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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

Feminists Don’t Have Time for Your Masculinity Crisis

Men are angry, horrible creatures whose main goal in life is to suppress women’s rights and step over people on the fight to the top. Right?

At least that’s what certain sects of fourth wave feminism wants you to think.

Why? Because it’s easier to vilify men and blame them personally for the perpetuation of the patriarchy than to look deeper at the real issues.

The fact is that men commit suicide at a rate of nearly four times that of women and represent 77.5% of all suicides, according to the CDC. Additionally, boys are four times more likely to be kicked out of school and two times more likely to receive special education, primarily for things like ADD and dyslexia.

They make up 93.3% of America’s prisoners and nearly 1 in 20 of all prisoners report being raped or sexually assaulted while locked up.

But who cares, right? They’ve got the patriarchy! They have fair wages! Women have real issues to deal with.

Wrong.

These are real issues and they’re issues that every feminist should care deeply about. When we get it into our heads that men are the enemy, we’re doing everyone a disservice. No man alive today created the patriarchy or is responsible for the way their society raised them.

“The three most destructive words that every man receives when he is a boy is when he’s told to be a man.” – JOE EHRMANN 

Men are taught from childhood that they must learn to “be a man” and to not be a sissy. They’re told that to be emotional and vulnerable is to be weak and so they learn how to suppress it. They learn to play the role of “MAN”.

The gender boxes we, men and women and everyone in between, live in and the roles we’re taught to play are something that become second nature to us as we grow. They become so inherent that many of us don’t know where the mask ends and our true selves begin.

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This is almost undoubtedly harder on men and it’s nearly impossible to step out of the masculinity box without major losses.

That’s not to say that women have it easy but they do have more flexibility in the modern definition of “WOMAN”.

The consequences of strict masculinity is that men never learn to deal with their emotions and they usually end up surfacing in the form of aggression. There’s a reason that the majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by men. You can only suppress so much before something sets you off. Also, are taught through sports that aggressive competition results in reward.

Men are also cut off from real human connection. How often have you heard a group of men sitting around sharing feelings and talking about their deepest secrets? I’m guessing a hell of a lot less than hearing them talk about which girl from work they’d rather bang.

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This is all due to gender conditioning and if you think that this has nothing to do with the patriarchy and the suppression of women’s rights then you’re fooling yourself.

Basically, we give men all the neccessary tools to oppress women and act violently and then we yell at them when they do.

Bottom line: Feminism is about fighting for gender equality and to leave half the population out of the battle is to do a disservice to everyone.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Citations:

“US: Federal Statistics Show Widespread Prison Rape.” Human Rights Watch. N.p., 23 Sept. 2008. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
“Federal Bureau of Prisons.” BOP Statistics: Inmate Gender. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
CDC. Suicide Facts at a Glance 2015 (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
“The Issue.” The Representation Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
 “The Mask You Live In.” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, 2015

Wait, Minorities Exist?

This is my second post on representation in the media but there are just so many facets to this issue that I felt it deserved two separate postings.

Firstly, let me just say that its rare that a day goes by that I don’t feel like standing up in the middle of class or campus or a freaking Target and screaming REPRESENTATION MATTERS.

I have had countless arguments with my white boyfriend and white friends that basically consist of me telling them why it’s important to see people that look like you achieving tremendous things and their response being “but of course you can do that stuff, why do you need a TV character to tell you that?”

This is why:

Growing up as a minority in our culture means that you are taught a history that is only partially yours. In America, we learn about the white settlers who “discovered” our land and the white men who wrote our constitution and have governed us for the last 200 years. We learn that Africans were brought over as slaves and Native Americans were pushed off their land. We learn that Mexico wanted Texas really badly but ultimately, America won.

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The issue with this history is that it is told from a Euro-centric (or white) point of view.

This “white” point of view is prevalent in every form of storytelling we have. Children’s books? White character. Newscasts? White victims and minority aggressors. Textbooks? White male heroes. TV Shows? All white (plus the token gay or Black friend and their Hispanic housekeeper).

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Obviously there are exceptions to this like NBC’s Black-ish or The CW’s Jane the Virgin but overall, we are flooded with images of happy, successful white people and this is what our view of American society is formed by.

In a study called “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” it was found that only 28.3% of television characters with dialogue were non-white. That’s nearly 10% below the percentage of non-whites living in America.

Now you may still be wondering “yeah, but why does any of that matter?”

It matters because from the time white people are born they are flooded with images of people who look like them, talk like them and are from similar backgrounds as them achieving monumental and historic things.

Our history is told through people like George Washington, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Albert Einstein never mind the achievements of people like Angela Davis, Willie Velazquez and Mae Jemison. When this symbolic annihilation of entire ethnicities occurs on such a huge scale, it isn’t hard to see how young boys and girls of color can grow up not understanding that success isn’t just for white people.

We need characters like Elena of Avalor and Olivia Pope to show us that we can be strong, intelligent, successful, multidimensional people with the same hopes and dreams as our white friends.

Not caring about representation is a privilege reserved only for non-minorities and to ignore underrespresentation’s effects is to ignore the stories of minorities in America.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Citations:

Smith, Stacy L., Marc Choueiti, and Katherine Piper. “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment.” USC Annenberg, n.d. Web.

Healthy Tastes Better Than Skinny Feels

It’s hard to differentiate between what we think and what we are conditioned to think and this is very clear when it comes to body image and the convention of women’s beauty.

Our society is flooded with images of beautiful, thin, young and light-skinned girls in every form of media. We use these images as a standard of which to judge ourselves. Even though we are all aware that even the models themselves don’t look like the girls on the covers of magazines, we feel inadequate until we reach that level of “beauty”.

“I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.”  – Cindy Crawford

In the film Killing Us Softly 4 and the Ted Talk from model Cameron Russel, they analyzed the impact that these expectations are having on girls and young women. In advertising, girls are increasingly getting skinnier and younger which leads to girls striving for this image, many times at the cost of their health.

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We forget that what we see in Calvin Klein ads and in on the runways of New York Fashion Week is not a cross section of society but rather a look in at a very small percentage of it. Some girls are predisposed to be tall and thin with no hips and perky breasts. Most of us, though, are not and that’s perfectly okay.

When we are bombarded with these images paired with the message that we must look that way to be loved and accepted, we seise to view ourselves through our own eyes and instead view it through the filter of societal expectations.

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” – Kate Moss

It’s important to remember this when we look in the mirror and start critiquing our bodies but it’s even more important to remember when going out into the world.

These types of expectations are not only damaging to our own view of ourselves but to the way men and society view us. They too, are seeing those images and instead of realizing those aren’t examples of all women, they begin to expect that from their partners. Hyper-sexualization of products being sold by bikini-wearing supermodels warps their impression of women in regards to their sexuality. No, not all women are a size zero and no we are not sexually attracted to our shampoo..or candy..or kitchen sink.

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Jim Crow Didn’t Die, We’re Just Ignoring Him

During class this week, we watched the film “13th” which discussed the system of mass incarceration in America and its effects on African-Americans.

Watching this film was not the first time I had cried during that class (if I’m honest, thats sort of become a weekly thing) but it was one of the most significant. Sitting down to write this post is difficult because it’s hard to form full thoughts on the film, I’m filled more with emotion rather than intellectualized ideas.

The film chronicled the treatment of blacks in America from the time the first slave ship arrived. It showed the effects of slavery, durning and after, and the struggles of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. These were all things we learned about extensively in school although this film didn’t sugarcoat it.

It wasn’t until it began discussing current issues that it really took on new life. From Clinton’s first reference to “super-predators” to Reagan’s war on drugs, the documentary showed how America’s prison system is quite frankly out to get African-Americans. According to the film, 1 in 3 black men will spend time in jail.

And this isn’t the most shocking part. This has been the case for decades. The documentary shows how after the civil war and the abolition of slavery, there was a need to for laborers to fill the positions vacated by former slaves. This fell onto unpaid prisoners and guess what color most of them were. Some call this “legal slavery” and I would have to agree.

One woman in the film discussed how the prison system is just a new version of Jim Crow. Since felons lose many rights when convicted, such as their right to vote, own a gun and live in government housing and with so many of these criminals being African-American, it sounds an awful lot like slavery if you ask me.

This film highlighted the issues with our prison system and our American society in general. My main takeaway was that even when we ignore it and tell ourselves we’ve grown and moved on, racism is still an integral part of our society and to continue sweeping it under the rug and claiming it was overcome along with Jim Crow is to fool ourselves into ignoring the damage it is still causing.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Citation: Ava DuVernay, 13th, Kandoo Films, October 7, 2016

Misrepresentation is Worse than No Representation

In order to talk about gender representation in the media, you first have to understand what their relationship is and the difference between accurate representation and that which can be harmful.

In class, we watched videos where African-American’s were shown as characters on the nightly news. Videos like “Bed Intruder” -which became a popular comedy video- portray African-Americans in a way that garners little respect or concern from viewers of the newscast. The video originally showed a woman and her brother testifying about an intruder who broke into their apartment.

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Instead of showing a family scared from a horrific break in, they showed a man who aligned with the “black stereotype”. African-Americans are almost always shown as perpetrators, victims or black stereotype like single poor mother rather than a police officer or someone of authority. While this is representation technically as it is African-Americans on the news, it doesn’t show any accurate or respectful representation at all of that community. Representation like that only leads to the continuation of harmful stereotypes.

While in class watching this video, it struck me how many people were still amused by this video, even with knowing the whole story. People laughed out loud, mimicked the man, and were still amused by the “joke”. In a class where we had just discussed the importance of accurate media representation and looked into the effects of misrepresentation, it was shocking to see my classmates still not really care. Yes, we all laughed the first time we saw the video years ago but for people who are studying the impact of videos like this to still find it comical was very disheartening.

It’s easy to sit around and say “yeah, minorities are misrepresented and someone should do something about it” and its a completely different thing to turn that judgement onto yourself and allow you to see your own prejudices. And its even more difficult to actively work at changing your preconceptions in order to go out and make a difference in your line of work. To all the journalism students in my class who still find that video funny, I hope that you will realize the issue with those types or portrayals and work to change them once in the industry.

Yours Politely, Natalie