less than 1% African-Americans and over 67% whites. Additionally, people seem to forget that the sequel, New Moon, features exponentially more minority characters and screen time than the white cast members. Every single actor portraying a member of the Quileute tribe had to have documented proof of their Native American ancestry as to not lead to white-washing a tribe of indigenous people, which by the way, make up more than five times the amount of people in Forks than African-Americans.


Could Bella Swan have been a stronger or more vibrant lead? Sure. But she’s not supposed to be a symbol of feminist success, she’s a sad teenage girl who gets thrown into a mystical world of sexy vampires and true love. She’s bookish and awkward and plain but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad role model. Not everyone can be Lena Dunham.

This is not a case of white-washing and this is not a case of romanticizing harmful relationships. This is the story of a girl falling in love with a freaking vampire and if you are upset about their relationship because he’s “controlling”, you’ve got other issues.

If you look at this movie for what it is, a multi-million dollar blockbuster starring a relatively unknown actress, directed by a relatively unknown female director and based on the bestselling novel of a first-time female author, I’d say feminists should be pretty damn pleased, if only they could look past their own self-important biases.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Hear the World: UNT’s Ethnomusicology Graduate Student Concert

The UNT College of Music is one of the most inclusive and diverse music programs in the country,  along with being one of the most prestigious. This is never more clear than when looking into the Ethnomusicology graduate program. This program, which began in the spring of 2016, features areas of study in music from all over the globe and gives students the opportunity to be exposed to different music styles and the cultures that created them.

Their graduate recital “Hear the World” was a representation of this philosophy. Featuring students performing music from Mexico, China, India and Africa, the event was a night of cultural exploration and celebration.

While I had very little exposure to these styles of music prior to attending this event, I didn’t feel as out of the loop as I expected to feel. Music is music and no matter where it originated, it has the power to connect and make people come together. And that’s exactly what these four extremely varied music types did, they came together and put on a great show.

The first group to perform was the Modern Mariachi group headed by Jose Torres, a graduate student and professor. He told of how mariachi tradition has evolved over time and that the modern costumes that have become synonymous with this style of music are actually borrowed from the Mexican Charro culture and hold very specific symbolism and rules. He told the audience to get loud, stand up and show them that their enjoying the music, as is tradition in Mexico, and the crowd listened. While I have heard authentic Mariachi before while visiting family in El Paso, it was a different experience hearing the traditions and the stories behind the songs sung in a language I can’t understand. He told about the heartbreak and emotion that the composers put into every song and how they all tell a story, making them more than just a pretty song you hear over dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Second up was the traditional music of China, directed by graduate student, Yuxin Mei . She began this section with a pipa (pronounced pee-paw) solo, an instrument that resembles a guitar but sounds much pluckier. She played a fairly long piece that she explained told the story of an emperor whose favorite concubine killed herself and thus resulting in his own tragic suicide. You could hear the passion in every note, she put her heart into that piece and transformed it into something so much more than just a woman on stage playing music. You felt the pain and heartbreak and the passion of the notes. Her hands fluttered around the strings so fast your eyes couldn’t keep up, all the while she made it look as effortless as telling a sad story to a group of friends. A few more people joined her for other pieces but none as beautiful or resonant as the first.

Third was music from India and a change of pace. The contrast of the fiery, loud instrumental music from China to the softer vocal-heavy traditional Indian music really highlighted their unique differences. Thanmayee Krishnamurthy was the vocalist and lead of this trio and her voice truly was the centerpiece. With the help of two others playing variations of drums, her voice filled the recital hall and demanded attention. Each “raga” they performed had a story and her voice told that story in a powerful way. The first song ended with a long drum solo that really let the two drummer’s – one of which is a high school student, the other a professor – talent shine. The contrast of the instrumental Chinese music and the lyric filled songs from India worked to show that no matter the style or instruments, music is powerful and beautiful.

The night ended with a short performance by the members of the African Percussion Ensemble directed by Nate Ash-Morgan. They played two songs and while entertaining and interesting, lacked the uniformity and precision of the other three groups. The highlight of this performance, ironically, was not a musician but rather the traditional African dancer who showcased a war dance and then a lively “recreational dance”. While the drummers drummed, looking slightly confused and bored, she was the one who brought the culture and communicated what these songs are meant to say.

Overall, the night was one of eye-opening musical experiences that really explored all that this program has to offer while sharing their passion with the crowd. I had never heard of “ethnomusicology” before this but now I know that our university is better for having them as part of our community as they truly embrace the diversity that makes our school great.

It Didn’t Start With Trump…But He Sure Made It Worse

In his first few weeks in office, President Donald Trump has already issued around seven executive orders, arguably the most controversial being dubbed the “Muslim Ban”.

This order “suspend[s] entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order…” according to CNN and the official document.

US President Trump swears in General Mattis as US Defense Secretary . DC

This decree meant that foreign-born U.S. citizens and green card holders from the affected middle eastern, Muslim countries were held in questioning for hours last Friday when they tried to reenter the country in airports across the nation.

This, of course, led to nationwide (or at least Democratic) outrage as mothers and sons and husbands and wives were separated, and entry was withheld. Protesters gathered in inspiring numbers and stood up for those who needed a voice.


Although maybe not illegal, this order is un-American. Yes, it isn’t technically a “Muslim ban” (despite Sean Spicer and President Trump using this term numerous times before calling it “media propaganda”) as Muslims from countries like Saudi Arabia (an oil exporter and country which Trump has business ties) are still welcome.

America was founded by people escaping persecution yet throughout all of our history, we boast examples of hatred toward immigrant groups doing the same thing. First it was the “unskilled, uneducated” Irish Catholics escaping famine, then the German Jews hoping for a more accepting place to live, and now the “terrorist” Muslims seeking refuge in the nation of immigrants.

Despite our beginnings, it’s clear that we haven’t been a welcome harbor for immigrants of any race or creed for quite some time, but now we have our racism legalized.

Donald Trump represents a significant percent of Americans, so saying that he is just a madman who needs to be stopped is only half the battle. Mosques are burning, hijabs are being ripped of women’s heads and Muslims are being profiled at airports all across the country. And none of this began when Trump wrote it down.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Mexican Is Not A Dirty Word

Growing up as a half-mexican in America has forced me to reflect on my own identity in ways I would not have otherwise. As a middle schooler, the worst insult I could receive was “mexican”. I had hoped, thanks to my above average height, lack of accent and half-white features, that people would assume I was Spanish or Italian or something even more “exotic”.

I remember being teased by some of my male classmates, as all awkward, middle school girls are. They were making fun of my dress, which featured a rather obnoxious zebra print. One of the boys said “that dress makes you look like a zebra. Wait, you’re a Mexican zebra!” Creative right?

Now looking back on this moment, which ended up becoming one of the most significant moments that has led to my culture hatred, I see that it was nothing more than a few bored middle schoolers picking on a classmate.

But this is just one example of how I grew up thinking that “Mexican” is a bad word. I still cringe at the sight of it sometimes (I rewrote the first sentence of this post about ten times because calling myself mexican makes me tense up).

I spent the majority of my childhood convincing myself that I looked white enough that people would never know or that, if they did notice, they’d think “I mean, she’s not like other Mexicans, she doesn’t speak Spanish or wear hoops so she’s basically white.”

Now I spend a good amount of my adulthood defending the culture I shamed for 15 years. I get offended when people tell me I’m practically white and I look up to idols like Selena and Frida Kahlo, who as a child made me uncomfortable in their confidence in their culture.

Self Portrait Along the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932 by Frida Kahlo

It took me a long time to realize that the only problem with being Mexican is in the way people see us. We as a country have this association of Mexicans being stupid or criminal or trashy when in reality, they come from a culture centered on family and hard work and providing the best life possible for those around them.

My group was assigned the article on immigration and through doing this project and speaking to the class, I realized that I am not the only person who grew up feeling this way. Mexican-Americans are taught from birth that if they drop the first half of their identity, they become a better, more important person. We must learn from classes like this one and change the way America views the Mexican culture and tell ourselves that Mexican is not a dirty word.

Yours Politely, Natalie